Ford Performance Racing (FPR) posted some promising results during the opening practice sessions overnight at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi - with Orrcon Steel racer Mark Winterbottom finishing third fastest in the combined times and Dunlop Super Dealer pilot Steve Richards in seventh.
Both drivers emerged from today's sessions confident their FPR Falcons have what it takes for a strong showing in this weekend's races.
"I'm pretty happy at the moment," Winterbottom said.
"The car was really good ... and we made some great progress considering we didn't start the sessions all that strong - the best thing is we were able to pin-point exactly what needed to be tweaked and the results were instantaneous which is a great sign that we're on the right track.
"I struggled with over-steer early on but working with Campbell (Mark's new engineer - Little) we were able to make sense of what the car was doing and quickly turn it around ... it's going to be a great race car," Winterbottom added.
Winterbottom's teammate Steve Richards also showed promise in opening practice posting the seventh quickest time of the day.
"This circuit is magnificent!" Richards beamed.
"There's so much going on out there on a new circuit ... you're trying different gear selection, brake bias, turn in, how much kerb you can use ... but when you get it altogether towards the end it feels pretty good," he added.
FPR Team Principal Tim Edwards was also pleased with today's performance.
"That was a very encouraging start to the year," Edwards said.
"Today was all about understanding the cars and understanding the circuit.
"We weren't out there to break lap records - we spent the majority of the session trying to find the right line and that's where most of the speed came from in the closing laps - just trying to use as much of the kerb as we could and the boys did a great job in doing that," he added.
Combined practice times – Yas V8 400 – Abu Dhabi ??1. #9 Shane Van Gisbergen 1:58.2230 ?2. #888 Craig Lowndes 1:58.3720 ?3. #5 Mark Winterbottom 1:58.5260 ?4. #4 Alex Davison 1:58.5600 ?5. #14 Jason Bright 1:59.1360 ?6. #11 Jason Bargwanna 1:59.3350 ?7. #6 Steven Richards 1:59.3390 ?8. #19 Jonathon Webb 1:59.3970 ?9. #1 Jamie Whincup 1:59.5130 ?10. #18 James Courtney 1:59.7090
TV Coverage: Channel 7 nationally on Saturday (12.30-4.30pm AEDST) and Sunday (1.30-4.30pm AEDST)