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Why Jamie Whincup is retiring from racing to become a team boss

By Chris Thompson, 13 Feb 2021 News

Jamie Whincup on his retirement from racing full-time

It’s out of the driver’s seat, into the hot seat for J-Dub

As Roland Dane prepares to step down as Triple Eight team principal in 2022, Supercars’ winningest driver is readying himself to step up to the top job.

Jamie Whincup announced he’s retiring from full-time driving at the end of the 2021 season, coinciding with Dane’s announcement, along with the addition of businessman and racer Tony Quinn as major shareholder in the team. While Whincup still appears to have some years of competitive driving left in him, Wheels asked JW: why now?

“I like racing. I want to [be involved in] racing for a long time to come… and you can’t drive the race car forever,” Whincup says.

“In some regard you can’t do any role [for] too long because you lose your spark for it. I’ve enjoyed my driving career and that’s still continuing to the end of this year, but I’m looking to enjoy the new part of going racing – that’s being a team principal.”

MORE Whincup's retirement announcement, changes at Triple Eight

Jamie Whincup Commodore Supercar

Whincup says the team is in the right position to be bringing younger drivers in and giving them the resources to become the next generation of great racers.

“You get to a point in your driving career where you’re better off developing a young kid. I still think I could be a competitive driver for the next few years but we might as well start the transition now with Gen3 coming in with a new driver.

“Me continuing would be more selfish than what’s best for the team and I’ve always said I’ll do what’s best for the team; first and foremost.”

It’s possible those who want to see Triple Eight remain a dominant force in Supercars would prefer to see Whincup behind the wheel, but his career has already provided the team with 122 race wins, seven championships, and four Bathurst 1000 victories. Whincup says he never set out to be quite as good as he has proven himself to be.

Jamie Whincup in car

“I never planned too far ahead, and I never had any real specific goals that I wanted to achieve in Supercars. I think if I did then I’ve achieved them without a doubt.”

Whincup adds that even though he believes fresh talent will keep the team competitive, there’s something in it for himself too.

OPINION Can Whincup win our hearts?

“Listening to a lot of AFL players who now coach, they said they’ve got a massive rush out of winning a premiership as a coach, as in, it’s almost been as rewarding as it was as a player. The obvious goal for me after this year is to win a championship as a team principal. Potentially there’s just as much satisfaction there as there is behind the wheel.”

Where does Whincup see Triple Eight in a couple of years time, then? He’s confident the team has been left to him and new owner Tony Quinn in top shape in terms of management.

Roland Dane

Triple Eight's mastermind Roland Dane

“I think Roland’s put a fantastic succession plan in place to make sure Triple Eight is a force to be reckoned with for a long time. No doubt there’ll be a massive hole to fill when RD decides to spend long periods of time away, but that’s up to me to raise my standard to the position that Roland’s generated over many years. If the place can’t operate without Roland, that means I’ve failed.

“Everything I attack in my life I give 110 per cent. I’ve had a lot of success with things I’ve given my utmost attention to, and I’m hoping this team principal role at Triple Eight is no different to anything else I’ve given all my efforts to over the years.”

That part is clear to anyone paying attention to Whincup’s career. Almost one of every four race starts has resulted in a win for Whincup – in large part thanks to Triple Eight. It’s hard to imagine Whincup doing anything other than his best to allow a young driver that same opportunity.

Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes Red Bull Ampol Holden

Craig Lowndes and Whincup with the 2021 Red Bull Ampol Racing Commodore

Full interview transcript:

Wheels: Why the move to a management position? And why now?

Whincup: I like racing. I want to go racing for a long time to come… and you can’t drive the race car forever. In some regard you can’t do any role forever because you do it too long and you lose your spark for it. I’ve enjoyed my driving career and that’s still continuing to the end of this year, but I’m looking to enjoy the new part of going racing and that’s being a team principal.

So it’s a way to stick around without feeling like it’s getting stale?

Yeah you get to a point in your driving career where you’re better off developing a young kid, I still think I could be a competitive driver for the next few years but we might as well start the transition now with Gen3 coming in, so we can start Gen3 with a new driver. Me continuing would be more selfish than what’s best for the team and I’ve always said I’ll do what’s best for the team first and foremost.

Do you feel like, if you had any goals, you’ve achieved what you set out to in your full-time career?

