Bathurst blog: why do people hate Jamie Whincup
Straight words from Supercars' resident villain
Buried deep in Mt Panorama's parc fermé, past all the main garages, adjacent from the leading support tents, and next to the dummy grid is a plain grey building.
It could almost be a house in the sense that mayonnaise could almost be a substitute for onion dip and apple juice could almost be a substitute for beer. It's a room that thousands upon thousands of people will walk past over the course of the Bathurst 1000 weekend, completely unknowing of the fact that some of the most important words of the weekend will be spoken of within those four walls.
It's the press conference building of course, and it's where my Saturday's reporting ended.
I start at the end because the majority of the rest of the day was quite low key. The media love heaping hype on Bathurst Saturday, but when you think about it, it's quite an empty day. We're really all here for the top-10 shootout, and that's the very last thing on the schedule.
My morning was mainly spent huddled in the media centre editing and distributing shots, then taking a few photos of drivers in pit lane during practice — my typical go-to when my brain simply isn't functioning on all four cylinders. A few sessions were shot from the outside of Griffins Bend, and then the shootout was covered from the media room, cold water in hand.
Of all the people to sum up Saturday best though, it was Jamie Whincup.
Why don't people like Jamie? Seems a simple enough question to answer really — people think he's cocky and arrogant; an ‘undeserving’ champion unlike the charismatic and flawed likes of Mark Skaife and Marcos Ambrose, or peoples champions like Peter Brock and Craig Lowndes.
But the thing about ‘the people’ is that often they're idiots. They're the ones who bestowed fame and success upon Justin Bieber, they're the ones who are voting for Donald Trump in their droves, they're the ones that ensure that a rotation of garbage sitcoms continue to get circulation on almost every major channel in the country.
I'll let you in on a secret; Jamie Whincup is a decent guy.
How could so many people be so wrong about one man? Think about it this way; Jamie has been winning races and topping qualifying sessions since 2006 when he joined Triple Eight, commencing a marriage that would become deeply fruitful for both parties.
Since then he's toured press conference rooms like this one generally at least once every weekend — where he gets quizzed on all things racing by Supercars Championship PR and members of the press. As such, his word will appear more often in the media than anyone else's — not Lowndes, not Winterbottom, not nobody.
From the comfort of the proverbial armchair at home, it's easy to construct Whincup as a villain because it's simply inevitable that if a person is made to speak in the media week in week out that they're going to say something that will trip them up among the viewers.
And that's before we arrive at the biggest crux; every sport needs a villain — and the people have chosen Jamie to be the villain of Supercars. What is a sport after all if there isn't someone to shout obscenities at through the television?
Press conferences in Supercars have a strange dynamic, where everyone in the room generally knows what's going to be asked and answered — as if all the protagonists are operating to a script.
It's the same logic that sent the late and quite great Kiwi motorsport journalist Eoin Young down the route of writing articles about gossip and rumour instead of mere race reports during his years covering Formula 1, and it still annoys many today.
Whincup however, each time I see him in one of these press conferences, manages to give everyone just a taste of the real — a taste of how things really are.
“In reality — and I don't want to kill the mood or anything — there's a lot of hype and it's all good stuff, but really it doesn't mean anything,” he said after claiming pole.
“I'm happy for it to be all fun and exciting, but we've just qualified for the big race. There's no points for pole.”
That kind of thinking is the hallmark of someone who sees through much of the hooey, someone likely just a touch frustrated with the same cycle of questions being asked time and time again. Someone a bit like us.
Will he and Paul Dumbrell win on Sunday? A lot of people expect them to, and it will take a magical run from anyone else on the grid to defeat them. They've been nearly untouchable in every session so far. Their team have won seven of the last 10 Bathurst 1000s.
Come Sunday afternoon, the media will all be parked in that anonymous grey building, applauding the top three finishing trios on a job well done.
And I will be very, very surprised if Whincup and Dumbrell aren't front and centre.
Driven's Matthew Hansen is blogging every day about the highs and lows of reporting on the Bathurst 1000. Follow the links below to read parts one through four.