Ford Performance Racing's (FPR) Mark Winterbottom has produced another strong performance in the Middle East, finishing in second place at the Gulf Air Desert 400 in Bahrain last night.
Winterbottom again proved to be the greatest threat to Jamie Whincup's push for a third straight championship after starting third on the grid in the first of two 200km races this weekend.
After a blinding start, Winterbottom passed fellow Ford racer Shane Van Gisbergen for second but was unable to hunt Whincup down who stormed to his third consecutive win of the year.
"The car is definitely improving as we go on ... it's a learning process that is rapidly developing," Winterbottom said of his new Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon.
"The day will come. At the moment we will keep tuning what we have got, keep bagging points, keep learning and when the time comes it will come quickly," Winterbottom said.
"At the moment two seconds and a third is a great start. We are definitely stronger than we were at the start of last year so who knows ... you can't control how well the other teams are going. Jamie is having a great run so to finish second when he is best on the day is all you can do.
"He is on top of his game in a team with the momentum they have got. I have the best engineer in pit lane so I've got full faith that we can do the job."
Winterbottom's teammate Steve Richards run of bad luck continued in Bahrain when he fell victim to a brake failure after just four laps - a blight on an otherwise great performance from the Dunlop Super Dealer Falcon pilot after securing seventh on the starting grid.
"Sure these things are disappointing but the car was showing some great speed prior (to the failure) so we'll have a good look through the car and make sure she's competitive again in race two," Richards said.
"The car probably wasn't up to scratch speed-wise in Abu Dhabi but we've sorted that and today's qualifying was testament to the positive changes we have made ... we'll put today behind us go out again tomorrow and give it another red-hot crack," he added.
Race two in Bahrain starts at 11.35pm AEDST and you can catch all the action of Race one on the Seven Network at 1.30pm today.
1 Jamie Whincup H 01:21:37.4276
2 Mark Winterbottom F 01:21:40.8428
3 Craig Lowndes H 01:21:49.2215
4 Garth Tander H 01:21:50.8473
5 Shane Van Gisbergen F 01:22:03.5046
6 James Courtney F 01:22:04.8363
7 Russell Ingall H 01:22:15.8139
8 Will Davison H 01:22:17.0904
9 Rick Kelly H 01:22:20.5786
10 Michael Caruso H 01:22:21.4866
11 Steven Johnson F 01:22:23.0996
12 Lee Holdsworth H 01:22:23.8431
13 Jason Bright H 01:22:37.0650
14 Jonathon Webb F 01:22:45.4333
15 Jason Bargwanna H 01:22:47.0381
16 Greg Murphy H 01:22:50.9647
17 Fabian Coulthard H 01:22:51.8527
18 Alex Davison F 01:22:52.0546
19 Jason Richards H 01:22:57.7692
20 Todd Kelly H 01:23:01.2271
21 Tim Slade F 01:23:06.0047
22 Andrew Thompson H 01:23:13.3292
23 Tony D’Alberto H 01:23:25.7056
24 Karl Reindler H 01:21:57.1863
25 Tony Ricciardello H 01:23:06.8054
26 Daniel Gaunt H 01:23:29.0373
27 Paul Dumbrell F 01:21:54.1815
DNF Steven Richards F 01:23:38.2690
DNF Dean Fiore F 11:22.2708