Mark Winterbottom is delighted to be racing at the Yas Marina Circuit this weekend in the Australian V8s Supercar Championship as it will save him a trip to America. The 28-year-old driver from Melbourne is relishing taking on the challenges of the Abu Dhabi track, including the new corkscrew section which has reduced the length of the track by a kilometre to 4.5km.
"The corkscrew is going to be really challenging," said Winterbottom. "I have always wanted to go to Laguna Seca [in America] for the corkscrew there. "I now get to do a corkscrew and I haven't had to go to America." Winterbottom visited Abu Dhabi last month for an early look at the track and said he is impressed with what he saw. He is confident it will give the 28 drivers in the championship a hard challenge in what is the season-opener to the 2010 season. Two races are being staged, one tomorrow evening and one on Saturday night.
"The track is really good. It is really fast in some spots and technical in others," he said. "It feels like the grip level is quite high but until you are out there in your own car it is difficult to tell." Winterbottom was fifth in last season's series, with his best performance coming in 2008 when he was the season runner-up. The championship is renowned for close, wheel-to-wheel racing, and Winterbottom is confident that the series will prove to be a hit with the UAE audience.
"The V8s are going to be really good around here I think. There are spots where you can pass and our sport's major strength is the racing," he said. "We can hopefully put on a good show and pass at 300 kilometres down the back straight under the lights with people hanging off the balconies watching us, that is really what our sport is about. It is not always about the track, it is about what is around it, and facilities make an event. Luckily you have a great track and amazing facilities so it should make for a fantastic event."
While he was in the capital last month Winterbottom got the chance to fulfil a lifetime ambition when he was driven around the track in one of Yas Marina's two-seater Formula One cars. "It was amazing," he said. "To actually get near a Formula One car was something I never thought that I would do. I'd played it on the PlayStation and played all those games like the average person gets to do, but to actually get to experience it was mind blowing.
"I could have done another 20 laps out there. Only four of us [V8 drivers] got to do it so I will be rubbing it in with the others." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org