Ford Performance Racing's (FPR) 2011 season finished in the best possible way with victory in the final race of the year, though perhaps the biggest victory the team had was fighting back to the front of the field after its mid-season downturn in performance.
The team finished the year with two race wins, 15 podiums and nine pole positions - a feat outsiders thought impossible at the mid-point of the season.
FPR started the season in good form, landing podiums at the opening two events of the year with Mark Winterbottom, while new recruit Will Davison claimed pole position at the Clipsal 500 showing he was gelling well with the team.
Winterbottom then endured an up and down few races while Davison appropriately broke his podium duck at the Tradingpost Perth Challenge.
Poles and podiums followed in Darwin and Townsville before the team suffered its toughest event of the year at Queensland Raceway.
The team left Ipswich with Winterbottom seventh and Davison eighth in the standings though the hard work of FPR's engineering and technical group was about to start paying off.
Davison and co-driver Luke Youlden claimed pole for the L&H 500 Phillip Island where Davison won a qualifying race. The pair went on to finish third, beginning the team's climb back to the front of the field.
Bathurst was as tough as ever though Winterbottom and the experienced Steve Richards salvaged fourth after rain ruined their shootout lap.
Winterbottom was up to fifth in the standings and at the Gold Coast the team confirmed its turnaround in form by grabbing its first win of the season along with two other podium finishes.
The win was even more satisfying as it came on the soft compound tyre which had proven the team's Achilles' heel earlier in the year.
The FPR customer car of Paul Dumbrell was also up front by this point, claiming pole position at Tasmania where the team again claimed a double podium - a result backed up one week later at Sandown.
Homebush's season finale ensured the team would enter the off-season full of confidence for 2012.
Davison claimed pole for both races, Winterbottom convincingly won the final race of the year and Dumbrell looked set to join him on the podium in his last race until a late race error robbed him and the team of a 1-2 finish.
Winterbottom rose from seventh to a comfortable third outright across the final five events, outscoring every other driver in the field across the same period.
Davison finished seventh though could have claimed a top five spot if not for dramas in the final two races, while the team ended the year second in the team standings.
While disappointed not to deliver the championship it felt possible at the start of the year, the turnaround in form shown by the team has its drivers and crew confident it can start next season at the front of the field.
Mark Winterbottom – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon:
Championship position: 3rd - 2710 points
Wins: 2 - Gold Coast, Sydney
Podiums: 9 - Abu Dhabi, Adelaide, Darwin, Townsville, Gold Coast (x2), Tasmania, Sandown, Sydney
Poles: 4 - Winton, Darwin (x2), Townsville
"The team has shown great spirit all year. The way we bounced back and got back into contention and started winning races put FPR where it should be. What happened in the middle of the year was disappointing for everyone but I am so proud of how we have come home. We know we need to start the year in the same manner and we now have a car that should be good for the whole season. I can't think of a track where we would have a weakness where we did before. I think we can go into 2012 feeling confident."
Will Davison – #6 Tradingpost FPR Falcon:
Championship position: 7th - 2345 points
Wins: Nil - Best Result: 2nd (x2) Gold Coast, Tasmania
Podiums: 6 - Perth, Townsville, Phillip Island, Gold Coast, Tasmania, Sandown
Poles: 4 - Adelaide, Phillip Island, Sydney (x2)
"I have really enjoyed the 2011 season. While it was a shame we couldn't score our first win together we did everything but. Our speed by the back end of the year was incredible and at Homebush we showed we have the pace to be at the front. Fair enough the races didn't go as planned but the strength of all three FPR cars since the enduros makes me proud of what we have achieved as a group. I feel really at home with the team and now that we have had a year together I know we will be winning races next year. I can't wait."
Paul Dumbrell – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Falcon
Championship position: 24th- 1242 points
Wins: Nil - Best Result: 4th – Tasmania
Poles: 1 – Tasmania
"While it is sad to end my full-time career I have thoroughly enjoyed being a V8 Supercar driver week in week out for the last nine years. The results this year have not been what the team deserved and it was heartbreaking to end how we did. That said, the car was very quick and should have been on the podium at least once in the last few events given Will and Frosty's form. Rod (Nash), Tim and everyone at FPR gave me my most successful period ever in my career and to win with them will always be something I remember. I wish them all the best for next season."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
Team Championship: 2nd – 5080 points
"We ended this season on the best possible note and it gave me great pleasure to see the field chasing our cars home at what is now one of the biggest events of the year at Homebush. While I am disappointed for the team, our sponsors and fans that we did not finish higher than we did, I take immense satisfaction in how we as a team turned things around. We could easily have written the year off when things weren't going right, but that is not how we operate. My fondest memory will be effort that each one of our team put in when their backs were against the wall. Every single member dug their heels in and worked to come up with a solution to the problems we were facing. So from that point of view, we have to work on getting that qualifying pace into race pace and getting race wins. That is our focus. We'll be working to give each of our drivers the best chance to win. Once we achieve that aim, only then can we begin to worry about championships."