Jamie Whincup loves to hate being in the spotlight, so having Marcos Ambrose return for V8 Supercars’ season-ending Sydney 500 suits him perfectly.
“Hopefully he takes some of the attention away from myself,” said Whincup, who will officially be crowned 2014 champion on Sunday.
Ambrose will compete in the series for the first time since 2005 this weekend as a wildcard entry for Dick Johnson Racing.
The two-time V8 champion has spent the past nine years racing in NASCAR but has come back to Australia to spearhead the DJR Team Penske’s campaign in 2015.
He’s had three days to get a feel of his Ford Falcon at Queensland Raceway, but is yet to tackle the mean streets of Sydney Olympic Park where 2014’s last three races will be contested on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a track that’s very challenging – one of the hardest on the schedule – and one I haven’t raced on, so I know I have to give the place some respect and have to build my own confidence up,” Ambrose told AAP.
“It may take me some time to get dialled in around there. Don’t forget, I’m racing against drivers who have had the whole year in these cars.
“But I’m not intimidated or frightened by it.”
Ambrose is keeping expectations low for the weekend, knowing the team will be stretched with three cars on the grid.
Team Penske have flown in a crew from America to help with the car build and pitstops.
“We’ve got to keep expectations in check, but I don’t have anything to prove to anybody,” he said. “For us, it’s all about getting ready for 2015.”
Ambrose was not around when Whincup won the first of his record six V8 Supercar titles.
But the returning star isn’t buying into the hype around what might come of their on-track reunion.
“He may well have won six of the last seven championships if I was still here, we just don’t know,” Ambrose said.
“What I do know is that I’m not eyeing one guy. For us, it’s an internal fight. Getting the most out of our own situation.”
Red Bull Racing’s Whincup effectively secured this year’s title at Phillip Island last month.
“I don’t think it will sink in this weekend,” said Whincup.
“There’s still plenty up for grabs, plenty of pride on the line.
“A little rain is predicted each afternoon, so that could throw a spanner in the works.”
The fight for second spot in the championship remains alive, with Ford’s Mark Winterbottom and Holden drivers Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen all in contention.
Winterbottom sits 95 points ahead of Lowndes, with van Gisbergen a further 39 points back.
If Lowndes finishes second, it will mark Red Bull’s fourth successive 1-2 championship finish – never before achieved by a team in Australian touring car history.
Practice begins at 9.30am on Friday.