I never planned too far ahead, and I never had any real specific goals that I wanted to achieve in Supercars. I think if I did then I’ve achieved them without a doubt. I’m not a greedy person… I didn’t set out to win over 100 races so I’m more than happy with the results myself and the team have been able to achieve.

Do you have any goals for T8 or your own career going forward, driving or otherwise?

There’s no driving event that really stands out but I’d love to do some laps at iconic circuits around the world. It’ doesn’t have to be competitive but I’d love to cut some laps at places like Monza, Spa Francorchamps… even a high-speed oval would be good fun as well, I haven’t been able to do that in my career. I don’t need to do an event, I’d just love to do some laps.

Listening to a lot of AFL players who now coach, they said they’ve got a massive rush out of winning a premiership as a coach, as in it’s almost been as rewarding as it was as a player. The obvious goal for me after this year is to win a championship as a team principal. Potentially there’s just as much satisfaction there as there is behind the wheel.

Or leading the team to a Bathurst win?

For sure. They say the satisfaction is just as good, if not better, because there are so many other elements in being a coach… that’s certainly a goal for me post-2021.

Garth Tander and Jamie Whincup

Garth Tander and Whincup during the 2020 Bathurst 1000

Is T8 in a particularly good position for that right now, with McLaughlin and Penske leaving DJR?

Well we never like anyone coming down, and I don’t think DJR will lose much of their performance this year. We’re not about ‘we’re in a better place because someone else has been brought down’. We’re about trying to put in the best performance we possibly can, and if anything, trying to raise the game in the category wherever we can.

I feel like we were very competitive last year, as competitive as we’ve ever been, and I hope that continues this year. I think it will.

It’s the satisfaction of coming out on top in a year where the other teams are at their best?

We want our opposition to bring everything they’ve got, and we want to be able to bring everything we’ve got and we simply try and get to the finish line before anyone else. That’s what got us into motorsport many years ago and that’s what drives us now.

How do you feel about T8 minus Roland Dane?

I think Roland’s put a fantastic transition in place, a succession plan, to make sure Triple Eight is a force to be reckoned with for a long time. I also want to add that, outside of RD, the management within Triple Eight is exceptional. There are many elements of the team managed by people internally who are still in place and will be for a long time to come.

It’s just the team principal position for myself, and obviously I’ll get a lot of support from Tony [Quinn] and Jess [Dane]. And even my good mate Paul Dumbrell, who understands the Triple Eight business and Supercars very well. He’s offered his support to me for at least the next couple of years.

RELATED Jess Dane: "I’ve had to prove that I deserve to be there."

No doubt there’s a massive hole to fill when RD decides to spend long periods of time away, but that’s up to me to raise my standard to somewhat a position that Roland’s generated over many years. If the place can’t operate without Roland that means I’ve failed.

Everything I attack in my life I give 110 per cent. I’ve had a lot of success with things I’ve given my utmost attention to, and I’m hoping this team principal role at Triple Eight is no different to anything else I’ve given all my efforts to over the years.

Jamie-Whincup-Roland-Dane-Jess-Dane

Whincup with Roland and Jess Dane, the latter to remain an important part of the T8 management team

Are you glad to have Tony Quinn’s experience at hand?

100 per cent, Tony is an asset to the team. There are many people out there with probably enough money to buy a percentage of one of the best sporting teams in the country, but it was all about finding the right person to be able to bring value to the team and will Tony bring a massive amount of value to what we do here at Triple Eight. We’re very grateful to have him on as a major shareholder.

If you had to have a hypothetical dream team of drivers, even if not full time currently, who?

You can answer that two ways. You can put together a dream team of drivers who have achieved a lot and are established, but my dream team for Triple Eight would probably be two young kids that you don’t know the names of yet. We’re all about youth and trying to bring on the next generation.

Last thing, if you want to speak to the Wheels audience rather than a specifically motorsport audience, now’s your chance.

I guess I just want everyone to embrace the direction the motoring industry is going in at the moment. We’ve got to be careful and balanced in how the motoring industry changes are then incorporated into motorsport. As a team we’re embracing the direction the industry is going, and I think we all should be excited about that.

There’s no negative, there will still be muscle cars around to drive and see and enjoy, but as far as the top line of motorsport in this country, let’s keep on the frontline of innovation and be excited about the next generation of the motoring industry, because I think it’s really cool and exciting.

Enjoy it… and I’m probably targeting the older audience of your magazine, but let’s not be negative, let's be positive and enjoy the journey.