FPR TAKES THRILLING SANDOWN 500 VICTORY
September 3, 2006 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) drivers Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom have raced to a thrilling victory in today's Betta Electrical Sandown 500, the first of two V8 Supercar endurance races of the 2006 season.
After showing the team's strong Sandown pace early by qualifying third on Saturday, Winterbottom and Bright also proved to be the most potent blue oval driver combination in this grueling three and a half hour V8 Supercar race that included perfect re-fuelling, front brake and tyre change pit stops. This ensured that the CAT FPR Falcon was the first to the chequered flag by just under 2/10ths of a second to Holden rivals Rick and Todd Kelly. Ford drivers Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup finished third.
Winterbottom started the race and a last minute decision was made for him to double-stint after his first fuel, front brake and tyre stop on lap 51. The 25 year old went on to set the second fastest lap of the race during the next stint, racing solidly into second place and handing a straight and fast car to Bright for the final stint on lap 89. Bright proved his intentions for the race by engaging in a fierce top five battle straight out of the pits. A late race Safety Car caution period enabled Bright to make a splash and dash for fuel and tyres on lap 117. This paved the way for a three way battle for the win between Bright, Mark Skaife and Rick Kelly. Bright was handed second place when Mark Skaife fell off the circuit on lap 120, the FPR driver embarking on a relentless chase of Kelly, eventually taking the lead on lap 128 after a bold inside move at the final turn that followed some fantastic wheel to wheel racing. Kelly didn't give up the fight though, the Ford and Holden rivals battling all the way to race end, finishing 18 seconds ahead of third placed Lowndes.
Ford Credit BroadIP Falcon drivers Matt Halliday and Cameron McLean fought back from some early race problems to climb back from 27th position to finish 15th in today's race. Halliday suffered from severe shoulder pain that forced co-driver McLean to double stint during the race, placing McLean in the driver's seat for two consistent stints. The drivers' mid field finish did not reflect the impressive and consistent pace of their FPR Falcon throughout the Sandown 500 weekend, boding well for the sister car's chances at Bathurst next month.
As a result of his first V8 Supercar Championship round victory, 25 year old Winterbottom has moved into third in the V8 Supercar Championship standings with five rounds remaining. This result marked the 7th time that FPR has finished second or better in the long distance V8 Supercar rounds since the team's establishment in 2003. This co-incided with Winterbottom's 7th consecutive top ten finish of the season, and the Prodrive team has now had a car in the overall top five at every 2006 V8 Supercar round except for Adelaide's season opener.
#6 Jason Bright - "This victory has certainly been a long time coming! The team has worked very hard and we have had a great car, but we haven't had the luck to go with that. I have always said that I would gladly trade the potential wins that we missed out on during the season at Darwin, Perth and Winton for a win in one of the big enduros so I am very happy with this victory. Mark did a great job and we were very happy with the car in practice, qualifying and for the race. It has taken longer than I would have liked to get this win, but it is also very satisfying."
#6 Mark Winterbottom - "What a difference a year makes - last year I was racing for survival at the Sandown 500, that is, to be able to earn enough points to compete at Indy, and this year I have won it! This is an awesome result for us, we had good pace throughout the race and the car was actually quite comfortable to drive. We were setting some great lap times during my second stint but as the race continued there was a build up of oil and stuff on the circuit that made it slower. Jason and I worked very well together throughout this round and he did a top job in the high pressure final stint. It is great to have this win under our belts heading into the big one at Bathurst."
#5 Matt Halliday - "We had one of the quickest cars out there early in the race and if not for the problems that I was having with my shoulder we could have finished in a much stronger position. Cameron had some problems early in the race with a flat spotted tyre and during my stint we were clawing our way through the field, but I had to come in due to the pain that I was experiencing. While 15th was not where we planned to finish, I am sure that the car will be very strong at Bathurst."
#5 Cam McLean - "I am disappointed as the car clearly had the potential for a stronger finish than 15th today. The team did a great job on strategy and the car was great in the race. Unfortunately my early problems hurt our pace and late in the stints we had some rear tyre wear issues, but on the whole the car had the potential to be in the top ten today. The team did a great job and I congratulate everyone on their fantastic victory."
FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "An absolutely fantastic result for the entire team, most of whom were here today to enjoy the celebration of this long overdue round victory. We have clearly shown our potential this season and winning the Sandown 500 is a perfect prelude to our Bathurst 1000 challenge - bring it on!"
Bright is now placed 7th in the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship following his Sandown 500 win, making it his first V8 Supercar Championship round victory since 2004, taking his career tally of V8 Supercar round wins and podium finishes to 35.