FPR HEADS TO THE DUNLOP GRAND FINALE AS FAVOURITES
Ford Performance Racing (FPR) heads to the V8 Supercar Championship's 14th and final round of the 2007 season - the Dunlop Grand Finale, at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit this weekend as favourites.
Although FPR is not in the battle for the Drivers' Championship, the Prodrive team is closely competing on two other major fronts, for the Armour All V8 Supercar Pole Position Award and for a top three finish in the V8 Supercar Teams' Championship. With four Pole positions to Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom's credit thus far in season '07, gaining a fifth top qualifying result at Phillip Island this weekend would secure the 26 year old star driver this prestigious award. FPR is also currently third in the V8 Supercar Teams' Championship with a slender 35 point lead over arch rivals HRT.
This is the third and final time (for the foreseeable future) that the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit will host the V8 Supercar season final round. From next year the undulating 4.4 kilometre seaside circuit replaces Sandown for the traditional 500 kilometre lead-up endurance race to the Bathurst 1000.
Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards will be making his 11th V8 Supercar Championship round start at Phillip Island this weekend and will be seeking to gain his first podium finish at the venue after racing to runner-up honours in Tasmania a fortnight ago. Ever a super-consistent racer, Richards' previous ten visits to the Island have netted six top ten round finishes with a best result of fourth overall gained last season. The 35 year old racer won his first ever Touring Car race at this venue, which was a three-lap 'Privateers Dash' back in April 1996. That victory came in his Touring Car debut at this fast Victorian circuit.
The Dunlop Grand Finale will be Winterbottom's third Championship start at Phillip Island. The talented young driver returns to the scene of his first V8 Supercar solo race victory which was gained when he edged out Holden rival Garth Tander to win the final race of the 2006 season. The FPR Falcon driver cannot progress further than 5th in the Championship standings this season, but this will not deter him or his team mate Richards from seeking to finish first and second at this round to end the season on a major high.
A special milestone will be reached by FPR at Phillip Island this weekend with the first race of the round on Saturday being the team's 150th Championship race start. FPR will be aiming to gain its 21st V8 Supercar race podium finish at Phillip Island this weekend. Winning the round would be also be fitting given that this was the venue where FPR celebrated its maiden V8 Supercar round victory back in 2003 along with the fact that 2007 marks the 45th anniversary of the Ford Falcon's first competition success with Bob Jane and Harry Firth's Armstrong 500 victory at Phillip Island in a Falcon XL, on October 22, 1962.
#6 Steve Richards - "Phillip Island is an outstanding circuit and it always sets the scene for good racing. After our successes at Oran Park, Sandown, Indy, Bahrain and Tasmania, the team is seeking another round victory to end off a very strong season. Phillip Island is one of the world's great driver's circuits and has provided V8 Supercar fans with a worthy Championship decider for the last three years."
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "Winning my first solo race was very memorable at Phillip Island last year as it capped off an amazing debut season with FPR and a top three finish in last year's Championship. While it would have been fantastic to be in the hunt for the title this year, sadly this wasn't to be, but that makes no difference to our hunger to win this final round and make it very clear to every team in the series what they should be expecting from us next season."
FPR Team Principal, Tim Edwards - "The team heads to Phillip Island seeking another double podium finish, but this time in first and second place. While we acknowledge that there is a fight for the Championship taking place at this round and wish the contenders on both sides of the V8 Supercar divide the best of luck, our aim is to run at the front and do all we can to end the season on a major high. "
The race format for the Dunlop Grand Finale consists of three 27 lap races. One takes place on Saturday afternoon, followed by the remaining two sprint races to decide the round on Sunday. Opening practice takes place on Friday, with qualifying scheduled for Saturday morning.