Bathurst: FPR preview

GETTING SET FOR THE GREATEST RACE OF ALL - BATHURST 2007 October 1, 2007 - The long ten month wait for Australia's greatest motor race is finally over. The Ford Performance Racing (FPR) V8 Supercar team is heading to Bathurst's Mount Panorama...

GETTING SET FOR THE GREATEST RACE OF ALL - BATHURST 2007

October 1, 2007 - The long ten month wait for Australia's greatest motor race is finally over. The Ford Performance Racing (FPR) V8 Supercar team is heading to Bathurst's Mount Panorama for the 47th running of one of the world's most challenging motor races, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

This will be the Prodrive owned team's fifth Bathurst appearance, with two podium finishes ('03 & '04) gained so far and with two of the fastest Falcon V8 Supercars in the field, as judged by the team's superior qualifying and top three race performance at the Sandown 500 a fortnight ago.

The team's recently confirmed Bathurst driver pairings has seen the team vault to race favourite status with double Bathurst 1000 Champion Steve Richards and the highly talented Mark Winterbottom blending proven Bathurst winning experience with outright speed in the number 6 Castrol FPR Falcon. They are joined by the team's fast paced endurance race drivers, Owen Kelly and Matt Halliday in the number 5 Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon this weekend.

At 35 years of age, Richards has an extraordinary record at Bathurst that includes two great race victories, in 1998 (with Jason Bright) and in 1999 (with Greg Murphy). The FPR Falcon driver has raced to no fewer than six Bathurst 1000 podiums over the last decade with three second places and a third place accolade also adorning his trophy cabinet. All in all, Richards has finished in the Bathurst top five nine times and has only failed to finish the grueling six and half hour, two driver race three times in 14 starts. He also claimed the Bathurst Pole position in 2004. The highly experienced Victorian driver will be making his 15th Bathurst 1000 start this weekend and is riding a wave of podium finishes following his last two consecutive top three results at Oran Park (2nd) and Sandown (3rd).

Richards is joined by one of the fastest young drivers in V8 Supercar racing, 26 year old Mark Winterbottom. The Sydney born driver is a relative newcomer to Bathurst in comparison to his FPR Falcon driving partner, but he is no stranger to success at Mount Panorama. Winterbottom won the Konica V8 Supercar Challenge at Bathurst in 2003, the same year that he was crowned as the V8 Supercar Development Series Champion. Winterbottom's best Bathurst 1000 result was fifth in 2004 (with Jason Bargwanna).

Tasmanian driver Owen Kelly returns to Mount Panorama for his 7th great race start this year in the number 5 FPR Falcon. Kelly raced to third place at the Sandown 500 two weeks ago (partnered with Richards). Kelly's best result to date at Mount Panorama is 6th, which he gained in 2005. Together with New Zealand A1GP and Champ Car driver Matt Halliday, this talented duo completes FPR's competitive two car team at Bathurst. Halliday is making his fourth Bathurst 1000 appearance and continues to impress with his ability to adapt from international open wheelers to V8 Supercars and managing to improve his pace every year.

If tradition plays a part, this year's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 should be a big one for FPR. The event falls on the 45th anniversary of Ford's first great race victory, which was at the 1962 Armstrong 500 by legendary drivers Bob Jane and Harry Firth. This year's Mount Panorama classic also marks the 40th anniversary of the Falcon GT's first Bathurst victory, in 1967, in the hands of Firth and Fred Gibson.

With the biggest race of the year finally here, it is both an exciting time and an anxious time for the four FPR Falcon drivers and the entire FPR team, which will grow to 35 members compared to its usual 25 traveling crew for this major race.

#6 Steve Richards - "Bathurst in 2007 will be the most competitive race in the event's history. There is no doubt that with the top eight drivers in their respective teams driving together, the scene is set for an enthralling 1000 kilometres. With that said, there is no way you can discount any of the drivers paired together that regularly drive in the V8 Supercar Championship. This is our sport's holy grail and past form means nothing. To win this race we will have to be the best team on the day and roll with the punches as they come along. The FPR team is as well prepared as it can possibly be and if we have a solid lead up to the race, Frosty and I are definitely contenders to hold up the Peter Brock Trophy. But it won't be easy."

#6 Mark Winterbottom - "This is the circuit and the race that is the ultimate for any V8 Supercar driver. After qualifying so strongly last year and briefly leading the race, I know that to be on top at this race is not easy and to stay in the lead pack all day is enough of a challenge, then the final hour kicks in and you have to battle it all the way to the flag. Everyone at FPR has put in a great deal of work and dedication to giving us two fast and reliable FPR Falcons for Bathurst. My pole position at Sandown proved just how far we have come this season and it is all about trying to win at this race. I am looking forward to racing with Steve, who knows exactly what it takes to come out on top at the Mountain."

#5 Owen Kelly - "We are heading to Bathurst with two FPR Falcons that we know are very competitive. Together with Matt, I intend to make the most of having one of the fastest cars in the field. Racing in the top three at Sandown was a great feeling and there would be nothing better than to back this up with another podium at Mount Panorama."

#5 Matt Halliday - "This is the race that means the most to everyone and to be heading there with a top team, a proven front running car and a top three co-driver makes this my best opportunity yet to step-up to the Mount Panorama podium. We have all been waiting a long time for this race and FPR is in its strongest possible form, so I'm looking forward to a successful week ahead."

FPR Team Principal, Tim Edwards - "This amazing race can and does throw everything at us, so we have spent all of our time since Sandown ensuring that the team is well prepared for what is ahead of us. We know that every team will be bringing out their very best at Bathurst and this is the hardest race of all to win given its length and the quality of the field. It is a challenge that we are ready for and we are all looking forward to it."

FPR BATHURST 1000 -- ADDITIONAL FACTS:

The majestic Mount Panorama circuit is 6.2 kilometres long and boasts the fastest top speed of any circuit in Australia with speeds touching 300 kilometres per hour at the end of Conrod Straight. It was originally constructed as a scenic tourist drive and hosted its first motor race in 1938. There has been a 500 mile or 1000 kilometre race at Mount Panorama every year since 1963.

193,647 fans attended last year's event over the four days, while millions watched the event on television across the country in what has become an annual Australian sporting ritual.

All of the teams and drivers will be racing for the coveted Peter Brock Trophy, which was first awarded in the late Australian motor racing Champion and nine time Bathurst 1000 winner's honour last year.

Steve Richards' list of Bathurst co-drivers reads like a who's who of the event. It includes (his father) Jim Richards, Larry Perkins, Jason Bright, Greg Murphy, Glenn Seton and Russell Ingall. Bathurst 2007 will be the first time that Richards won't have his father on the track either as a team mate or as a rival.

FPR will race at Bathurst with its well known and familiar racing numbers, 5 and 6, for the fifth consecutive year. While cars bearing the #5 plate have won twice (in 1974 and 1975), #6 is yet to get off the mark. The last victory for a Falcon GT at Bathurst was in 1974, with the XA GT of John Goss and Kevin Bartlett snaring victory.

FPR has a formidable record in single-race or endurance rounds, finishing third or better on eight occasions in the longer-distance V8 Supercar races since the team's formation in 2003.

To date, the FPR success tally reads as follows:
3 Round victories
5 Pole positions
17 Round podium finishes
33 Top three race finishes

-credit: fpr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Jim Richards , Glenn Seton , Mark Winterbottom , Owen Kelly , Larry Perkins , Bob Jane , Peter Brock , John Goss , Steve Richards , Tim Edwards , Matt Halliday