The five-time series champion looks to be on his way to a sixth, but is he worthy enough to be put in the same league as the great Senna da Silva?
The question alone sparks mounds of controversy. Aryton Senna, the legendary Formula 1 driver who was one of the most dominant drivers of his time. A time, I might remind you, when some of the greatest Formula 1 drivers ever were at the peak of their powers. Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Niki Lauda to name a few ... And Senna beat them all.
The vehicles are different, but the level of skill is not
When we look at Jamie Whincup, on the other hand, the five-time V8 Supercars Champion who currently leads the 2014 championship series, one can’t help but begin to see the similarities. Although the vehicles in question are totally different, the talent in question is not. Whincup is, without a doubt, one of the (if not THE) greatest V8 Supercars driver in the history of the series; and he’s only 31 years old. Many would argue that he wins so much (84 wins out of 150 starts including 73 podiums) that he’s actually hurting the sport. Whether or not that’s true, we’ll save that for another time.
Drawing conclusions of two drivers from two different eras who made their names in different disciplines is no easy task. First, you have to look at the talent pool both drivers are up against.
I’ve explained Senna’s competition in the lines above but what about Whincup’s? Ever present is the Ford vs. Holden battle (or Holden vs. Ford depending on your loyalties) and Whincup finds himself right in the middle of it and up against the signature Ford Performance Racing driver, Mark Winterbottom. This Blue vs. Red rivalry has raged on for as long as the series has existed and the inclusion of several new manufacturers does little to hamper it. Although Ford has enjoyed a number of great victories, including the 2013 Bathurst 1000, Whincup has never been far behind in those triumphs. In fact, he’s won the Bathurst 1000 four times and finished second another three times.
Aside from the rivalry with Ford, Whincup has a fair share of competition from his Red Bull Racing Australia teammate, Craig Lowndes. Additionally, James Courtney and Garth Tander from the Holden Racing Team have been able to put the heat on him since acquiring Adrian Burgess. Then there are the young guns like Scott McLaughlin and Chaz Mostert and of course, Shane Van Gisbergen.
How can they compare?
All of these drivers are excellent but do they compare to the talent field that Senna faced?
If you simply look at the numbers, they alone tell a similar tale. Senna started 161 races and won 41, including 80 podiums and three championships. When you compare that with Whincup’s stats listed above, they are too similar to pass up as pure coincidence.
Am I comparing Whincup to Senna, however? No. I’m simply asking if he IS the Senna of V8SC.
Senna was, for all intents and purposes, a maniac. He was not afraid to drive his car to the limit and, at times, beyond the limit and his results speak for themselves. Just look at his lap at Monoco from 1990 to see this madman in action!
Whincup, although not technically classified as a maniac in my books, still has his many moments of glory. Take, for example, his recovery fro the 2012 Tasmania Challenge ... A race he went on to win.
As the current stand-out driver in the series, Whincup still has it all going on right now. The man has fought the battles and won the wars just like Senna did and continued to do up until his death in May of 1994. With his stats, his proven driving ability and his dominating track presence, I believe that Jamie Whincup is the Aryton Senna of the V8 Supercars Series. Just look at his remarkable comeback from a massive deficit this year ... Now he's running away with the title.
What are your thoughts? Is Jamie Whincup V8 Supercar's Ayrton Senna?