A mixture of pride on the line and hard work spurred Triple Eight back to the sharp end of the field at the Pirtek Perth SuperNight, according to team manager Mark Dutton.
The factory Holden squad headed to Barbagallo Wanneroo Raceway desperate to perform having received a ‘towelling’ in the words of Dutton at the previous round at Phillip Island.
Phillip Island saw Triple Eight struggle for outright pace and fighting in the midfield instead of challenging for wins and podiums with a sixth for Shane van Gisbergen its best result.
Fast forward two weeks, Whincup hailed the team had claimed the ‘most improved award’ at Perth after he returned to the podium with a fourth in Race 11 and a second behind Race 12 winner Scott McLaughlin.
A pair of fifths for Van Gisbergen backed up the team’s pace, confirming it as the top Holden performer.
Dutton has paid tribute to his team for their response to the form slump.
“Obviously it is one of those times you take a good hard look (after Phillip Island),” Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“We weren’t happy at Phillip Island, so to come to Perth and roll out the cars strong – which was not luck, it was preparation, it was hard work from the whole crew, engineers, drivers – so really pleased.
“After you get a towelling, you always get a little bit hungrier and it’s not necessarily ‘come out and beat everyone’. Clearly the goal is to finish as far up at the front as possible.
“There was a fair bit of pride on the line there for us and that is what I think brought the extra fire in the belly, was the pride to achieve what we know we can.
“(We saw a) big gain with the set-up (which) we did before Perth. We’ve had some issues (with the pit stops), so we just wanted everything to run like clockwork, and it did, so very proud of everyone.”
While still facing a deficit to Shell V-Power Racing, which won both races in Perth courtesy of Fabian Coulthard and McLaughlin, Dutton is confident there is still plenty in the cars to close the gap to the Ford squad.
“I think there’s more left in the tank, but definitely I do also feel like we maximised,” he added.
“With the quality of everyone up and down pit lane, not just the (DJR Team) Penske boys, but the whole pit lane, you can’t throw Hail Marys. You can’t do all or nothing.
“You do have to work up to it and chip away, and when you’re chipping away and achieving podiums… the goal was to podium and to be the fastest, or the best Holden.
“There’s still more work to do so the promising thing is we were much happier with our cars than at Phillip Island but still think that there was more fine tuning in our cars, within ourselves, to extract more pace.
“We know there’s more in us so we’re going to work hard to extract that.”
The squad will step up preparations for next week’s trip to rural Victoria for the Truck Assist Winton SuperSprint from May 24-26.