‘Three or four’ still in race to replace Whincup

Jamie Whincup

There are still “three or four” drivers in contention to replace Jamie Whincup at Red Bull Ampol Racing next year, according to the man himself.

Whincup is retiring at season’s end, from full-time driving at least, to move into the team principal role at Triple Eight Race Engineering, opening up one of the most coveted seats in the Repco Supercars Championship.

Current boss Roland Dane revealed around two months ago that Triple Eight’s shortlist to fill the breach had numbered six steerers, but that was before the major contract news of the past week.

Chaz Mostert, the first driver from outside of the Banyo squad to take a win this season, has now re-signed with Walkinshaw Andretti United, meaning he is no longer a candidate.

Another whose performance might warrant interest from Triple Eight, Nick Percat, also downplayed the prospect that he might be on the move from Brad Jones Racing, where he is contracted for 2022 anyway.

Asked if the shortlist was down to only one or two drivers now, Whincup responded, “No, it’s still three or four.”

One of those three or four is presumably Broc Feeney, who switched to Triple Eight for this year’s Dunlop Super2 Series and will also be part of the high-profile, Supercheap Auto-backed wildcard entry which he will share with Russell Ingall in this year’s Bathurst 1000.

Feeney will still only be 18 years of age when this year’s Great Race rolls around, but does already boast a Super3 Series title and a Super2 race win, the latter in the first race of the current campaign.

Speaking on the day that Thomas Randle’s graduation from wildcards and enduros to a full-time Supercars Championship seat at Tickford Racing was confirmed, Whincup hopes that his exit will open up a berth for another young driver.

However, at which team that might be remains to be seen.

“The reason why I’m stepping aside is to give young talent opportunity, and whether that’s in our team – even if it’s not; even if we pick up an existing driver – that spot will become available for an up-an-comer,” explained the seven-time champion.

“You sort of need two years; I’d be really pushing for any newcomer to try to do a two-year deal because, the first year, you’re learning the other competitors, you’re learning the circuits, you’re learning the car… there’s a lot to learn in the first year.

“So, I’d encourage every team owner, if you’re going to take on a new guy or girl, at least give them two years just to find their feet first and just start firing, if they’ve got the potential, in the second year.

“But the wildcards are a good thing. Anything to give rookies more laps, more opportunity, more sets of tyres, DVS teams to be able to run as wildcards… we’re doing everything we can to try to bring new talent through.

“Hopefully there’s plenty of success stories like what we’ve heard from Thomas today.”

Asked then if he was giving a hint about his successor, Whincup responded, “No, me stepping aside will mostly likely give a young kid an opportunity, and not necessarily straight into our team.

“If we take on an existing driver from pit lane, then that spot will become available for a young driver. Who knows?”

However, if it is a rookie or otherwise young driver who does replace the 38-year-old, Whincup will push for their contract to be a two-year term.

“I’d think so, for sure,” he affirmed.

“I don’t make that whole decision at Red Bull Ampol Racing, but if it was my choice, for sure, two years minimum, for the reasons I just explained.”

Whincup was fastest in practice at this weekend’s Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.

Qualifying for Race 12 takes place tomorrow from 11:35 local time/12:05 AEST.

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