Whincup can't afford any more mistakes
It was the V8 Supercars round where he was meant to gain some ground, instead Darwin proved the banana skin Jamie Whincup so desperately wanted to avoid.
The defending champion started the weekend in fourth on the overall standings but walked away in eighth and 286 points adrift off Ford’s leader, Mark Winterbottom.
He finished 11th and 16th in Saturday’s two races, before leaving his worst result to last - coming 22nd in the 200km feature on Sunday.
Throw in a 25-point penalty for careless driving in the round’s opening sprint and Hidden Valley was far from enjoyable for Whincup.
“We had another tough day at the office,” Whincup said.
“I can’t think of another time we’ve had a day as tough as that.
“We had a quick car in qualifying, but I didn’t quite get the job done.”
A “radical” pit strategy didn’t help either, with the team opting to get soft tyres on his Commodore after just three laps.
Teammate Craig Lowndes - who remains second in the title race after grabbing his 100th win on Saturday, a first in the sport’s history - followed a similar plan and finished 15th.
“Unfortunately both cars delaminated the front tyre and mine had come off the rear and gone on the front,” Whincup said.
“We’re a fair way off the lead now and we can’t afford any more mistakes, so we’ll look forward to hopefully turning it around in Townsville.”
Darwin was the place Whincup was happy hunting ground last year and the start of his charge toward a record sixth V8 crown.After going winless in 11 races, the 32-year-old won two sprints in the Top End in 2014 and scored a podium in the third .
“You can’t rely on that,” he said of his ability to fight back.
“You need to be right up there, you need to be fast.“It’s a long way back from here, but let’s not talk too much about it.
“It’s just about going fast and trying to win races, but that’s a long way away at the moment.”
This season, he’s only been victorious twice - in Adelaide and Tasmania - plus two podiums.
He has 22 races left - including the endurance races at Sandown, Bathurst, and the Gold Coast - to claw his way back and fight for championship No.7.