Ford Performance Racing (FPR) enjoyed a trouble-free day at the concrete canyon that is Surfers Paradise to finish the opening day of action at the Armor All Gold Coast 600 with all three cars within half-a-second of the leading time.
The day got underway in brilliant sunshine as the team's regular drivers took to the track for opening practice.
Mark Winterbottom started the day in fine form, topping the times in the first 40-minute session, while team-mates Will Davison and Paul Dumbrell were close by ensuring all three FPR cars started the day in the top 10.
Practice sessions two and three were the sole domain of the international drivers with Richard Lyons, Mika Salo and Christian Klien getting their first laps for the team at the Surfers Paradise circuit.
Lyons and Klien experienced the track for the first time and gradually increased their pace as they adapted to the challenging layout.
Salo raced in the GC 600 last year and was quickly assisting Davison to develop the race pace of the #6 Tradingpost FPR Falcon.
Lyons improved nearly one second across the two 40-minute sessions, while Klien gained 1.1s.
The team's regular drivers returned for the final session where times started to drop substantially.
The session was used as a mix of set-up development, pit stop practice and driver change practice.
Winterbottom started the session before handing the car over to Lyons who then swapped back to Winterbottom in the closing minutes.
Dumbrell had a number of chances to top the times ruined by traffic, though his pace showed he will be a threat in qualifying. Klien then gained valuable additional seat time late in the session and enjoyed his day.
Davison ran the entire session and ended the day third, a mere 0.12s off the top time, while all three FPR Falcons ended the day less-than 0.5s from the fastest lap.
Bollards and timing sensors installed to prevent cutting of the chicanes proved too sensitive and many drivers were wrongly penalised, though officials have rectified the position and made the necessary changes ahead of tomorrow's qualifying.
Mark Winterbottom & Richard Lyons – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon
Practice 1: 1m12.45s - 1st
Practice 2: 1m14.76s - 14th (Lyons)
Practice 3: 1m13.89s - 12th (Lyons)
Practice 4: 1m12.45s - 8th
"The car is pretty good. We are a lot better than the position suggests as the bollard issue and the traffic robbed us a little as we should have been about second. Richard progressed well given he'd never driven here until today. The car is fast and reliable and we'll try and have a crack tomorrow and see how quick we can be when we fit a new set of tyres."
"It was great to finally drive on a circuit I've always wanted to tackle though I am not as pleased as I thought I'd be. Mark is clearly quick and the car's set-up is developing well though I'd like to be a little bit faster. I made a small error in my first session which caused me to lose a bit of rhythm but I am not too far off. Today is practice and was all about preparing for tomorrow's race so I think we are on the right track for that."
Will Davison & Mika Salo – #6 Trading Post FPR Falcon
P1: 1m12.94s - 6th
P2: 1m14.37s - 12th (Salo)
P3: 1m14.07s - 14th (Salo)
P4: 1m12.18s - 3rd
"It was a tricky day but the cars were pretty quick straight away so we are not too far off. The focus is the race car and we are not going too bad there, but I think today was the best we've been on soft tyres this years so that is good. The chicane issue with the sensors is annoying as I lost a few of my better times and everyone has been in the same situation. It makes it hard to push as it seems to go off very easily, but if you don't push you are too slow. Overall Mika was great, very clean and did a great job today and was very focussed."
"I used most of the day learning the soft tyre and how to make it last longer and I think I've got the hang of it which will help in the race so I'm happy. If Will is happy with the set-up then I will just use what he is happy with as he will do most of the driving, though I've also had to adapt my driving style as this car is different to the one I drove last year. Better, but different. Everything is good though so I am looking forward to tomorrow."
Paul Dumbrell & Christian Klien – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
P1: 1m12.94s - 7th
P2: 1m15.48s - 24th (Klien)
P3: 1m14.36s - 21st (Klien)
P4: 1m12.54s - 11th
"Overall the car has been reasonable and all three of the team's cars have been quick so we are looking good for a Friday. The soft tyre pace is improved which is a good thing. Traffic hampered my two best runs but that happens around here given it is such a short lap. There is a bit more speed to extract from it overnight but that's to be expected. Christian is adapting well so we are in with a shot tomorrow."
"That was a lot of fun today. Obviously these sorts of cars are very different to what I have driven before but by the end I started to get quite comfortable. Paul and the team have been very helpful and I look forward to going through the data tonight to see where I can improve. The car is quick, in fact the team has done very well today with all cars so we are well-placed for tomorrow."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
"It is great to be back racing here. The weather and the atmosphere really make this event a favourite. On track we had a good day. Frosty was quick out of the box and then our three internationals made it cleanly through their practice sessions with only a few minor scrapes, though with lots of valuable seat time so with a good briefing tonight they will be looking okay for tomorrow. We seem to have made a good step forward with our soft tyre pace so that is especially pleasing. The only thing that really let everyone down was the kerb sensors which caused a few issues though officials have now taken everyone's feedback and made some changes tonight so that should ensure trouble-free racing on the weekend."