Ford Performance Racing has launched their 2010 championship campaign, rolling out their FG Falcons for the first test of the season at Winton Raceway this morning.
Mark Winterbottom, Steve Richards, Luke Youlden and new FPR recruit James Moffat will all turn laps today at the rural Victorian circuit in preparation for what is set to be one of V8 Supercar's most exciting seasons.
"I'm amping to get into the Orrcon Steel Falcon again," Winterbottom said.
"I had a 20-lap shakedown last week but this will be our first real opportunity to see what gains we've achieved in our latest evolution of the FG ... the guys have worked really hard over the break to ensure our new car is a competitive package," he said.
"Team spirits are high and everyone is keen to redeem themselves after a fairly average season last year ... I haven't seen everyone so pumped before the start of a season which I hope is a pretty good sign of things to come," he added.
Steve Richards was also keen to get back behind the wheel.
"Although it only seems like yesterday we were racing at Homebush, I've become so accustomed to racing it feels strange when you have some down time – it was great though to have a break and recharge the batteries before getting stuck into our pre-season training camp.
"Starting the season in the Middle East adds a whole new dynamic to our preparation and testing programs so it's going to be interesting to see how it all pans out ... Mark and I have worked pretty hard in the fitness stakes over the break so we're heading into the first round in as best shape we'll ever be.
It's no secret I didn't have the best of seasons last year but that's behind us now and I'm as refreshed and raring to go as ever ... I've got a feeling it's going to be a good year," Richards beamed.
NEW NAMING RIGHTS PARTNER FOR RICHARDS' FPR FALCON
Observers at today's test at Winton will no doubt notice Steve Richards' Falcon looking a little bare in the livery department ... but fear not. A new naming rights partner for Richo's FPR Falcon will be revealed shortly, and will be sure to turn a few heads in pit lane when it's announced.
MOFFAT AND YOULDEN SIGN ON AS FPR ENDURO PARTNERS
Experienced V8 Supercar drivers Luke Youlden & James Moffat will join Ford Performance Racing for this year’s long-distance events.
Youlden & Moffat will support team regulars Mark Winterbottom & Steve Richards to contest the L & H 500 at Phillip Island and the Super Cheap 1000 at Bathurst later this year.
“For Ford Performance Racing & Ford, it’s great to get the guys organised early and up to speed ... hence giving them a run at today's test,” Team Principal Tim Edwards said.
“Having access to such experienced guys is a real bonus, so we can take full advantage of the co-driver sessions at races throughout this year and get both drivers fully comfortable with our Falcons," he added.
"We believe we have signed the two best drivers that aren't currently driving full time in the main game; this will allow us to be flexible with our combinations when it comes time to decide on pairings for the endurance events," said Edwards.
L&H FUSES WITH FPR AGAIN
A successful two-year partnership with FPR paved the way for a further two-year deal according to L&H Group Marketing Manager, Martin Dench.
The electrical wholesaler was a V8 Supercars novice three years ago but says its programme, which centred on FPR and the L&H 500 at Phillip Island, is now an integral part of L&H's business.
Amongst its successes is a V8 sales incentive programme, which has effectively influenced customer buying patterns, and a substantial relationship-building exercise.
The company attributes its success to FPR's professional operation as well as the high popularity of V8s amongst tradesmen, 78% of who listed it as their number one or two sporting interest in a recent survey conducted by L&H.
"We originally decided on FPR because of the cultural fit between our businesses and because Mark and Steve are the right kind of personalities to mix with our customers and represent our business in the manner we hoped for," Martin Dench, L&H Group Marketing Manager said.
"Since then FPR has become part of our business; we've had Mark, Steve and other members in our network and with our customers and we wish to continue the positive message that has built," he added.
"We started the programme as a relationship-building exercise and we're maintaining that but we're also pushing it as a sales generation tool … Customers have to buy the right kind of products to get tickets and we've seen that working in practice; guests in our suite are there because they're actually changing their purchasing patterns to attend the races," Dench said.
Mark Roworth, FPR Business Operations Director said, "L&H is re-targeting its platform more around activation and the buyer behaviour of its customer ... that means we're going to see a different branding strategy on the car but it retains the L&H Group as a major partner of the team.