Pukekohe: FPR Sunday report

FPR REMAINS IN V8 SUPERCAR TOP TEN FOLLOWING WILD NZ WEEKEND April 22, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) leaves Pukekohe Park Raceway with thoughts of what could have been after today's two remaining sprint races to decide the third round of...


April 22, 2007 - Ford Performance Racing (FPR) leaves Pukekohe Park Raceway with thoughts of what could have been after today's two remaining sprint races to decide the third round of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series.

Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom started race two from the front row of the grid after his second place finish in Saturday's opening race, with the Castrol FPR Falcon of Steve Richards close behind in 5th. It wasn't long before two dramatic events relegated both drivers to the rear of the field, turning a strong weekend into one of working to re-gain lost ground. Richards was knocked off the track at turn 4, impacting a tyre wall and sending him and his damaged car to the rear of the field.

Winterbottom resumed his battle for the lead with Garth Tander for the first 15 laps until pitting behind the Holden driver. The FPR crew sent Winterbottom out into the lead, just as they had done the day before in race one, and the 25 year old set out on breaking away from Tander. His effort ended on the next lap at the back straight when he spectacularly locked the front right brake and ran off the circuit, allowing Tander to get past. Upon re-joining the race, the damaged tyre de-laminated, forcing an emergency pit stop that dropped him to the rear of the field. The FPR Falcon drivers finished race two in 18th (Richards) and 23rd (Winterbottom) respectively. The race was won by Tander from Jamie Whincup and Rick Kelly.

The unbelievable scenario of the third and final race at Pukekohe ensured that the odds were stacked against FPR and any of the mid-field runners to make significant ground towards a top ten or better finish. In the first six laps Winterbottom raced from 23rd to 19th and Richards' raced his way up to 16th - their progress hampered by a major accident involving Brad Jones and Paul Morris (who rolled his car) that caused the first of two lengthy Safety Car periods. After the re-start on lap 12 and with both FPR Falcon drivers completing swift pit stops, the low flying Richards was up to 11th and Winterbottom 12th by lap 30.

At this stage of the race, competitor Dean Canto crashed into the wall heavily and the lengthy retrieval of his car cost precious race time, something the team were to later find out that they had precious little of. On lap 36 the race was re-started and on the very next lap, lap 37 of a 43 lap race, the race was unexpectedly finished due to time constraints. At the time of this abrubt race ending, Winterbottom had moved into 11th (12 places up from his starting position) and Richards 12th (six places up). The race was won by Rick Kelly with Todd Kelly second and James Courtney third.

The New Zealand round victory and the last Pukekohe Park Raceway trophy went to defending Champion Rick Kelly ahead of Garth Tander and Jamie Whincup. Despite the drama of the weekend, Pukekohe pole-setter Winterbottom remains in the Championship top ten at 7th with 79 points and Richards is placed 13th with 55 points and 11 rounds remaining.

#5 Mark Winterbottom - "The round got off to a great start with Pole position and a second place and then a mistake in race two changed everything, taking us from potentially winning the round to finishing 10th. I believe that I had the fastest car on the track this weekend and threw away a win. While we didn't win it here, we definitely have the pace to get the job done at Winton."

#6 Steve Richards - "Not a bad end to the weekend considering where we came from. The Castrol FPR Falcon had some great pace here and the team did a great job throughout. It was unfortunate to have a coming together in the second race, making our job to gain points at this round much harder. I kept catching groups of cars that made it challenging throughout and then ran out of laps to move further up the order. We had strong pace and the team is in very good shape for the rest of the season."

FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "Ultimately it was a disappointing weekend considering what took place in races two and three today. On the positive side we had good pace in qualifying and in all three races and I am confident that we will continue this form for the remaining 11 rounds of the Championship. It's disappointing that the third race was ended so abruptly - this cost us potential track positions."

The final Pukekohe V8 Supercar round was attended by more than 132,000 fans over three days, ending its reign as New Zealand's V8 Supercar home with a new record. FPR now prepares for Round 4 of the Championship to be held at the team's nominated test circuit, Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria from May 18-20.

-credit: fpr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers James Courtney , Garth Tander , Rick Kelly , Brad Jones , Dean Canto , Paul Morris , Jamie Whincup , Todd Kelly , Mark Winterbottom , Steve Richards , Tim Edwards