Jamie Whincup has scoffed at predictions that Triple Eight will dominate this weekend’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, suggesting 2016 is the ‘year of the underdog’.
Running one-two-three in the championship, Triple Eight has flexed its muscles since accommodating a third entry for Shane van Gisbergen this season.
Sports betting markets have the three Triple Eight cars pronounced favorites in the 27-car Bathurst field.
Defending winners Craig Lowndes/Steve Richards are at $4 for the win while Whincup/Paul Dumbrell and van Gisbergen/Alex Premat share the second line of betting at $5.
The next best rated crews are the Holden Racing Team’s Sandown winners Garth Tander/Warren Luff and the Prodrive Fords of Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen and Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto, all quoted at $10.
“That’s just talk,” Whincup told Speedcafe.com of Triple Eight’s position as heavy favourites.
“Anyone who says that doesn’t fully understand the race. A $2 part can end your day and it usually does.
“We are not getting ahead of ourselves and buying into that dribble.
“It’s the year of the underdog if you watch last week’s footy.
“If that’s any indication then anyone can win this weekend.
“We’ve prepared well and we will do the best job we can. If we are in contention we will be happy.”
In terms of the many dangers from rival teams in the 161-lap marathon, Whincup remains cautious of DJR Team Penske rising to its greatest performance since the Australian-American alliance formed.
“Penske will eventually have to do something,” he said.
“I think they (Penske) have been swanning around being quick in practice and qualifying and they have shown a lot of promise.
“They will eventually get it all together. They were very quick at Sandown but didn’t have a good show on Sunday.
“I think they definitely have the potential to do well.”
Whincup’s Bathurst campaigns have fallen over in controversial circumstances in each of the last two years.
The four-time winner ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap in 2014, while a decision to ignore team orders to pit late in last year’s race led to Whincup passing the Safety Car and earning a drive-through penalty.
Whincup insists that the level of intensity within the Red Bull team remains the same despite van Gisbergen’s presence in the Brisbane operation, which currently sees the Kiwi leading the points standings.
This weekend’s race promises to play a key role in the title battle, especially if pit stacking comes into play on Sunday.
“I think every year it is more intense as the competition gets greater and we all learn these new cars, engineers move around so that the whole battle is closer and more competitive,” Whincup said.
“There’s always been that intra-team rivalry to make sure both cars are as far up the pointy end as possible.
“We are really proud that we are one, two, three in the championship.
“I think that is an indicator that we’ve done a good job up to now and not trip over each other.
“But Shane hasn’t stepped it up at all, he’s pushed me as hard as Lowndsey and my previous team-mates.”