Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has made constant gains across all four practice sessions on the opening day of action at Hidden Valley in Darwin where endurance drivers Steve Richards and Luke Youlden spent time behind the wheel.
Richards and Youlden joined regular driver Paul Dumbrell in the opening two 30-minute sessions, gaining valuable additional seat time ahead of the endurance races later this year and providing the team with strong feedback.
Youlden was making his first trip to Hidden Valley and after quickly adapting to his new surroundings and the #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon he consistently set lap times within one-tenth of Richards - a former race winner in the Top End.
Richards ended the day fastest of all the endurance drivers in the #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon, setting the third-best time by the end of practice two.
The pair then handed their factory Falcons back to regular drivers Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison who joined Dumbrell on track for the final two sessions.
Using the data collected in the morning the trio went about developing qualifying and race set-ups for the weekend.
Although initially not happy with the balance of their cars, the factory Ford drivers worked closely with their engineers to improve the handling of their Fords and each made enough gains to end the day inside the top 10.
Tomorrow will feature a 20-minute qualifying session followed by a top 10 shootout and a single 42-lap race.
Mark Winterbottom – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon
Practice 1: 15th - 1m11.53s (Steve Richards)
Practice 2: 3rd - 1m10.33s (Steve Richards)
Practice 3: 16th - 1m10.93s
Practice 4: 8th - 1m09.87s
"I was pretty happy with things by the end. It was good for (Steve Richards) Richo to get miles in the car and we also trust the feedback he gives. He went out on a brand new set of tyres at the end of his run and performed well - that is the advantage of having someone like him on our team. What he says about the car is what I am saying and we have full confidence in his opinions. His experience is paramount, he has won here in Darwin before and that makes the data we are gaining easier to read. When I took over we worked on our race set-up and when we put fresh tyres on at the end the car reacted as we thought. I am confident with the qualifying set-up of the car, but definitely happier with the changes we've made today."
Will Davison – #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon
P1: 14th - 1m11.50s (Luke Youlden)
P2: 20th - 1m12.53s (Luke Youlden)
P3: 11th - 1m10.81s
P4: 9th - 1m10.08s
"Today was a little up and down and we'd like to be a bit higher but we've worked really hard and certainly made some gains. We are not quite there yet, but to finish with all three cars in the top 10 shows we took steps in the right direction. There is obviously still some time to find so hopefully we can make a few more gains overnight, but we have a fair idea of what we want to do so that should help us tomorrow. We did a lot of work on our race set-up and experimented with two different set-ups - the race car is extremely important here so that is our focus. Luke (Youlden) gave us a really good heads up as to how the car is handling so his information was very valuable. It was also a great chance for him to get some time in new conditions as he hasn't been here before and that extra experience will help us when we are racing together later in the year."
Paul Dumbrell – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
P1: 4th - 1m10.26s
P2: 15th - 1m11.81s
P3: 14th - 1m10.93s
P4: 6th - 1m09.84s
"It wasn't a bad day. We were reasonable at the end on the green [new] tyres but we have a little bit to do still on the older tyres. Tonight we need to work on things and get the car ready for tomorrow's qualifying sessions. It wasn't as hot today as it has been at other times we've raced here so we are all thankful for that, though Sunday afternoon will still be tough here no matter the temperature. For tomorrow we need to improve the overall compliance of the car, though this track is renowned for changing a lot so we can't rip our hair out too much and we just need to be mindful of what the car will do over a full race distance."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
"We enjoyed a trouble-free day today which is always the best way to start any event. All three of ours cars were on track in each of the four sessions so it was a busy day for the crew. Our endurance drivers Steve and Luke again did a great job and gave the engineers good feedback which helped Mark and Will when they took over for the final two sessions. We ended the day with all three cars in the top 10 and though we have a bit of refining to do to get things right for tomorrow, the drivers feel they are heading in the right direction."