Winterbottom: Humour took edge off painful day

Mark Winterbottom

A painful race without power steering at The Bend Motorsport Park was made bearable by engineer Manuel Sanchez’s light-hearted approach, says Mark Winterbottom.

The Irwin Racing driver suffered a rare failure in Qualifying for Race 9 of the Repco Supercars Championship, which carried through to the 24-lapper.

Team 18 changed a range of steering components in the two hours between sessions, only to find the issue 20 minutes before pit lane opened.

The issue, as it turned out, was the rounding of a hex drive on the oil pump meaning the power steering wouldn’t engage.

A larger steering wheel was fitted to the #18 Holden ZB Commodore to give Winterbottom more leverage.

However, he would spend the entirety of the race off the pace and eventually finish two laps down.

“They changed quite a few things, started it up, and went, ‘oh shit, it’s still not right’,” Winterbottom told

“We had 20 minutes before pit lane closed. You’re kind of screwed. You know you’re f*cked before you start.

“We came through pit lane to make sure we didn’t get cleaned up. You can’t obviously turn quick. Then you just cruise around and just try to stay out of the way.

“Even getting out of people’s way, you can’t move quickly. You hope that you get in the right spot. We (Winterbottom and Sanchez) just chatted and try to distract yourself.”

Winterbottom said he knew he would be well off the pace from the outset, but said finishing was important.

“You could just fold and come in or have a crack and see where you finish,” Winterbottom explained.

“You don’t give up. What’s the point sitting in the garage if you can manage it? It’s a long 24 laps.

“Manuel’s humour was okay,” Winterbottom chuckled.

“It went down good in some spots, but not in the corners.”

Nevertheless, Winterbottom was upbeat about the team’s outright pace.

The 39-year-old was quickest in a damp Practice 1 but fell to 20th in Practice 2.

Barring extenuating circumstances like today’s mechanical failure, Winterbottom said he expects to be at the fore on Sunday.

“Thankfully with the three-race weekend you get two cracks on Sunday,” said Winterbottom.

“The car is quick. I thought we were pretty good in both practices.

“We got points. When the failures happen, we didn’t want them. What can you do? You can’t do much. Sit back, hold on, and try to get to the end.”

Winterbottom is sixth in the 2021 standings.

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