Sandown: Ford Performance Racing preview

FORD PERFORMANCE RACING READY TO DEFEND SANDOWN 500 CROWN September 11, 2007- Defending Sandown 500 Champion team Ford Performance Racing (FPR) returns to Melbourne's Sandown International Raceway this weekend with the goal of ...

FORD PERFORMANCE RACING READY TO DEFEND SANDOWN 500 CROWN

September 11, 2007- Defending Sandown 500 Champion team Ford Performance Racing (FPR) returns to Melbourne's Sandown International Raceway this weekend with the goal of achieving back to back victories in the 40th running of this classic Melbourne V8 Supercar endurance race.

FPR boasts one of the strongest blue oval driver line-ups for this first of two major endurance races of the season. 2006 Sandown 500 winner Mark Winterbottom (with 2006 FPR driver Jason Bright) raced to his first V8 Supercar victory at this 500 kilometre event last year in a new record race winning time of three hours, twenty-two minutes and 16 seconds. This event also marks the Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver's 50th Championship round start, a milestone that the 26 year old racer intends to celebrate with a long awaited return to the podium.

Winterbottom is competing in his fifth Sandown 500 this weekend. He raced to 11th on debut in 2003, 6th in 2004 and 16th in 2005. His victory last year maintained the FPR Falcon driver's perfect finishing record at this challenging round.

The Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon will be co-driven at Sandown by New Zealand A1 Grand Prix and Champ Car driver Matt Halliday, who is taking part in his second V8 Supercar enduro campaign with FPR this season. The 28 year old Kiwi driver is making his fourth Sandown 500 appearance this weekend. Halliday has displayed impressive speed in testing with FPR throughout the season, ensuring that his pairing with Winterbottom forms a strong and experienced alliance at this fast 3.1 kilometre Melbourne circuit.

Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards heads to the enduros after a season high second place finish at Sydney's Oran Park last month. The highly experienced V8 Supercar driver and double Bathurst 1000 Champion has yet to see the view from the top step of the podium at Sandown with two 5th places gained in eight starts. Richards is joined by the fast and experienced 30 year old Tasmanian racer Owen Kelly, who re-joins FPR after having competed with the team during its debut (2003) Sandown and Bathurst endurance race campaigns. Fresh from an outstanding victory at the Oran Park V8 Supercar Development Series round and a campaign of Stock Car races in the United States earlier in the year, Kelly's 2007 season is peaking at the right time as he takes to the wheel of the speedy Castrol FPR Falcon with Richards.

FPR has a formidable record in single race V8 Supercar rounds. The Prodrive team has finished second or better on seven occasions in the long distance formatted rounds since its formation in 2003.

#5 Mark Winterbottom - "Sandown has special memories for me and it is good to be heading back to the team's and Ford Australia's home race. The developments that we have made with our FPR Falcons during the season with the help of our experienced co-drivers, finds us very well prepared for this tough race. The circuit rewards strong horsepower, high speed balance and brakes, which are now our strongest points. I am looking forward to the start of our enduro campaign as one of the defending winners of this round and to racing with Matt once again."

#5 Matt Halliday - "I am better prepared than ever this season, which is important as making the change from open wheelers to V8 Supercars always requires some adaptation. The team's detailed testing has enabled me to be right on the pace leading up to this race. Mark and I have worked well together in the past and he is returning as a defending Champion, so we have an extra incentive to try and win this race. I enjoy racing at Sandown as it is similar in many ways to Pukekohe Park in New Zealand and I have had some good races there in the past."

#6 Steve Richards - "FPR heads into the endurance races in the strongest form possible after more than half a season of very hard work by the team that culminated in our runner-up result at Oran Park. I am confident that we can carry our significantly improved pace into this year's race to defend FPR's Sandown 500 crown. Teaming up with co-driver Owen Kelly will be great as he has shown strong pace throughout the season, both during his testing with us and with his own racing. I would like to add the Sandown 500 title to my CV as I have not yet had the chance to stand on the podium at our classic hometown race."

#6 Owen Kelly - "I couldn't be any better prepared than I am for this year's endurance races with FPR. Our testing during the first half of the season has made me extremely comfortable with the Castrol FPR Falcon and the developments that the team has made will come to the fore at this demanding race. Racing with a driver of Steve's experience combined with FPR's pit work and race engineering is a strong position to be in. While anything can and usually does happen at Sandown, Steve and I are confident of a strong performance this year."

FPR Team Principal, Tim Edwards - "After making constant improvements throughout the first half of the season, FPR heads to the first endurance race of the season in extremely strong form with two front running FPR Falcons and four highly experienced and determined drivers. At Oran Park we signalled our intention to have a very successful second half of the season in more ways than one. We have worked tirelessly on ensuring that all is in place to mount the best challenge possible at Sandown this weekend."

This round will also see the debut of a new V8 Supercar endurance race Qualifying format. This is a combination of the 2007 elimination format, with the return of the single car Top Ten Shoot-Out for starting grid positions.

The 2007 Just Car Insurance 500 will be the 40th Touring Car endurance classic held at the well known Melbourne circuit since 1964. Prior to 1984, this event was contested over various distances and lengths, including six hours, three hours, 250 miles and 400 kilometres. This Sunday's race will be the 24th held over a 500 kilometre distance. More than 50,000 fans witnessed FPR's resounding victory of their hometown endurance round last season, making it one of the most popular V8 Supercar rounds of the year.

Sandown V8 Supercar action starts with practice on Friday afternoon, followed by Qualifying and the Top Ten Shoot-Out on Saturday, with the 161 lap race scheduled to start at 1:30pm Sunday.

-credit: fpr

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Series V8SUPERCARS