Jamie Whincup has vowed to avenge his championship loss to Scott McLaughlin and send Holden out on a high at Mount Panorama this week.
After falling short for a record eighth crown in his title fight against his Ford rival, who sealed a title three-peat at the Bend last month, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team star declared the “gloves are off” in the famous Lion’s last lap of the mountain.
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As the famous Australian brand prepares to farewell Bathurst this week, Whincup said he felt like Australia was losing a piece of its identity with the impending death of Holden.
Teaming up with another Holden hero, Craig Lowndes, for his assault on the Great Race, Whincup said he was determined to give the brand the farewell it deserved.
“We’re riding the wave like the thousands and millions of fans that have supported Holden, certainly at Bathurst, because Bathurst meant so much to the Holden brand,” Whincup said.
“So it’s a very special race and if we can make it even more special, we will do absolutely everything we can.
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“It’s the last time the factory Holden Racing Team will be at the mountain.
“The HRT name has had a bit of a rollercoaster. It started off with Walkinshaws and now we proudly represent the HRT name and the fact that it will be the last time for HRT at the mountain, it’s quite sad.
“For me Holden is as Australian as pies, beers and Akubra hats. It’s proper Australian.
“So I feel like we have lost a bit of history there, lost a bit of what we’re all about.
“But we’ve got one more event to represent the great brand it is.”
Whincup had been locked in a title fight with McLaughlin throughout 2020, but his Ford rival pulled out to an unassailable 302-point lead in the last round at the Bend to seal a third straight Supercars championship.
As he hunted a fifth Bathurst crown, Whincup said he would be able to throw everything at conquering Mount Panorama with the championship battle now out of the equation.
“It won’t affect the action, if anything it will make it more dog eat dog, just got to get to that finish line before everyone else.
“We will go out there gloves off and see if we can get to the finish line first.
“It’s obviously disappointing that we are out of the running for the championship come the last round. We tried very hard to hang in there and take it to Bathurst where, as we know, anything can happen.
“But in reality Scotty and his crew were far too quick and made less mistakes. Ultimately they deserved the win and it’s just more of a carrot for us to push a bit harder.
“For sure, that has no doubt given us some more motivation.”
Whincup started his Supercars career in a Holden at Garry Rogers Motorsport, before a four-year switch to Ford with Triple Eight from 2006 and has raced in a Holden since 2010.
Only one of Whincup’s four Bathurst triumphs was in a Commodore — his last victory in 2012 alongside Paul Dumbrell — with the Red Bull star suffering a string of bad luck in the race since.
“Everyone keeps reminding me of this, ‘You’ve somehow lost it every possible way’. I hope that is the case, I hope I have exhausted the ways you can lose the race,” Whincup said.
“It doesn’t play on my mind at all. In some ways, I am really grateful that I have been a contender for the Great Race for many years.
“We haven’t necessarily won as many as we would have liked, but we’ve been in the mix and contributing to the race.
“So, it’s not a burden, it’s not something in the back of my mind. We are just going to go there and do it all again.
“But, at the same time I’m a big believer that you make your own luck and I feel like we have made that race harder than it needs to be in the past, so it is certainly up to us to try to make things a bit smoother this year.”
Brock would be ‘gutted’ by farwell
The former long-time partner of motor racing legend Peter Brock says he would have felt “gutted” to be farewelling Holden at Mount Panorama this week.
But Bev Brock fears the famous Lion is going to go out with a “whimper” rather than with the fanfare it deserves as many Holden fans will be denied the chance to say goodbye due to a cap on crowd numbers at Bathurst with COVID-19 restrictions this year.
As the official factory Holden team prepares to farewell the Supercars championship, Bev said the Lion had meant “everything” to the late Brock.
“I’ve got no doubt if Peter was still around he would want to be there because for him it would be the end of an era,” she said.
“There is part of him that would be gutted and the other part says everything evolves and changes. He wasn’t anybody who wanted to hang on to what was, life is an evolution and sadly, the way it is the Holden has ceased to be.
“So he would be there with enormous sadness, but remembering the peak times. It was his life.
“The red Holden was in his blood, the blue Ford was the enemy and that was it.”
Brock claimed all of his record nine Bathurst crowns in a Holden as he earned the title of the King of the Mountain.
