Supercars: Rising star Broc Feeney ready for challenge of stepping into hot seat vacated by Jamie Whincup
He is the teenager who gets encouraging text messages from Mick Doohan after races, counts Casey Stoner among his mates and can’t get enough of watching MotoGP and Supercross action.
It’s little wonder rising V8 star Broc Feeney considers himself a “biker at heart”.
Despite his passion for all things on two wheels, Feeney is about to embark on one of the biggest tests in Australian motorsport on four – promoted to the Triple Eight race seat that is soon to be vacated by the Supercars GOAT, Jamie Whincup.
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It’s an understatement to say they are big shoes to fill.
A seven-time champion, Whincup has won more Supercars titles than anyone; is a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner and owns just about every other record in the V8 book.
For the most dominant team on the grid.
While boasting strong motorsport connections, Feeney is a 19-year-old rookie yet to truly test himself beyond the Supercars feeder series, Super2, in which he leads this year’s championship for Triple Eight.
But if Feeney is daunted about the job ahead of him replacing a driver he watched dominate growing up – one that will become his boss – he isn’t showing it.
“They are certainly big shoes to fill and Jamie has done so much for the sport,” Feeney said.
“As a young kid I was always watching him winning races and wanted to be like him and have the same success that he did.
“So to be stepping into his car and to have him as a boss next year, it’s a really exciting part of my career.
“He was just dominating the sport and so has Triple Eight been. So just to be involved with this team, it’s crazy.
“A couple of years ago I was sitting on the couch watching races and now I have got all their phone numbers in my contacts.
“It’s pretty crazy to see how quickly things have changed for me.”
But Feeney concedes stepping up for the team which has won eight of the past 13 Supercars titles and replacing a driver with Whincup’s credentials does mean “extra pressure”.
But it won’t be any greater than the expectations Feeney already places on himself.
“It’s stepping up, it’s moving into the biggest car on the grid and you are representing major brands in Australia,” Feeney said.
“So for sure, looking from the outside, there is a lot of pressure.
“But I have always said I do not put pressure on myself but I expect a lot from myself and I think that is certainly going to carry forward.
“I know I’m not going to go in and it’s all going to be sun and roses straight out of the gate, but I know I have got a team behind me that is going to fully support me and they believe in me and I believe in myself at the end of the day.”
It has been a swift progression to a Supercars seat for Feeney, in his second year in the sport’s feeder series after becoming the youngest winner of the Super3 series in 2019.
FROM TWO TO FOUR WHEELS
But it wasn’t always a career racing cars that beckoned.
Feeney grew up around bikes. His father, Paul, was a motorcycle racer and then imported and distributed bikes once he stopped.
A young Feeney rode dirt bikes until he was nine. The karting bug which set him on the path to car racing came in the most unlikely of places on a family holiday when he was eight.
“We went on a holiday to Phuket in Thailand and I think we went to the hire karts on the first day we got there. We basically spent the rest of the holiday at the hire karts,” he said.
“I have an older brother, and when we got back we went to a come and try day that one of our friends had organised at a go-kart track and absolutely loved it.
“We went and bought go-karts and they sat in the shed for a little bit while we went motorbike riding again. Then after a few months we made the full transition to go-karts and I never looked back.”
Feeney credits the motorsport connections he was exposed to through his father growing up as having a major influence in his racing career.
“The environment I’ve been in since I was a little kid, involved with Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner and all these sorts of guys … dad always tried to put into my head: ‘This is how hard they work and this is how hard you have got to work if you want to be as good’,” Feeney said.
“(Doohan) is always messaging me after the races so we’re still always keeping in touch with those guys, and (Mick’s son and F3 driver) Jack (Doohan) and I are very close mates.
“Dad used to sponsor Casey when he first started racing dirt bikes … he helped him out a little bit over his career and we have been very close with Casey the whole time.
“He just helped me out with a set of golf clubs I got for my birthday, went and got me fitted.
“It’s pretty cool to be involved with these people and to think of the success that they had, it’s cool to have these people in my corner if I ever need anything, I know they are always there to help me out.”
Feeney, a protege of 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris who he credits with helping him how to drive, does not regret the path he took on four wheels but will never really get bikes out of the system.
“I can’t say a bad word about my career so far in cars, I have absolutely loved it,” he said.
“I do miss the bikes a lot and I have still got a lot of friends that race bikes, but I am very happy with the path I chose.
“I think I am a biker at heart. My favourite sports to watch are MotoGP and Supercross. I am still heavily involved and hanging out with bike guys, but I am very happy on four wheels.
“But I do feel a little bit safer in a car.”
Feeney will get a warm-up for his jump into Supercars when he teams with 2005 V8 champion Russell Ingall in a Triple Eight wildcard in next month’s Bathurst 1000.
It will be his second attempt at the Great Race after teaming with James Courtney in a 10th-place finish for Tickford Racing last year.
Feeney has predicted the pair - the oldest and youngest driver pairing on the grid - could shock a few people.
“I am looking forward to Bathurst, I think we are probably going to shock a few people,” he said.
“We have got a little bit of underdog status going into Bathurst, which I think is a good thing.”
While Feeney isn’t setting lofty goals for his main game debut next year, he will have the series benchmark in the garage alongside him to help drive him.
“I have got the best teammate at the moment, Shane van Gisbergen. He is dominating so I know he is going to be at the front and I am just going to try and chase him down as much as I can,” Feeney said.
“I know the closer I get to Shane the higher I am going to move up the grid. I don’t have a number on what I want to do next year but I am not going to stop until I am winning races and battling for championships.
“I don’t know how long that is going to be but I am going to work as hard as I can to make it happen as quickly as possible.”
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