Whincup recalls all-time Perkins spray
Sunday 28th November, 2021 - 7:00pm
Jamie Whincup’s road to greatness wasn’t without its fair share of hiccups, as the seven-time Supercars champion details in his soon-to-be-released autobiography.
Now 38 and on the cusp of his final start as a primary Supercars Championship driver, Whincup’s career almost never got out of first gear.
Debuting as a teenager in the 2002 enduros for Garry Rogers Motorsport, he reveals in Jamie Whincup: Drive of a Lifetime that he struggled dearly with fitness in the early days.
That led to him teaming with elite fitness guru Anthony Klarica, and was in part to blame for his first Bathurst 1000 ending in the fence.
“We were almost three hours into the race on lap 73 when everything became too much,” Whincup writes.
“I was almost half-delusional when I clicked up into the wrong gear and locked the rear wheels up at the top of Mountain Straight, firing the car right into the fence.
“I couldn’t believe what I’d done. For that split second my body and mind had let me down, and the result was my first Bathurst race in a Supercar ending up in the fence.
“By the time I got back to the pits I was convinced my career was over.”
Having won the 2002 Australian Formula Ford title, he got a reprieve and was elevated to a full-time GRM seat for the following season.
A second Bathurst disaster – this time at Forrest’s Elbow while in the team’s lead car spearheaded by Garth Tander – would not go down so well with GRM boss Garry Rogers.
Whincup reveals he was given his marching orders a month later, leaving his career in tatters.
A potential lifeline would later come when his good mate Paul Dumbrell helped facilitate a test with Perkins Engineering at Winton Motor Raceway – although that too would lead to a rocky situation.
“I was supposed to do my trial in the third car, but something was wrong with it on the day so Larry told me to take the No.1 car, which was driven by Steve Richards, out for a few laps,” Whincup writes.
“It was one of the best cars on the grid and I knew I had to take this opportunity, so I decided to let it rip. There was no use dawdling in such a powerful machine; I had to show them how I could drive fast and clean.
“I managed to do the first bit but the second bit not so well, as on turn four I spun the car through the apex and backed it into the gravel trap.
“As I sat in the gravel trap I couldn’t believe what I’d done, what type of an idiot I was.
“Then I saw the track recovery vehicle come around, and in the passenger seat was Larry.
“I could tell by the way he flicked the door open that he was pissed! He was on a mission to get to the driver door as quickly as possible.
“I’m not sure if I was so bogged that the driver door wouldn’t open, or that he chose not to open it, but he started – and didn’t stop until he was finished – telling me I was the most useless human being in the country right then, through the little hole that’s cut in the perspex window.
“I couldn’t actually see his face – I was still strapped in with my helmet on and window net up – but I didn’t need to to get the gist of his anger, with the words and spit spray coming into the cabin.”
As it would turn out, Whincup eventually found himself in the third Perkins Engineering entry at Mount Panorama, combining with Alex Davison to finish ninth.
He’d move to Tasman Motorsport for the 2005 season – despite a less than glowing reference from Perkins – and duly do enough to convince Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Roland Dane to bring him aboard as Craig Lowndes’ team-mate for 2006.
Fifteen years on, Whincup and Lowndes are teaming up at Bathurst this coming week in pursuit of a record-breaking fourth Bathurst 1000 crown together.
Co-written with Scott Gullan, Jamie Whincup: Drive of a Lifetime will be released on Tuesday, November 30 and will be available as a paperback, ebook and audio book.