STEVE RICHARDS SEVENTH IN OPENING DARWIN RACE - WINTERBOTTOM FURIOUS AFTER BEING ELIMINATED ON THE FIRST LAP June 23, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has gained a top seven finish in today's opening Darwin V8 Supercar race after a fast...
STEVE RICHARDS SEVENTH IN OPENING DARWIN RACE - WINTERBOTTOM FURIOUS AFTER BEING ELIMINATED ON THE FIRST LAP
June 23, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has gained a top seven finish in today's opening Darwin V8 Supercar race after a fast paced drive by Steve Richards, but it was a race that only lasted a mere four corners for Mark Winterbottom after being involved in a major multi-car accident that saw a total of three Ford drivers eliminated from the race.
A fantastic start from Richards saw the Castrol FPR Falcon race from 6th on the grid to 4th by the middle of the opening lap, but the lap was not completed before a major accident at turn four involving his team mate forced the Safety Car onto the circuit. The race resumed on lap six and Richards was into the pits for his compulsory tyre stop on lap seven. Richards re-joined the race in 11th position and by the time his rivals had made their stops he had raced his way to 5th position by lap 18. Richards' was being pursued relentlessly by rival Garth Tander ever since the two pitted and the Holden driver took the opportunity to pass after Richards' ran wide at turn one on the 19th lap. This also brought Jamie Whincup much closer to Richards and the next three laps saw a battle between the two Ford rivals, with Whincup eventually making it past. Richards finished the race in seventh place.
It was the shortest V8 Supercar race ever for seventh fastest qualifier and Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom. The 26 year old driver was hit by Ford rival Will Davison as the tightly bunched-up field headed into the fourth turn. This forced the FPR Falcon driver into a spin which saw him unavoidably collide with Russell Ingall, who subsequently was hit in the rear at speed by Jason Bright. Holden driver Greg Murphy was also caught-out in the accident. This nonsensical crash saw three leading blue oval V8 Supercar contenders wiped out of the race. Winterbottom was able to drive his heavily damaged FPR Falcon back to the pits, where he retired.
Today's 42 lap race was won by Mark Skaife ahead of Rick Kelly and Craig Lowndes. The race was run in warmer conditions than the cooler temperatures experienced so far this weekend, at 31C ambient and with a track surface temperature of 40C.
Following the race, stewards announced that Will Davison had been excluded from the results of race one, along with being handed a $5000 suspended fine following an investigation into his involvement in the first lap accident that eliminated Winterbottom, Ingall, Bright and Greg Murphy.
#6 Steve Richards - "I got some points, which is always a positive, but I finished in a worse position than where I started which is never a good thing. I struggled with the brakes and then had a fair bit of understeer as the race went on, which limited how hard I could push later in then race."
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "It was a very disappointing end to the day because we probably didn't qualify where the car speed was up to. I got a good start and gained about two spots and then got a bit of contact from behind by (Will) Davison. Then he pretty much kept hitting me until I spun out. I'm furious about it as it basically put us out of the entire round. It was a pretty stupid move to try and win the race on the first lap when you're in sixth position, but it looks as though that is his mentality, so I guess we'll have to square it up somewhere."
FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "On one side of the garage Richo had a reasonable result to finish seventh but just struggled to maintain the pace of the front running group late in the race. However, on the other side it was a very different story. Frosty was taken out by a 'midfield moron' who showed his true driving ability on the first lap of the race, which eliminated our car along with three other Ford competitors."
A long night of repairs will be taking place in the FPR pit garage to ensure that the Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon is back on the track tomorrow at 12:00pm and 3:45pm for the second and third heats of the round.