UPDATE: Mentally exhausted, V8 Supercar star Jamie Whincup says securing consecutive drivers’ championships “means everything”.
The Ford driver confirmed the title with a fifth place finish in the opening 250km race of the Sydney 500, easily gaining the points required to secure an unassailable lead in the championship standings.
Holden’s Garth Tander won an incident-packed race around the 3.4km street circuit at Sydney’s Olympic Park, finishing ahead of Ford duo Mark Winterbottom and Jason Bright to claim his sixth victory of the season.
But the day belonged to Whincup, who became just the 12th driver to win multiple Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar championships and the first to go back-to-back since Marcos Ambrose in 2003-04.
“Today was all about getting 22 points,” an obviously exhausted Whincup told reporters.
“I fought hard, I had nothing left in me, the week’s been draining. I must admit I’m rapt with my performance, I feel like that’s the best I could have done.
“There’s not been much time this week to be a racing car driver ... but to finish it off with that double championship means everything.
“(I’m) absolutely drained but I’ll work hard to get back out there tomorrow.”
The 26-year-old said securing back-to-back titles had been his main motivation going into the year and he was thrilled to have created his own slice of history.
“It’s an elite group to have two championships, no doubt, and I’ve had a lot of time, I’m very familiar with all the stats and I study all that stuff,” he said.
“Very, very proud of what the team’s achieved. I’m playing a broken record here, we all come up and say ’thanks to the team’ but really those blokes just take the skin off their knuckles week-in, week-out, massive weeks, and I’m just one part of that.
“We’ll all get together somewhere next week just to work out exactly what we’ve achieved.”
Whincup started the day needing to finish 28th or higher in either Saturday or Sunday’s races but blitzed through qualifying to claim third spot on the grid behind pole-sitter Tander and Holden’s Lee Holdsworth.
The TeamVodafone pilot did briefly lead the race when Holdsworth’s push for a first race win of 2009 ended with a crash in the 26th lap, but was only too happy to make way for Tander and keep his championship dream alive.
In a heartfelt confession, Whincup said the year-long battle with good friend and former flatmate Will Davison had taken its toll on the pair’s relationship.
“The whole scoop of racing my mate was a big deal,” he said of the battle with the Holden Racing Team rival.
“While it’s all over now it did put a little bit of pressure on our friendship ... the friendship was massively affected.
“I’m really confident we’re going to be able to pull back and get along, at least for another 10 months until we’re probably battling for another one. It was really tough.”
The Sydney 500, which has already drawn over 123,000 fans over the first two days’ action, concludes on Sunday with an all-in qualifying session followed by another 250km race.