WINTERBOTTOM AND RICHARDS PROVE THEY ARE MEN OF STEEL

Ford Performance Racing V8 Supercar drivers Mark Winterbottom and Steve Richards have completed their annual pre-season fitness camp. The week-long camp culminated in the FPR Men of Steel Challenge presented by Orrcon Steel over the last two days.

The Challenge saw the Orrcon Steel-backed duo line up with team-mates Paul Dumbrell and James Moffat alongside a group of triathletes including Olympic hopeful Caine Eckstein.

Grouped into teams of two they competed across 14 stages incorporating a rock climbing challenge, a one-kilometre swim, over 15km in running and 50km in cycling legs, an 11 kilometre kayak across the Hinze Dam and a 90m abseil near the Binna Burra Lodge in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

After overcoming a five-minute deficit at the end of the opening day to the pairing of Richards and Brad Dalrymple, it was Winterbottom and Eckstein who came through to be crowned the winners of the inaugural FPR Men of Steel Challenge presented by Orrcon Steel.

"It's good to show that V8 Supercar drivers are pretty fit," said Winterbottom

"Most people think that we sit on out backside and drive a car and that's it. I think a lot of the athletes got a new appreciation for the fitness levels involved in our sport. It was also great to be pushed along by the other athletes at some stages of the challenge."

For Winterbottom, the training camp is what 'flicks the switch' to confirm that the V8 season is just around the corner.

"I find that the training camp really gets you ready mentally for the season ahead," said Winterbottom.

"Physically we are all in pretty good shape but mentally some of the stages in the challenge seemed impossible but somehow you got through it.

"It will be around lap 60 at Clipsal when I will really feel the benefits of this challenge. When there is still 18 laps to go and you're exhausted but you put yourself back into the mode when you were going through a hillclimb at the training camp, you just keep pushing and get through it."

The effort by Richards across the two days was nothing short of impressive with the dual Bathurst winner posting the best individual time in the Challenge.

"It has been a huge challenge, even in some areas for the athletes who have come along as well, that's a really good sign. I'm glad to be at the end of it," said Richards.

"Everyone involved in the challenge has done a great job organising it and I'd like to congratulate everyone who was a part of it.

"I certainly learnt a lot over the past two days from the athletes who came along, it was great to be able to compare ourselves on a fitness level to them."

FPR Team Physiotherapist Glenn Lindsay, who co-ordinated the Challenge, was delighted with the outcome, proving that the fitness level of a V8 Supercar driver is up there with the best from other sporting disciplines.

"I'm really thankful that the athletes could come along and compete alongside our drivers to show how fit and versatile they really are," said Lindsay.

"The drivers are truly elite athletes and I think they all showed that over the two days of the challenge buy matching it with some of the top triathetes in the country."

Winterbottom and Richards will take to the track in their Orrcon Steel-backed FPR Falcons for the first time in 2010 during a test day on February 8 at the Winton Motor Raceway in Victori

-source: bammedia