Steve: Hi, this is Steve from Calibre Fitness. This month we’re interviewing Mark Winterbottom. V8 Supercars fans will be familiar with Mark ‘Frosty’ Winterbottom, one of the series’ regular frontrunners who we’re sure is on the cusp to a win in Australia’s premier touring car championship.

Mark dominated the Australian karting scene for ten years, winning many titles and even competing internationally against the likes of Lewis Hamilton. In 2002, he made the full-time jump to open-wheel racing, finishing runner-up in the Australian Formula Ford Champion to V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup.

Ford was seriously impressed with his skills, and duly signed Winterbottom on a long-term deal. . In his maiden season with FPR, he enjoyed his maiden podium, race and round wins en route to finishing third in the championship. In the six seasons since, ‘Frosty’ has never finished outside the top-five in the Drivers’ Championship.

Winterbottom can be guaranteed to be among the most consistent performers in the Australian touring car scene, and he has continually matured and developed into an accomplished and highly respected performer, which was acknowledged by his peers with his nomination for the Barry Sheene Medal in 2012.

How are you doing Mark?

Mark: Yeh, good. How are you?

Steve: Yeh, really good, thank you. Mark, you were a very talented soccer player in your younger days. Was there a time when you had to make a tough decision between soccer and motorsport?

Mark: There was actually. I started soccer when I was 5 years old. So I loved soccer, played it at a state level, it was a lot of fun, but took a lot of commitment and then when I realised what motorsport was, it was the choice of play soccer on a Sunday or race Go-Karts on a Sunday and as fun as chasing a ball around an oval is, I chose the motorsport option and thankfully it paid off. Both were a lot of fun and who knows what soccer could have done, but I think I made the right choice in the end.

Steve: Yeh, Absolutely. For ten years, you were extremely successful in karts, winning a heap of titles, then over the course of a couple of years you made the jump up to V8 Supercars. How hard was this transition for you?


Mark: It is very tough. Most sports in general are very tough industries. Racing Go-Karts is purely yourself and your family on a low budget, trying to do whatever you can to go racing and luckily I had great supporters through the whole time. But it’s purely you and the machine, but when you transition to Formula Ford and V8 Supercars, it becomes a business and an industry. Ford Performance Racing for example has about sixty staff who work there. They try to get everyone working for you and getting everything right. It is very tough. So you go from just you and the machine, to you and the business and driving is different, but it’s all the same sort of traits. But it’s mainly getting your head around all the other aspects that can affect the result which you don’t learn when you’re young. It is a big reality check when you step up.

Steve: Yeh, sure. I’m sure diet and nutrition play an important part, as they do for most sportsmen. What does your diet consist of?


Mark: Our sport is really heavy on the hydration side. In a cabin the temperature is 30 degrees higher than ambient, so we’re seeing cabin temperatures of 70 degrees sometimes. Hydration is key, a lot of electrolytes is definitely a big thing for us. Magnesium as well to stop the cramping and you just need to eat healthy as it is, but hydration can lose you a race more than the food itself, but everything at a race weekend for our team is catered by a couple of professional caterers so you get fed well, but no one’s there handing you drinks of fluid. So that’s something you need to do on your own and top up. If we race on Saturday and Sunday, we’ll start the Tuesday before, you really get the fluids up, put about 2kg on of just fluid and come out Sunday afternoon about 1kg lighter than your standard weight. Over a weekend you probably lose 3-4kg of fluid, so yeh... Hydration is key.

Steve: Absolutely. I guess the same goes for fitness as for diet and nutrition. What does a normal training week look like?


Mark: A training week is hard to get right in our sport because the commercial aspect of it is so busy. I like to do weights, a lot of the guys are different to what I am, but I like to do that. I do upper body, chest and triceps one day, I do back and biceps another day and I do legs another day. For cardio I do a lot of running, a lot of fartleks, a lot of 1km sprints. I’ve tried to stop running long distances because I broke my ankle last year so you have to come up with a new way to keep fit without putting so much jolt on the body. So running shorter distances and cycling are the main cardio I do these days. It’s a mixture of everything though really; Weights for strength and run/ride for endurance and then also do a weights circuit once a week as well, so that will be a complete body workout circuit that goes for about an hour and a half. So I try to spice it up. Training for me is something I really enjoy. When you’re on the road you need to do what you can as well, so I always pack my runners, hopefully stay near a gym if you can, otherwise you need to do bodyweight stuff and that’s where a lot of that CrossFit comes in to play.

Steve: Yeh, sure. How did you find the experience of lending your voice to the animated character ‘Frosty’ in the movie Cars 2?


Mark: It was a lot of fun actually. I love kids and I love being a family man and playing with my kids so to actually be able to do a kid movie and see people watching it and commenting on it, although it was only 2 lines, it was still a lot of fun to do. Disney as a company were amazing to work with and it was just lots of fun. It was strange doing the voice over because it was in a sound booth in Melbourne here and the director was in his lounge room in Las Vegas so he was guiding through the whole production, it was a pretty bizarre experience, but it was lots of fun, I loved every minute of it and to see a car named ‘Frosty’ on the big screen was pretty cool!

Steve: What about competing on Australia’s Greatest Athlete, how tough was this for you?


