ack in 2004, this writer went indoor
rock climbing in the outer suburbs of
Melbourne, Australia, with Jamie Whincup
for a magazine feature. The idea of the
story was based around a metaphor for
where Whincup’s career was at the time,
although to be honest it was more about
the fact that we’d simply decided it would
be fun to go climbing for a couple of hours.
At that point, Whincup was in a slump.
Having won the Australian Formula Ford
title in 2002, he’d skipped several steps
of the development ladder and went
straight into V8 Supercars with the GRM
team the following year. That’s roughly the
equivalent of leaping from USF2000 into
the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His inexperience
left him vulnerable in such a strong field
and, after a largely disappointing season,
he was dropped. Unable to find a new
home, he was without a full-time ride for
2004, emerging only as a co-driver for the
endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst.
Hence the premise for our rock climbing.
Whincup was hanging by his fingertips, but
there was a way to the top if only he could
figure out the next couple of moves.
A quick bit of background. “Tin-tops,”
as racing sedans are known in Australia,
have long been the centerpiece of the
country’s motorsports culture, and the
over-juiced, fire-breathing, V8 Supercars
are the pinnacle. The series is built around
a rich heritage of powerful cars, heroic
drivers, the blue versus red rivalry of
Holden’s Commodore and the Ford Falcon,
and, above them all, The Mountain:
Bathurst’s Mount Panorama, which hosts a
1000km endurance race every October.
If you ask an IndyCar driver whether
they’d rather win a championship or the
Indy 500, they usually have to think hard
before they answer. For the guys in V8
Supercars, it’s the same with Bathurst.
Fast-forward to the present day, and
“Championship or Bathurst?” is not a
question that Whincup has to worry about.
He’s won both. Four times each. Safe to
assume that when he was dangling from
that metaphoric rock wall all those years
ago, he found the next handhold.
[in 2010] I felt like the silent majority
Robert cianflone/Getty images
During the intervening years he’s moved
across the divide from GM’s Holden brand
to Ford and back, although he managed
to avoid the backlash that other drivers
have faced from brand-loyal fans.
“I don’t think a lot of people remember
that I started my career with Holden,” he
says. “But when I moved back to Holden
Each event has a maximum 300 points on offer, but they’re split
according to race formats, e.g., winning the Bathurst 1000 earns
all 300, and a sprint race triple-header would award 100 per win.