FROM THE MIDDLE EASTERN DESERT TO THE VICTORIAN SEASIDE FOR THE CATERPILLAR GRAND FINALE December 4, 2006 - After becoming the inaugural Desert 400 Champions and sealing the V8 Supercar Manufacturers' Championship for the Ford Motor Company in...
FROM THE MIDDLE EASTERN DESERT TO THE VICTORIAN SEASIDE FOR THE CATERPILLAR GRAND FINALE
December 4, 2006 - After becoming the inaugural Desert 400 Champions and sealing the V8 Supercar Manufacturers' Championship for the Ford Motor Company in the Gulf state of Bahrain two weeks ago, Ford Performance Racing (FPR) heads to Victoria's Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the 13th and final round of the 2006 Australian V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend.
Known as the Caterpillar Grand Finale, Round 13 has added significance for FPR, as this will be the final FPR race for CAT FPR Falcon driver Jason Bright and the final event for long term FPR major sponsor, Caterpillar. The team cannot think of a better way to farewell Bright and Caterpillar with back to back round victories at both Bahrain and Phillip Island. Based on the team's outright speed displayed this season, both FPR Falcon drivers will be major contenders at this fast and exciting circuit.
Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom makes only his second 'main game' V8 Supercar start at Phillip Island this weekend, but he was a winner at this venue in 2003 enroute to his V8 Supercar Development Series Championship title. The 25 year old will round out his most successful V8 Supercar season at Phillip Island, seeking to consolidate third place in the Championship in only his third season of main V8 Supercar series competition.
Bright is just one point shy of a top five finish in the points standings. A strong weekend at this former FPR test circuit will ensure that both FPR Falcon drivers end the 2006 season within the V8 Supercar Championship top five for the first time.
Phillip Island is the third fastest circuit in the V8 Supercar series in terms of average lap speed. The undulating 4.4 kilometre seaside circuit is home to the second and third fastest corners in the series, turn three and the 'Hayshed' sweeper. FPR showed great speed at Phillip Island last year with Bright topping opening practice, taking second in qualifying and driving to third on the grid in the top ten shoot-out. An incident in race one dropped him to the tail end of the field, but he recovered to seventh by the third heat.
#6 Jason Bright - "Following on from our Bahrain victory, I am looking forward to competing once again at Phillip Island. This is a circuit that we know will be good for us as our cars suit the fast, smooth and flowing nature of the Island and we expect to be very strong there. It would also be very special to win the Caterpillar Grand Finale in my last drive of the CAT FPR Falcon - and to notch another round win for Ford after sealing the Manufacturers' Championship in Bahrain."
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "It has been a great season for me and nothing could cap it off better than to take a solo win at the Caterpillar Grand Finale. We know that this fast circuit particularly suits our cars and I am looking forward to putting up a strong fight for the final time this season. To be looking at a third Championship placing in just my third season of main game V8 Supercar racing is great and with stong results here we plan to end the season on a major high - knowing that we will be even faster next year."
FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "There is no doubt that we are heading to this round feeling very confident after our success in Bahrain and our double podium in Tasmania. Phillip Island is a circuit that we know extremely well, as do our drivers. We are expecting a strong fight from our rivals and it will need to be, particularly following the pace that our team and only one other could match at Bahrain. Our goal is to have both FPR drivers firmly within the Championship top five by the end of this round."
The Prodrive team's first race and round victory came at Phillip Island in 2003 at only the team's third ever V8 Supercar start. In the four seasons since then, FPR has raced to a further 13 round podium finishes, including two further outright round victories - including the 2006 Sandown 500, and two Bathurst 1000 runner-up finishes. Bright's superb victory of the inaugural Desert 400 at the Bahrain International Circuit a fortnight ago was the most recent addition to FPR's V8 Supercar honour roll.
The 2006 Caterpillar Grand Finale also marks the 30th anniversary of the first ever Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) round at Phillip Island. It is also the 45th anniversary of the first Ford Motor Company assisted ATCC entry, when John Reaburn and Sid Fisher finished second in class in the 1961 Armstrong 500. The following year the Ford Falcon of Australian motor racing legends Bob Jane and Harry Firth won the event outright.
The 2006 Caterpillar Grand Finale will comprise of three races - one on Saturday (100km) and two on Sunday (both 140km). All races feature one compulsory pit stop for tyres.