STEVE RICHARDS RACES TO A STORMING SECOND PLACE IN WINTON V8 SUPERCAR CURTAIN RAISER May 19, 2007 - Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards has driven one of the most impressive V8 Supercar races of his career to finish second from 18th place...
STEVE RICHARDS RACES TO A STORMING SECOND PLACE IN WINTON V8 SUPERCAR CURTAIN RAISER
May 19, 2007 - Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards has driven one of the most impressive V8 Supercar races of his career to finish second from 18th place on the starting grid in today's opening 40 lap V8 Supercar race at a wet Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria.
Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom raced from 4th on the grid and past the early race leaders to enjoy a strong six second race lead, but a change to slick (dry) tyres in the difficult conditions, along with an accident (involving Max Wilson) saw the FPR driver finish this first of three heats in 26th position.
The race started in wet and cold conditions, with showers creating a treacherously slippery track surface for the opening ten laps that required extreme caution. From his pace at the green light, the conditions didn't deter Richards' from getting off to a fantastic start, gaining three positions on the first lap and taking a further two on the second. By the fourth lap the Castrol FPR Falcon driver was 11th, with a number of off circuit forays by competitors helping to promote the 34 year old Victorian driver to 9th by the 6th lap.
Aided by competitor pit stops and maintaining a constantly speedy race pace, Richards took the race lead on lap 21. Six laps later and ten seconds into the race lead he made his compulsory pit stop and with a set of slick tyres Richards began a spectacular late race charge from the mid-field to overtake every competitor except the race winner, Jamie Whincup, by the chequered flag. Richards claimed his first podium finish of the season and his first for FPR in second place with Rick Kelly third. Richards' second place finish at Winton today was the driver's best result for Ford since winning race two at the Canberra Street Circuit back in June 2001.
Driving perfectly from the start in the trying conditions, Winterbottom raced into the lead on the 6th lap when early race leader Todd Kelly ran off the circuit. He was one of several drivers who were stranded in sand traps during the race, which saw five Safety Car periods required for retrievals. On the 20th lap a strategic decision was made to fit slick tyres to his car, but they did not provide the expected grip on the drying circuit, dropping the FPR Falcon driver to 13th. The slick tyres saw a major improvement in car speed by the three-quarter stage of the race and Winterbottom moved towards the top ten. While fighting for 10th place with the wet-tyre equipped Max Wilson on a dry circuit, the competitor turned in on Winterbottom, bending his FPR Falcon's steering. On the 34th lap, Winterbottom slid off the circuit at the second last turn, causing the final Safety Car period of the race and once retrieved he re-joined the race to finish in 26th place.
#6 Steve Richards - "The car handled much better in the greasy conditions than we expected and it was good to have some wet weather running done earlier in the weekend as we knew what to expect from the car in the changing conditions. We had some excellent pace in the closing stages of the race and while it was unfortunate for Mark when he went off the circuit, but that late race Safety Car period helped me enormously. I'm looking forward to a front row start tomorrow."
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "I got off to a great start and had a good lead heading into the pit stop. We took a gamble on dry tyres and in hindsight it was too early for them, as I had to stay within the dry line while trying to overtake cars as well. This made it very difficult to pull the car up into corners. Later in the race the car came on strong and a strong finish was still possible until I came up to Max Wilson who drove into me and bent the steering, which made it difficult to continue in the conditions. We have two fast cars for tomorrow and I am glad that the team gained a podium finish today from so far back at the start - this shows what is possible in the two races tomorrow."
FPR Motorsport Director, Tim Edwards - "A good and bad race for us today. An exceptional drive by Steve and it is great to see the Castrol FPR Falcon gain its first podium finish in such challenging race conditions. A disappointing race for Mark - we made a mistake with our tyre choice during his pit stop and we have learned from this."
FPR returns to the track for the two remaining races of Round 4 at 10:55am and 1:40pm tomorrow.