AT worst, it would have been a strong fourth place to cap off Mark Winterbottom’s strongest Adelaide 500 in several years.
At best, it could have been his maiden race win on the South Australian streets.
Instead he and Tickford Racing team principal Tim Edwards were left fuming over being penalised for tripping the kerb-cutting sensor at the Senna Chicane.
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“It’s bull****. It’s absolute bull****,” Edwards said during the race.
“He’s been concertedly driving around it and watching all the cars ahead drive over it.
“If anybody actually bothered to look at the television screen they’d actually see that, but let’s just look at the transponders — because they’re always accurate …”
The penalty works on a three-strike policy: the second time the sensor registers a kerb-cut, the driver is given a Bad Sportsmanship flag as a warning, with a pit lane drivethrough the penalty for a third cut.
Winterbottom was given his warning within the first 20 laps of the race, his third offence in the last 20 laps resulting in a penalty that dropped him from fourth to 13th at the finish.
Adding to his frustration was that believes that other drivers were beating the sensor by hitting the kerb hard enough to launch the car high enough that the timing transponder wouldn’t trip the electronic sensor.
“I’m pretty pissed off. I wasn’t making purple sectors there,” he said.
“The first warning I lost three tenths a lap, and all the guys ahead of me are doing purple sectors going straight across inside it.
“Even in the Shootout I lost a lot of time there because Whincup and van Gisbergen are two tenths quicker because they just go straight over; two wheels off the track but high in the air.
“A guy’s got four wheels off and he’s not triggering it, and a guys got two wheels on the track and it’s triggering it.
“I don’t think that’s fair, you know. But at the end of the day you get the penalty and nothing’s going to change. I don’t know how you fix it. Next year the sensor might be not so sensitive and someone else will (get pinged).
“It happens at the Gold Coast (but) they’ve now built better kerbs that now stop you from driving four wheels over.
“I’d prefer (race officials) to go down there, stand there and say you had two wheels off: judge of fact. But relying on how much the car lifts … I’m pretty annoyed.”
PIT PROBLEM SCUPPERED CHANCE OF WIN
Winterbottom sat in fourth place after the final round of stops completed, getting a good view of the battle for the victory ahead of him between eventual winner Shane van Gisbergen, David Reynolds and Garth Tander.
But he could easily have been in front of them.
“One of the lights failed so (the refueller) didn’t pull out when he was pressing the button,” Winterbottom explained. “We stayed in four seconds too long.
“We should’ve come out ahead of Reynolds (and) he was leading the race.
“We were pretty quick in that middle part of the race. Would’ve come out first but when you’re losing three tenths in one corner, how do you defend?
“Those guys were going flat out over it and you’re driving around at three-tenths down.”