Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom has ensured a cracking season opener this weekend by securing a place on the podium in the first of two 300km races at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi overnight.
Winterbottom, driving his brand new #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon put in a stellar performance to finish third in the race, all the while having to endure a ten-second drive-through penalty after incorrectly lining up on the grid prior to the race.
Qualifying solidly, Winterbottom was bumped up to start second on the grid after Garth Tander was relegated from second position to the back of the grid following a stewards inquiry into the Holden Racing Team using an incompressible device (car jack) during qualifying. Eventual race winner and 2009 champion Jamie Whincup started from pole with teammate Craig Lowndes finishing in second place.
Showing incredible race pace, Winterbottom stormed off the line beating Whincup to the first corner and led the race for the ensuing seven laps until Whincup managed to sneak past.
After serving his ten-second drive-through penalty, Frosty faced a massive 14 second gap to the leaders but in a brilliant display of tenacious driving was able to peg that gap to just three seconds in the final laps – proving the Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon is going to be a machine to be reckoned with in 2010.
“We’re still finding our feet a liitle with this new car so to perform the way we did today is pretty satisfying,” Winterbottom said.
“The car looks the same from the outside but it’s a different beast on the inside so to have the pace we did and tyre life we did is promising … I’ll have to adjust my driving style a bit to suit and get the most out of it but overall it’s a great package to debut with.”
“I’m really excited with the progress we made in that race … in particular the gains we were able to make even after copping the ten second penalty,” he added.
Frosty’s FPR teammate Steve Richards also drove a great race making up six places from his qualifying position of 16th.
Race two of the YAS 400 at Yas Marina will be staged 1.05am tomorrow morning AEDST.