Winterbottom aims for V8 pole in Townsville
Mark Winterbottom is hoping to end a V8 Supercars qualifying dry spell this weekend as the championship heads to Townsville.
The championship leader is remarkably without a pole in 21 races stretching back to Phillip Island last year.
But Winterbottom hoped a return to grid position No 1 in Queensland would help him maintain a strong lead in the championship race.
‘‘We haven’t really looked like a pole,’’ Winterbottom said.
‘‘Our qualifying has been our weakness; we’ve had a couple on the front row in position two. It’d make the job easier. If you can qualify up the front, no doubt it makes it easier to race.’’
Three wins in four points-rich Sunday races in Darwin, Auckland and Winton have propelled the career Ford driver to a strong lead over the chasing Red Bull Holdens of Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.
He insists he’s not averse to winning on a Saturday too – but knows he needs to improve his grid position to do it.
‘‘That’s probably been the reason that Saturday has been tough for us. In the shorter races, qualifying is more important,’’ he said.
‘‘We do need to get better at it – there’s no doubt.’’
The good news is Townsville is one of ‘‘Frosty’s’’ best circuits – he has five front-row starts in the past six races and enjoys the challenge of the hybrid track.
The circuit is a mix of street and circuit racing around the city’s Reid Park, giving engineers and drivers plenty to worry about.
Smooth in some parts and bumpy in others, Winterbottom said the changing circuit would lead to different cars firing in different sectors.
‘‘It’s unique,’’ Winterbottom said
‘‘You can have a mixed bag on where you’re quick and where you struggle. It makes it really tricky to set up the car and get your driving style right.’’
The rivalry between Holden and Ford had a new flashpoint in Darwin last month.
After qualifying on pole, former champ Lowndes clashed with Winterbottom’s Ford teammate Chaz Mostert in Sunday’s race, puncturing a tyre and taking a huge hit in the championship standings.
Lowndes’ 65-point gap on Winterbottom was blown out to 161 points after he finished 17th.
Red Bull team boss Roland Dane called Mostert an idiot and ‘‘not the sharpest tool in the shed’’ but Winterbottom said he wasn’t concerned about promised retribution.
‘‘Chaz raced him and so he should,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s going to be at the front for a long time so you wouldn’t want to upset him too much.’’