Phew! He deserves it.
After five seasons of finishing third, and one of finishing second, season 12 of Mark Winterbottom’s V8 Supercars career has finally seen Frosty deservedly claim his first ever V8 Supercar championship, and what a season it was. Winterbottom took nine race victories, including the Wilson Security Sandown 500 and such was his, and Prodrive Racing Australia’s form over the middle part of the season, that the victory at Sandown was Winterbottom’s last of the year, some 12 races ago on September 13th.
After Ford drastically reduced their financial input at Prodrive before their complete withdrawal from V8 Supercars at the end of the year, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tim Edwards’ squad would find 2015 a struggle, however the Melbourne based squad rose admirably to the occasion and helped secure Ford’s (if you can still call it that) first V8 Supercars title for five years. As Ford complete their withdrawal from the series over the winter, many fans will be left wondering if Winterbottom will have the machinery at his disposal to defend his title at the first chance of asking, but with the return of Mostert and the inevitable addition of Cam Waters to the team, Prodrive will have at the least a driver line up capable of matching Triple Eight.
Frosty’s remarkable career in V8 Supercars compares only the legend Craig Lowndes when comparing the staggering amount of runner up and third/fourth places the two have achieved in recent seasons, however as 2015 so aptly proved, these two V8SC stalwarts more than deserve their place in the series history books. Winterbottom’s clean sweep of the Castrol Edge Townsville 400 back in July marked the beginning of a stunning run of form for Frosty, Mostert and PRA in which they won six races on the count, a fantastic achievement considering the intense level of competition in Australia’s premier motorsport series.
Had Mostert not been suffered that horrific crash on the Mountain which ruled him out for the rest of the season Frosty may well have been pushed all the way to the final race in Sydney for his maiden title however as the Coates Hire Sydney 500 showed, Winterbottom was more than capable of soaking up the intense pressure and expectation and handled the whole weekend like a true, deserving champion.
Winterbottom’s victory can be considered all the more impressive for Mostert’s absence from the closing stages of the season. Robbed of a equally competitive teammate to take points off his title rivals, Frosty on occasion was the sole Ford in a hungry pack of Holden’s all helping to take chunks out of his championship lead. On weekends where Reynolds fell away from the front such as Philip Island, Winterbottom held his own to bring the number five Falcon back in consistent and solid points paying positions to bring him, step by step closer to the 2015 title.
All throughout 2015, Prodrive and Winterbottom had their doubters. Would they choke? How long until Red Bull Racing catch up? Can Winterbottom hold his own when the going gets tough? Winterbottom and Prodrive answered all of those questions perfectly in 2015, and in the only way they know how to do, by letting their performance on track do the talking and they passed every test thrown at them with flying colours. Their recovery from Bathurst was testament to the fantastic spirit Edwards has created at Prodrive and if anything, Ford’s departure from the sport will only help to make the team stronger over the winter.
As we await the Clipsal 500 in March with eager anticipation and excitement, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the brilliant efforts Mark Winterbottom, the 2015 V8 Supercars Champion.