ROUND THE CLOCK PREPARATION FOR DEFENDING DESERT 400 CHAMPIONS
There has been no time for rest for the defending Desert 400 Champion V8 Supercar team Ford Performance Racing (FPR) since returning from the chaos of Round 11 on the streets of Surfers Paradise last weekend.
After racing strongly at the Bathurst 1000 and at the Gold Coast Indy 300 within a two week timeframe, the Desert 400 being held next weekend (Nov 1-3) at the spectacular Bahrain International Circuit comes next, requiring an around the clock effort by the FPR crew of mechanics, technicians, engineers and fabricators to ensure that the team arrives in Bahrain ready to defend its Desert 400 title in strong style.
"To say that it has been an extremely busy period for us over the last few weeks would be a massive understatement," FPR Team Manager, Chris O'Toole said.
At the completion of the final race at Surfers Paradise, O'Toole and his crew packed the FPR B-Double transporter before it headed south to FPR's technical headquarters in Melbourne with two drivers on board to cover the 2,000 kilometre drive in as short a timeframe as possible.
"A group of mechanics then started work at 6:30pm on Monday night to unload the transporter and strip the cars back. By midnight, Winterbottom's car had been stripped and at 3:00am Tuesday the fabricators went back to work to repair the damage on the car. The other issue was the number of panels that we damaged over the weekend, we had all but run out of spares after the three Surfers Paradise street races. So over the past three days we've had two panel shops working 24 hours a day on painting panels, doors and bumpers for us," the FPR Team Manager added.
The usual challenge for the Desert 400 race is selecting what the team takes from their usual 40 plus tonne of spares and equipment that usually travels to all races in the team's massive B-Double transporter. Only the bare essentials can make the trip to the Middle East, with two 3.5 tonne capacity air containers being all that the team is able to take to this round. Knowing exactly what to take has become something of a well learned art at FPR over the years.
"This is the sixth time that we have competed at a fly-away event like this and over the years we have developed easier ways of packing our tools, equipment and essential spares to ensure that when we arrive in Bahrain, everything is organised and easy to work with. Above all else, we need to ensure that we have everything that we need to get the job done. This year is the first time that we have had to do it after such a panel crunching round like we endured at the Gold Coast last weekend," O'Toole said.
All preparation work on Steve Richards' Castrol FPR Falcon and Mark Winterbottom's Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon was completed on Friday evening ahead of the 9:00am Saturday (Oct. 27) morning delivery to Melbourne's Avalon Airport for loading onto a specially equipped Boeing 747 Freighter.
FPR is looking forward to returning to Bahrain, where the Prodrive team raced to a memorable round victory after a consistently strong performance in the three Desert 400 sprint races last year. The fast and flowing circuit layout suits the FPR Falcons which are considerably faster this season in comparison to 2006.
Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom heads to Bahrain this year as the V8 Supercar pacesetter of the field. Frosty, (as he is known in Australia), has been the fastest qualifier at two of the last three V8 Supercar rounds and gained a best race finish of third at Bahrain in 2006, on his way to 11th overall for the round.
Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards heads to Bahrain as the most recent V8 Supercar race winner after winning the third and final street race at Surfers Paradise. The victory was set-up by an outstanding charge from 25th to fifth in race two on Sunday morning - along with a dominant display of car speed to win the final heat. The highly experienced driver finished fifth overall in Bahrain last year.
Strong car speed will be important at the Desert 400 with the FPR Falcons reaching 270 kph at the end of the long Bahrain International Circuit main straight, which leads directly into a hairpin corner.
Round 12 features a unique Thursday to Saturday practice, qualifying and racing schedule, due to the Bahraini weekend. All the action will be televised on the Seven Network across Australia on Friday and Saturday nights along with a round wrap-up on Sunday afternoon.
#6 Steve Richards - "This is a different round with a very unique atmosphere. It is a brilliantly engineered racing circuit and FPR was very strong there last year. The team is heading to Bahrain in the best form possible and it is shaping up to be an enjoyable and exciting trip for us. The last four rounds of the Championship have been very good for the team, finishing on the podium twice, competing strongly at Bathurst and a race victory at Indy on the Gold Coast, not to mention a couple of pole positions. Full credit must go to FPR for providing both Frosty and I with such competitive equipment, particularly with the tight constraints of the Championship at this part of the season."
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "We have come close to winning rounds this year but things haven't worked out for one reason or the other. I see no reason why FPR cannot take back to back Desert 400 victories and that is our goal for the round. We have impressive car speed and this circuit is particularly good for our cars, so I am looking forward to a fantastic Bahrain V8 Supercar round this weekend."
FPR Team Principal, Tim Edwards - "The team has worked around the clock to ensure that we head to the Middle East in the strongest form possible after the dramas that both our cars were caught up in at Surfers Paradise last weekend. We are racing to win this round and remain confident of continuing our strong form all the way through to the end of the season."