March 3, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) drivers Mark Winterbottom and Steve Richards have finished today's opening race of the Clipsal 500 in 5th and 11th places after a fast paced 78 lap battle.

Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom opened his 2007 Championship points account with a top five result - the 25 year old's best ever Clipsal 500 race finish, after an impressive drive which saw only one competitor set a faster lap time (Ford driver James Courtney) during the long race. Starting from 4th on the grid, Winterbottom raced into second position by the first chicane and powered into the lead of the race by the 8th lap. Winterbottom made his first pit stop for four tyres on lap 30 and followed up with his fuel stop on lap 41. The FPR driver's pace saw him continue fighting for the lead until the closing stages, when fading brakes allowed rivals Rick Kelly and Jamie Whincup to find their way past, relegating Winterbottom to 5th.

Soon after gaining a strong start to today's race Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards encountered understeer problems that hampered his progress. A pit stop was called on lap 27 for fuel and a suspension adjustment which went some way towards improving the handling of the car on this demanding street circuit. After a second stop for rear tyres on lap 35, Richards began a determined charge towards the top ten, racing from 16th position to 11th by the chequered flag. This result ensured that Richards' record of finishing every Clipsal 500 race he has ever competed in (17 races) remains in tact.

#5 Mark Winterbottom - "I got a great start and shortly after was leading the race. We had a brake pad temperature problem that caused some retardation problems and once this happens you are pretty much a passenger in the car as there isn't much that you can do about it during the race. One of our pit stops didn't go as well as it should have and due to the brake issue it was very tough to push hard. There were some negatives about our race, but we have a straight car and a top five finish and we were very quick at times, so there is no reason why we can't win tomorrow."

#6 Steve Richards - "I had a lot of understeer in the very early part of the race and I was driving at as quick a pace that I could until we made an adjustment in the pits to try and counter the problem. After the tyre stop the car improved and we were able to press on and make up some positions. We've still got some work to do to find the three or four tenths of a second a lap that we need for tomorrow."

FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "A podium finish was the goal today and we were heading for that with good car speed for most of the race until some brake fade problems caused Mark to lose a couple of positions in the closing stages. It was still a strong start with both cars finishing the race undamaged and in points earning top fifteen places. We'll see what we can do tomorrow.

-credit: fpr