Mark Winterbottom has predicted that he will not experience another winless season this time around after late-season gains in 2017.
Winterbottom went through last year without winning a race, the first time he has done so in his 12 seasons at Tickford Racing.
Of his team-mates, Chaz Mostert picked up three race wins and Cameron Waters combined with Richie Stanaway to take out the Sandown 500, while Jason Bright’s season-best result was fifth on the Saturday at Pukekohe.
When asked by Speedcafe.com if the drought represented an extra source of motivation, Winterbottom responded, “Not really.
“I think we’ll win a race this year, no doubt.
“There’s always a question, there’s always something that we’ll get asked, like ‘This person didn’t get a win,’ or ‘You didn’t get a pole,’ or something, but you don’t need motivation in our sport.
“Every time you roll out, your pride’s on the line, so that far exceeds a win, or something; your pride of racing is what drives you.
“You don’t need any more motivators but hopefully it’s a better year.”
The 2015 Supercars champion pointed to an improvement in form in the latter half of the year, with he and Dean Canto the best of the Tickford quartet on the Sunday at the Gold Coast 600, before Winterbottom landed on provisional pole for the final race of the season in Newcastle.
Having crashed out on the penultimate lap of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and fallen to 10th in the championship, the 36-year-old ultimately ended the year just one position behind Mostert in sixth in the standings, albeit with 540 less points.
“We started with a brand new car (and) lost a lot of rounds with brakes, with the new tyre, and also we were trying to find set-ups with braking issues,” Winterbottom recalled.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot but it put us behind the eight-ball big time, and when I felt like we started to get on top of it, it rained for three rounds in a row.
“It was like you just couldn’t take a break, you just couldn’t get on top of it.
“I felt like at the Gold Coast we sort of got competitive again in the dry on Sunday, led the team cars, which was kind of refreshing to have that again.
“New Zealand was very strong (second on the Saturday), and then to provisional pole at Newcastle was good as well, so I kind of feel like it happened very late.”
Winterbottom, who will again have Brendan Hogan as race engineer after working with four different engineers in the past five seasons, is off-contract at the end of 2018.
He says he is “in no rush” to finalise a new deal and maintains that his primary concern is on-track only.
“You win races, everyone wants you; that’s kind of how the sport is, and that’s the kind of thing you can control,” explained Winterbottom.
“The chats happen and they’ll continue to happen but I just want to go out and make sure I’ve got the best chance of winning this year.
“That’s my focus and if you win races, it all sorts itself out; that’s the easy part.”