Pukekohe: FPR Saturday report

FPR FALCONS SECOND & FIFTH IN FIRST TRANS TASMAN TUSSLE April 21, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has continued the blue oval team's strong form in New Zealand with round Pole-setter Mark Winterbottom racing his Orrcon Ford Credit FPR...

FPR FALCONS SECOND & FIFTH IN FIRST TRANS TASMAN TUSSLE

April 21, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has continued the blue oval team's strong form in New Zealand with round Pole-setter Mark Winterbottom racing his Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon to second place after a race long battle with Holden rival Garth Tander. Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards finished 5th, capping off a highly competitive day for the Prodrive team at Pukekohe Park Raceway.

The 43 lap race started with Tander gaining the early race lead ahead of Winterbottom and Richards until an early Safety Car period before the end of the first lap bunched up the field. This was caused by Dean Canto running off the circuit at turn one and becoming stuck in the sand trap. By lap four the race was re-started at a frantic pace with Tander, Winterbottom and Richards swapping fastest lap times all the way to the first round of pit stops on lap 15.

Winterbottom was among the first to pit and after a sensational effort by the FPR pit crew, he leap-frogged Tander for the lead by the time the whole field had completed their compulsory pit stops.(Lap 22). From this point he enjoyed a two second lead to Tander with Richards a strong third at 2.6 seconds behind, holding off the persistent advances of Holden rival Rick Kelly throughout the race.

Winterbottom, who finished second overall at this round last season, held on to the race lead until lap 39 when tyre wear slowed his pace, allowing Tander to make his way past in a car which was clearly faster during the closing stages of the race. Richards' determined top three drive was thwarted when Rick Kelly and Jamie Whincup made their way past relegating him to 5th where he remained until the chequered flag. A deflating rear tyre was found to be the cause of his drop in speed during the closing stages of the race.

Winterbottom finished the race 1.2 seconds behind Tander, with Richards 6 seconds behind in 5th. 26 out of the 30 starters finished this first of three New Zealand sprint races which was held in clear and mild conditions.

#5 Mark Winterbottom - "A good race - particularly starting from Pole position for the first time. The only down side to the race was the tyre life. When the tyres are good we have a fantastic car, but when the tyres wear our performance deteriorates drastically. I am disappointed that Garth got through towards the end after we led the race for some twenty laps starting off with a good two second gap. We will work on getting on top of our tyre life problems and I am sure that when we do we will have a car that will be unbeatable. I'll take second place as a worst case scenario any day. The team did a great job to get me back out in front after the pit stop."

#6 Steve Richards - "A good start to our weekend with both cars in the top five and it was a great day for FPR in qualifying as well. During the second half of today's race I had a deflating right rear tyre in which the team is confident was the cause of our handling problems during the closing stages. The first half of the race was fantastic, the car was as competitive as anyone out there. We have a very strong car for the two races ahead of us."

FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "A Fantastic start to our weekend, as in past rounds we have had good car speed in the races but we didn't put it all together in qualifying. Today we did that and have gained two strong finishes, placing us in a strong position for the two remaining races tomorrow."

FPR returns to Pukekohe Park Raceway at 9:30am and 12:55pm (EST) for races two and three tomorrow. Australian television coverage of these races commences at 12:00pm on the Seven Network.

-credit: fpr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Garth Tander , Rick Kelly , Dean Canto , Jamie Whincup , Mark Winterbottom , Steve Richards , Tim Edwards