Ford Performance Racing has begun the Desert 400 as it did last year with Orrcon Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver Mark "Frosty" Winterbottom sizzling across the Bahrain International Circuit to take an unchallenged Pole position to checkered flag victory ahead of Holden rival Garth Tander and Ford driver Steve Johnson.
On the way to taking this superb victory, which was the second consecutive Bahrain opening race victory for the Prodrive team, 26 year old Winterbottom also set the fastest lap (1:25.258s) by an impressive 7/10ths of a second, on his way to a 7.4 second winning margin over Tander.
It was a different story for Castrol FPR Falcon driver Steve Richards, who after making a superb start from 19th to 13th place on the first lap, crashed into Holden driver Lee Holdsworth at the first caution period (caused by major crash involving Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Paul Morris) re-start. This caused significant front end damage which required a long stop for repairs. Later in the race the 36 year old driver was given a pit lane drive through penalty for the accident. Richards finished the race in 25th position.
Complementing Winterbottom's effort in Bahrain today was a superb 3.4 second pit stop and a solid race strategy that saw the talented young driver spend most of the race preserving his tires for the two races ahead at 11:00am and 3:35pm tomorrow (local time).
#5 Mark Winterbottom - "The car was awesome today. I could cruise around and not even work up a sweat because it was braking well, turning well, we really tuned it perfectly for this race. The grip levels were better than during qualifying which is why we were able to lap faster in the race. The track is slower than last year so our set-up was quite different to last year, but our base set-up has been great since we first rolled the car out."
#6 Steve Richards - "My qualifying result didn't help us today, when you start the race in the middle of it you are more susceptible and after getting off to a strong start I got caught up in a concertina effect at the re-start and dived out of the way only to run into Lee Holdsworth. This damaged the car and shredded a tire, the team did well to fix that and then the drive through penalty kept me at the rear of the field."
FPR Team Principal, Tim Edwards - "We've clearly had the fastest cars for the last three rounds, so it is fantastic to translate that into a dominating race win. Great race, pit stop and car - full credit to Mark who just cruised around today to take the race win and fastest lap. Obviously a disappointing result for Steve but we are still encouraged by the fact that he has a fast car for tomorrow's races."
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