Ford Performance Racing (FPR) is quietly confident of a strong showing in this year's Bathurst 1000 following issue-free preparations for the team ahead of the biggest week in Australian motorsport.
The factory Ford team has had perhaps its most thorough ever build-up to 'The Great Race' and the whole team is eagerly anticipating the first of the on track action this Thursday.
Regular drivers Mark Winterbottom, Will Davison and Paul Dumbrell will again be joined by three strong co-drivers, giving FPR arguably the strongest driver line-up on the grid.
Winterbottom and two-time Bathurst winner Steve Richards will be helping Orrcon Steel celebrate 10 years in the sport and will carry a special livery on their #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon.
The duo are among the favourites for pole position and want nothing more than to convert top spot on the grid into the team's first win at Mount Panorama.
Former race winner Davison and co-driver Luke Youlden claimed pole and third overall at the first of the enduros last month and plan to build on their form as they debut the new logo of naming-rights partner Trading Post on their #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon.
Dumbrell will be making his last start at Bathurst as a full-time driver.
He will again be paired with Dean Canto in the #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon and both believe their car speed will allow them to be among the contenders.
Mark Winterbottom – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon
Championship position/points: 7th / 1447
"Our preparation has been great and we have always qualified well at Bathurst so we just need to turn our front-row starts into race wins. We aim to win every year and while we haven't yet had ultimate success, no matter how well you fare each year you always look forward to returning. Richo has won the race twice so I have the perfect co-driver. We've raced together before and spent a lot of time driving with each other in big races so it would be nice to win it with him. We need a good result and Bathurst is the one we want to win so hopefully on Sunday night we will be in a good mood."
Steve Richards, co-driver – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon
"The week leading into Bathurst is always a special one and it is the race everyone wants to win. FPR heads to the event with probably the strongest chance ever. We have three really strong combinations and fast cars, though we all know you have to have your day at Bathurst. It doesn't matter how well you prepare, how fast your car is or how good the drivers are, if you don't have everything run your way on the day you can't win it. The team is as well-prepared as they've ever been so we just have to go there and hope we have our day in the sun."
Will Davison – #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon
Championship position/points: 6th / 1544
"I've got a good feeling about Bathurst this year. The whole team is in good spirits and obviously everyone in the sport gets excited about Bathurst, not just the drivers though we are all well-aware of what lies ahead. You have to stay very focussed and everyone in the team is. We are all well-prepared and I'm impressed with the work the team has done. Luke and I certainly have a spring in our step after Phillip Island and I am just looking forward to getting there and assessing where we are at. I think we should be pretty close to the money, the team has done everything it can but this is the one race where unexpected things happen. As long as the car rolls out of the truck and is quick we will be in with a chance."
Luke Youlden, co-driver – #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon
"I am heading to Bathurst with a lot of confidence especially knowing that track conditions will be more consistent there than they were at the last race. It is easier to set-up a car at Bathurst and you can spend more time working on just driving it. Our preparation has been strong, our driver line-ups are good and we have great cars so it is just a matter of getting it all together on race day. You need everything going for you at Bathurst - car and driver speed, good pit stops, smart strategy and also some luck probably more so than anywhere else."
Paul Dumbrell – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
Championship position/points: 20th / 952
"While I'm sure everyone says it, Bathurst is without a doubt the event of the V8 Supercar season. There is a reason the place is so popular. Drivers and teams love the challenge, fans love the spectacle - there is nothing else like it. It is hard to believe this is my 13th Bathurst and my last as a full-time driver, so I am keen to enjoy it and I head there really relaxed. Dean and I didn't have the luck at Phillip Island but we were certainly quicker than it appeared. We had a fairly strong run at The Mountain last year so with the thorough preparations we've had I expect we should be well-placed."
Dean Canto, co-driver – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
"I've always had a love/hate relationship with Bathurst. As much as I love the track, it hasn't always been kind, though it is that kind of place and last year PD and I had a pretty good run. Having ironed out all the bugs at Phillip Island and after racing together at Bathurst last year we should be among the frontrunners. FPR cars are always quick at Mount Panorama and while it takes a lot of effort and luck to be in the mix late in the race I think we can certainly be near the head of the pack when we need to be."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
FPR Team Championship position/points: 3rd / 3016
"Bathurst is without doubt the biggest event on our calendar and the one that every team aspires to win. We have been extremely diligent with our preparations and I can't remember a year when we've headed to The Mountain in better shape. The build-up has been calm and measured and I know our drivers and crew are all quietly confident we can be at the pointy end of the field. We make the trip up a bit of an adventure and all drive up together so we are looking forward to that too. Success at Bathurst always requires a degree of luck so if we get that we know we have done everything possible to ensure success will come our way."