Mark aims for the top

 Mark Winterbottom drives the #5 Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford during the Bathurst 1000. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Mark Winterbottom drives the #5 Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford during the Bathurst 1000. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

ELEVEN down, three to go.

That’s the state of the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship Series heading into this weekend’s Gold Coast 600, with plenty of time still left for the man of the moment, Mark Winterbottom, to jump to the head of the pointscore ladder.

He sits 142 points in arrears of Jamie Winchup and just 28 points behind second-placed Craig Lowndes, and after helping himself to 1202 points across the past five events, he’s looking strong at the pointy end of the season.

The Ford star has not only out-scored all other drivers of late, but has great form on the Gold Coast, having finished on the podium in seven of the past eight races at Surfers Paradise, including two victories.

“I am really looking forward to the Gold Coast as it has been a busy few weeks since our win at Bathurst and going racing means we can re-focus on winning the championship,” Winterbottom said.

“Surfers Paradise is one of my favourite races and it has the atmosphere like all big events do. Racing with Richo again is going to be fun and we obviously want to win here and also aim for the Endurance Cup.

“Winning here will obviously be a big boost to our title challenge and that will allow us to fight it out at the final two events.”

Whincup holds a 114 point championship lead over teammate Lowndes heading into this weekend.

Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell lead the race for the inaugural PIRTEK Enduro Cup, which will be awarded for the first time to the duo that scores the most points across the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 600.

The duo hold a 42-point lead over Red Bull teammates Lowndes and Warren Luff with 576 points to 534.

A total of 300 points remain up for grabs in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup this weekend.

It is the fourth straight year the 600 race format — featuring a pair of 102-lap races with two drivers in each car — has been held, though it’s the first time that having an international co-driver is not compulsory.

But two of note will be competing — the winner of the last IndyCar race on the Gold Coast Ryan Briscoe, who is making his fourth straight appearance this year in a V8 Supercar at the event, and Le Mans 24 Hour champion David Brabham who will partner Tim Slade in the No.47 Heavy Haulage Australia Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

It will be the second year Brabham has partnered Slade in the race and third time he will be with many of the Erebus Motorsport crew after he shared the IRWIN Racing car with Alex Davison in 2011.

Brabham arrived in Australia fresh from finishing second to Briscoe (pairing with Russell Ingall) in the LMP2 category at the Petit Le Mans last weekend in Atlanta.

After 10 hours of racing, just 1.3 seconds separated the Australian stars.

Briscoe says his chances with Supercheap Auto Racing will be boosted by the event’s use of soft tyres.

“The soft tyres suit my driving style and they make the V8 Supercar more similar to what I’m used to in America,” Briscoe said.

“The cars have more grip, but you also have to think about conservation, which is something I’ve had to deal with in both Indycars and the American Le Mans Series.”

Albury driver David Reynolds is another driver looking forward to this weekend.

“It is a challenging track and requires a lot of commitment from a driver,” he said.

In three days of action there will be practice today for drivers and co-drivers, qualifying, the Top 10 Shootout and Race 30 tomorrow, and qualifying and Race 31 on Sunday.