His first Bathurst victory came in a Torana in 1972 and his last was an against-the-odds win in a VL Commodore in 1987, the same year he split with the Holden Dealer Team.
He returned to the Holden fold in 1991 and Bev said that’s where he had “belonged”.
“There were times when he drove a Volvo and times he drove a Ford Sierra … and when he split from Holden we even had a Ford at home as a home car, but they were never his passion,” she said.
“They were merely something that he needed to contend with. Don’t get me wrong, he gave it his all because there was no way that he would ever give less than his best no matter what he was doing.
“But, irrespective, when the opportunity came to go back to Holden he was there with bells on because that’s where he belonged.
“Irrespective of how Holden changed, they knew from all of their research that the public associated Peter as the Holden man so they were very glad to get him back into the fold.
“That’s simply who he was.”
Bev said “every new car” was Brock’s “baby”, but there was one Holden which stood out.
“The ‘Big Banger’ (1984 VK Commodore) was obviously always seen as the most successful outstanding car of all of them,” she said.
“The note of the engine sound and the look of the car the ‘Big Banger’ was a standout.”
Bev was concerned the restrictions around crowds in this “unusual year” would dampen the Holden tributes and farewell.
“It’s almost like it’s fading out rather than going out with the big bang that it deserves to have – it is sad,” she said.
“There will always be a huge (television) viewing audience but the fact is this year very few people are actually going to be able to go there and that makes it extra sad.
“It’s going to be a Bathurst like no other. The atmosphere will be extremely different.”
Bev won’t be able to attend the race herself due to Melbourne’s lockdown, but will be willing the Holden contenders on from afar.
“I will be, like the vast majority of the rest of Australia, sitting and watching it on television,” she said.
“In my heart, I would love to see Holden win. I think they have got a big challenge to overcome Scott (McLaughlin), but anything can happen (at Bathurst)
“If Holden managed to pull off a win at Bathurst it would absolutely fill the hearts of every Holden fan in Australia. It would be a remarkable thing.
“I will be sitting in front of the TV encouraging the boys.”
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Why ‘Golden Child’ is better than Monaro
Mark Skaife has recalled some of his greatest Bathurst moments in a Holden with winning in a plastic bag covered Commodore topping his Mount Panorama list.
With the famous Australian brand set to farewell Bathurst next week after one final fight against Ford, Holden’s favourite son returned to Mount Panorama with a selection of the manufacturer’s greatest race cars.
And while the 1968 race winning Monaro that his father worked on holds a special place in his heart, it is the Commodore nicknamed “Golden Child” that realty get Skaife’s blood racing.
“The Golden Child is the car that won the race in 2001 and 2002,’ Skaife said.
“That car, Chassis No. 45 for Holden Racing Team, won two championships, two Bathurst’s and two Clipsal’s. It is one of the most successful Holden’s of all time. That is my favourite car for sure.’’
Especially after the car survived a plastic bag scare to win Bathurst in 2002 after he defied team orders by keeping his foot flat to the floor.
“There were plastic bags all over the front of the car,” Skaife said.
“Everyone was hysterical in the pit-area telling me to take it easy because the engine was overheating. They were trying to get me to slow down so it would make it home.
“The water temperature got to 117 degrees Celsius which is pretty bloody hot. It was a pretty anxious last ten laps for everyone.”
While Skaife only gave cars that underperformed names that we can’t repeat, the back-to-back Bathurst got a rare nickname.
“One of my best mates Craig Kelly came up with the Golden Child,” Skaife said.
“He knew how much I loved the car so he just called it the Golden Child. I never had names for my cars. I couldn’t ever get passionate about them because I treated them so badly.”
Holden will officially quit Supercars at the end of the year following the collapse of the company.
While the Commodore is expected to race on without official support next year, the last of the ‘factory’ Holdens will take on Mount Panorama when the Bathurst 1000 begins next week
Skaife was reunited with the first ever Bathurst winning Holden this week during a Mount Panorama photo shoot.
His father worked on the Holden Monaro before Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland drove it to immortality in 1968.
“That car was from the local Wyong Holden dealer where I grew up,’ Skaife said.
“Bruce lived at Wyong and my Dad worked on the car. It started Holden’s dynasty. I was only one when it won but I do have pictures of me sitting on the boot-lid of the car. My family and a tyre business which was only a couple of hundred meters away from the Wyong Holden dealership.”