Philip Island: FPR qualifying report

UPHILL BATTLE FOR FPR New rules for the V8 Supercar Championship Series qualifying kept fans guessing at Phillip Island today, with Ford Performance Racing emerging 12th and 26th for tomorrow's L&H 500 enduro race. Two racing incidents...

UPHILL BATTLE FOR FPR

New rules for the V8 Supercar Championship Series qualifying kept fans guessing at Phillip Island today, with Ford Performance Racing emerging 12th and 26th for tomorrow's L&H 500 enduro race.

Two racing incidents cost FPR dearly in the complex qualifying structure, and the team has some work to do with tyre life, but engineers are confident tomorrow's 113 lap race will see plenty of opportunity for recovery.

The qualifying intrigue started last night when each car's two drivers were divided into A and B categories. Today saw A and B qualifying sessions deciding the grid for A and B sprint races with the added strategic head-ache of one mandatory pit stop, which could be taken by either the A or B driver during the 14-lap sprints. The results of the sprint races determined tomorrow's starting order.

In the driver A category, Mark Winterbottom qualified on pole in the Castrol FPR Falcon but then struggled with grip in the sprint. After 12 nail-biting laps with Craig Lowndes glued to his bumper the 27-year-old had to relent and dived into the pits. Triple Eight followed suit, meaning Frosty followed Lowndes home in 12th.

FPR's enduro driver, Dean Canto, came together with Steve Johnson on lap two of the same race and damaged the Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon's steering forcing him to retire.

In the driver B category, Steve Richards qualified seventh after running wide and filling the front radiator duct with grass. In the sprint race, he made up places off the grid to run in a strong fifth but got a knock from Jason Richards on lap 12, which spun him down to ninth.

Starting from ninth, Luke Youlden drove a confident race to finish 19th after his compulsory pit stop.

Tomorrow's L&H 500 gets under way at 1.30pm.

Mark Winterbottom

#6 Castrol FPR Falcon

"I had the pace early on but the important bit in the middle didn't have the speed there. The tyres were high on pressure and that hurt me a lot. The car was over-steering, which makes the tyres even worse.

"Qualifying is important but it is what it is; we'll fight from 12th and it's not as important as with a sprint race. When the weather and safety cars come into it, the order is given a shake up anyway but starting 12th does make you vulnerable to other cars in the early stages."

Steve Richards

#6 Castrol FPR Falcon

"In the race Russell (Ingall) and James (Courtney) were side-by-side and I was trying to fill the hole. I ran a bit wide, was off the line and got hit by Jason on the rear door.

"There's absolutely no doubt you can strategise your way into a race but you've got to have a car fast enough to do it. We're as fast as fifth or fourth at the moment but that's not where we aim to be. There are circumstances that may have played a part in that but we've got to have a good think about it now. We'll do some work over night."

Dean Canto

#5 Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon

"I had a look up the inside and saw that Steven [Johnson] was going to turn in. I tried to stay tight so we'd both get around the corner but I locked the wheel and under-steered into him. The angle broke the steering instantly. I think if I'd hit on a different angle we'd both have kept going."

Luke Youlden

#5 Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon

"Yesterday I was a little bit disappointed but we didn't have very good tyres. It was a total transformation today and I had a load of confidence. Obviously race one was a bit of an issue with a DNF but that's racing and we've seen people from dead last win races like this."

-credit: fpr

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Series V8SUPERCARS