Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on-hand to welcome the Red Bull Ampol Racing driver into illustrious company. In his 21-year career Whincup not only amassed a record seven drivers' championships but also the most race wins (124), most pole positions (92) and most podium finishes (237).
The pre-race presentation ahead of the year's biggest race caught Whincup by surprise, with Morrison arriving at the race on Sunday along with New South Wales Premier, Dominic Perrottet.
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“Congratulations on an outstanding motorsport career and you see all the kids who are out there today and they look at you and they look at the great champions behind you and you know what they could aspire to,” Morrison said.
He added: “Mate, congratulations not on the way you have driven the race but the way that you have run the race yourself as a great motorsport champion and another supremo of the mountain.”
Whincup, who was joined at the front of the grid by all the drivers competing in the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000, was clearly touched by the honour.
“I just want to thank friends and family, not just my family but all the families, especially [from] Queensland who have been away for six to eight weeks now, we appreciate the effort to get the championship underway,” Whincup said.
“Obviously a big thank you to our Prime Minister for being here today, it's our biggest day in Australian motorsport. Thank you to the fan base, everyone that has come out, everyone that is watching at home, but in particular I would just like to thank my peers, we have been thrown into the arena and we have gone hard and battled with each other and I wish everyone a safe and happy journey and best of luck.”
He will transition from full-time driving to become managing director of Triple Eight Race Engineering next year.