Mark: Ahh, it was really tough actually because the filming was the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Sydney Homebush race. So that was the biggest race of the year, then flew straight out landed in Brisbane drove to Sunshine coast and by the time everything got finished up it was about 3am and the triathlon that morning was at 7am so preparation wasn’t ideal. It was a lot of fun though. It’s great to see how you stack up against different athletes and it also gave me a bit of a kick in the backside about my fitness as well, because you want to pride yourself on your fitness and some things were really good, the bench press and jet-skiing and a few others, but there were other areas where I was pretty weak which was a bit of a reality check to get back to the gym and get a bit stronger. But some of those guys, the Quade Coopers, then Shannon Ecksteins, they’re elite guys, their fitness is amazing, so it was good to compare yourself against those guys.

Steve: What has been your most memorable racing experience to date?


Mark: Probably just rocking up to Bathurst for the first time. It wasn’t a memorable result, it was actually a DNF, the engine failed on lap 132 or something like that. But having grown up watching Bathurst as a kid and a lot of Aussie blokes and women can relate to Bathurst, so just to get on that starting grid and do one lap of Bathurst, just to get there and do it was one of the best feelings; not from a results point of view, but just sheer satisfaction and completion that you’ve watched it for so many years and have finally got there.

Steve: Yeh, sure. What do you consider to be your main strength as a driver?


Mark: You have to have that speed, but I like to be calculated on how I do it. So I haven’t got a ‘win or bust’ attitude which can work for you sometimes, but won’t work for you other times. I think I’m consistent; I can win when I have to and finish when I need to. I think that’s a good strength to have because it’s quite easy to always get that red mist and always try to go for the victory and glory, but that doesn’t always pay off, it might pay off one time out of ten but the strength is to just drive within yourself; when you haven’t got the car, just do the best result you can and when you have got it to push on and go for the win. Not every driver has that same sort of approach, but that’s worked well for me for consistency in the championship.

Steve: What do you think of the introductions of Nissan and Mercedes Benz into the championship?


Mark: It’s been good to see different manufacturers come in. It’s always been Ford and Holden for the past 15 years, but it was getting to a point where it needed some more manufacturer support and Nissan were racing within the sport back in 1993 or whenever it was, so they’ve got a lot of history with our sport, even though it was many years ago. But they wanted to come in and Mercedes is a well known brand, it’s actually really nice racing against a luxury car and a prestige car, and if we can beat it in a Ford Falcon, that’s also going to give you a bit more satisfaction. I think it’s great; it was time for a revamp and now’s the perfect time. Initial signs are that the fans love them. The Mercedes has this incredible engine and the Nissan sounds different, they look different, they’re bringing in different supporters so yeh, I think it’s really good for the sport.

Steve: Have you had any particularly bad crashes or suffered any bad injuries in your career?


Mark: Yeh, I’ve had some bad crashes, but most of the damage was done in Go-Karting to be honest. Go-Karting doesn’t have much around you to protect you, so when you roll over it’s your body that cops the impact. The only broken bone, touch wood, was in Go-Karting, I broke my collar bone when the car rolled over. In V8 Supercars, there’s been a heap of crashes, but every one has been a walk away which is a good feeling. But they’re very safe, you feel safer in that than you do in a Go-Kart. So I’ve been pretty lucky with how I’ve pulled up. They all hurt, when you hit a wall going 200km/h, it shakes your teeth and rattles your bones, but I always walked away which was good.

Steve: With your karting background, would you ever consider making a move towards Formula 1?

 

Mark: With Karting, probably the most natural progression is to go open wheel racing, but the hard part is at the age of 14, you have to be in Europe racing Go-Karts, so that means you need pretty rich parents, which I didn’t have and it means moving away from home at that age to a foreign country. So it is really tough. You’re competing against the whole world trying to get into 20 seats. Formula One is the pinnacle of motor sport, but at the same time there’s probably 8-10 guys that get paid professionally and the other 10 bring money. So it’s a very tough category to get into and to have 2 Aussie’s in it, that just shows how good Australian motorsport is and how respected our country is in Motorsport, but I’m glad I chose V8s. V8’s is real racing, you can bang door handles and crunch the gears. I guess it’s a true Aussie car and that’s what I love. Formula One is very good, but it’s a different form of racing with a different approach.

Steve: Yep... And just finally Mark, what advice would you give a young person trying to get started in racing?


Mark: You just have to get into go-karts, that’s the way to do it. You need to just enjoy it, don’t think you’re going to be a professional driver, because even in go-karts, there’s 10,000 license holders who are incredibly talented people. So just get in there and have fun, learn the race craft. It’s funny, go-karting is such a competitive sport, but all those guys I used to race in go-karts, now race V8 supercars. What we did in go-karts is exactly what we do today... So you can learn a lot from it. But most of all, just enjoy it. It’s a great sport and really gives you an appreciation for your machine and how to use it and how to control it. It’s great for families too, I’d take my kids there tomorrow if they wanted to do it.

Steve: Yep, wonderful. Well, that’s all I have for you, Mark. Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it and I’m sure a lot of our followers will be keen to read the interview and get a better insight into the world of motorsport.


Mark: Thanks mate, No worries.