Ford Performance Racing (FPR) has won the final race of the 2011 season after Mark Winterbottom scored a hard-fought victory after 74 wild laps of the Sydney Olympic Park Street Circuit.
The day started on a high for the team when Will Davison backed up his Saturday form by claiming his second pole position of the event - a clean-sweep for the FPR driver and his first double-pole since 2009.
Winterbottom continued the team's repeat performance by claiming third on the grid for the second day in a row while Paul Dumbrell claimed fifth in his last ever qualifying session proving the speed of the factory Falcons.
Within minutes of the qualifying session ending the heavens opened and rain continued to fall right up to within an hour of the race start.
All cars headed to the grid on wet tyres though Paul Dumbrell was one of the few who changed to dry rubber right before the formation lap.
However, drama unfolded on the formation lap as a drying track meant more than half the field stopped before reaching the starting grid leaving just a handful of cars to take the start proper.
FPR split its strategy with Davison starting from pole on wets on the damp track, Dumbrell starting fifth on the grid while Winterbottom was the first driver to pit on the warm-up lap and thus was the first car out of pit lane when the race got underway.
Davison lead away at the start and started to pull a gap along with championship contender Craig Lowndes.
Dumbrell showed that slicks were a viable option and ran between fourth and sixth in the opening laps as his tyres gave him an advantage on certain parts of the track.
Winterbottom charged out of pit lane and was 10th by lap six though two laps later Dumbrell ran down the escape road on lap eight, dropping from fifth to 15th.
By the same stage Davison had a near two-second gap to Lowndes and Winterbottom moved into the top 10 shortly after and by lap 11 had set the then fastest lap.
Dumbrell began recovering and was quickly back into the top 10.
Davison then made the decision to switch to slicks at the end of lap 12, pitting from first he rejoined 14th and still ahead of Lowndes who also stopped.
Winterbottom was second by lap 14 and took the lead on lap 16 while Dumbrell showed the factory team's pace by clawing his way back to fifth by lap 20.
Davison was rapidly closing a large gap to 13th place which would put him in touch with the closely bunched top 10, though the safety car was deployed on lap 25 and all three cars pitted for fuel and tyres.
Winterbottom rejoined in the lead and by this stage Dumbrell was third while Davison had contact with Michael Caruso exiting the pits but suffered no major damage.
The race restarted on lap 28 as light rain began to fall though it did not affect the leaders too much as Dumbrell moved to second by lap 29.
Two further safety car periods ensued in the next 20 laps with the crew electing to again pit all cars during the second one, again for fuel and tyres.
At the restart on lap 53 all three were in the top 10 and Davison was closing on the lead group.
Winterbottom and Dumbrell gained a slight gap while Davison set the fastest lap before repeating the effort on lap 57 and then moving to sixth two laps later.
The order remained largely the same and FPR looked set for a 1-2 until lap 71.
Dumbrell got off line slightly while passing a backmarker and spun near the end of the lap while slight contact with the wall did not cause major damage, Dumbrell spun into the path of the pursuing Lee Holdsworth.
The contact put them both out of the race and ended what looked like a dream end for the retiring Dumbrell.
Davison missed the carnage and was up to fourth though his charge at the podium was to be short-lived as he misjudged a passing move on van Gisbergen and ended his day in the tyres, just four laps from the finish.
Winterbottom remained in the lead while a safety car was deployed to clear Davison's car before making a clean restart and clearing away at the finish to claim his and the team's second win for the season.
The result meant he easily clinched third in the championship, also scoring more points than any other driver since Phillip Island in September.
The team's dominant display of speed also secured it second in the team points.
FPR has one final test day on Monday, 12 December which will conclude its 2011 season
Mark Winterbottom – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon
Qualifying: 3rd - 1m27.69s
Race 28: 1st - Fastest lap: 1m28.60s
Final championship position: 3rd - 2710 points
"I am extremely happy to win here and the car has been a rocket all weekend. What I am most happy about though is how well the team has turned it all around this season. Since our win on the Gold Coast people wondered if we could back it up and I certainly think we have done that and then some. I am disappointed for PD as he deserved a better result in his last race. But overall as a team we should be very proud about what we've achieved and learnt as we are qualifying and racing well. Next year is different again but we should be confident."
Will Davison – #6 Tradingpost FPR Falcon
Qualifying: 1st - 1m27.45s
Race 28: DNF - Fastest lap: 1m28.64s
Final championship position: 7th - 2345 points
"I am massively disappointed with today and really the whole weekend in terms of results. We had a hugely quick car which we showed in qualifying and the races and didn't get to take advantage of that. We were on the back foot all day today from the outset with the tyre decision but we persisted and the car was great all race. I had a big lunge with a few laps to go for third as I had nothing to lose and had a pretty big lunge. It had been a great race up until then and one I really enjoyed. So it is devastating to have such a quick car and get nothing for it."
Paul Dumbrell – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
Qualifying: 5th - 1m27.93s
Race 27: DNF - Fastest lap: 1m28.64s
Final championship position: 24th - 1242 points
"You have to be in the position to take the opportunity and the opportunity was there, I just didn't take it. It was pretty tough to end things the way I did but I've been in V8 Supercars full-time for nine years and lived and breathed motorsport my whole life and been in many different situations so it comes with the territory. I wasn't actually pushing at the time as we were nearly home, but that's life. A podium would have been the best way to close this chapter, but that's life and it didn't happen."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
"To end the season with a win after all we have been through as a team throughout the season is very fitting and means we can head into the off-season knowing we have a car that can qualify and race well wherever we go. For Mark to win in his home town, not far from where he grew up, is a special thing and I'm sure makes it all the sweeter for him and by also sewing up third he's shown what a fighting spirit he has. Paul looked destined for a fairytale finish but it just wasn't to be. Will charged through the pack after trying to make the most of a strange situation at the start of the race with the weather. He and PD backed up Mark's pace and showed we have the cars to do the job. To come back as we have and secure third in the drivers' and second in the team points is a credit to everyone that works at FPR."
2011 V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
SYDNEY TELSTRA 500
RACE 28 - RESULTS:
1) Mark Winterbottom - Ford Performance Racing
2) Craig Lowndes - Triple Eight
3) Shane van Gisbergen - Stone Brothers Racing
4) Jonathon Webb - Teckno Motorsport
5) Russell Ingall - Paul Morris Motorsport
DNF) Will Davison - Ford Performance Racing
DNF) Paul Dumbrell - Ford Performance Racing
2011 V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
DRIVER POINTS AFTER RACE 28
1) Jamie Whincup - Triple Eight: 3168 points
2) Craig Lowndes - Triple Eight: 3133
3) Mark Winterbottom - Ford Performance Racing: 2710
4) Shane van Gisbergen - Stone Brothers Racing: 2672
5) Garth Tander – HRT: 2574
7) Will Davison - Ford Performance Racing: 2345
24) Paul Dumbrell - Ford Performance Racing: 1242
2011 V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
TEAM POINTS TABLE AFTER RACE 28
1) Triple Eight: 6326 points
2) Ford Performance Racing: 5080
3) Stone Brothers Racing: 4597