24 hours after securing the lead in the V8 Supercar championship, Mark Winterbottom has been forced to watch defending champion Jamie Whincup put together a near perfect performance that has given him the smallest advantage in the chase for the 2012 crown.
Winterbottom and his Orrcon Steel Ford now trail's Whincup by a single point in the championship after 19 events - the closest championship battle seen for many years. If that were not enticing enough the battle is being waged by two teams operating at the top of their game from opposite sides of the vehicle manufacturer world – Ford and Holden.
The 220km race format would require the teams to perform two pit stops across the race distance so given the tyre allocation for the weekend, all of the FPR cars decided to start the race on the Dunlop hard tyre. On race start it would be Davison's Tradingpost Ford that would put together the best move going from 5th to 3rd by the first turn while Winterbottom lost one position moving from 4th to 5th after veteran Russell Ingall got a great start with the assistance of the Dunlop soft tyres.
David Reynolds and his Bottle-O Ford also had a solid start moving from 9th to 7th in the first lap. Having suffered a tyre issue in yesterday's race he was keen to take a conservative approach to the race however that plan was thrown out the window when he entered a race long battle with Fabian Coulthard.
After the first sequence of pit stops it was Winterbottom who made a move from 3rd to 2nd behind Whincup. His position gain followed a pit stop issue for Craig Lowndes which added a few seconds to his stop. It would take Lowndes seven laps to catch Winterbottom and pass him for 2nd position and soon after it would be Ingall who slide past forcing Winterbottom into 4th position.
As the race entered its last phase it was still Whincup who held a commanding lead of more than eight seconds, Lowndes was second and Ingall third while Winterbottom, Davison and Reynolds held positions 4, 5 and 6.
By race end Winterbottom would claim 3rd position behind Whincup and Lowndes who would finish first and second respectively. Will Davison took his Tradingpost Ford to a credible 5th place today but had to battle late in the race with Ingall who was able to match Davison's pace on soft tyres while Ingall was on hard tyres and would claim 4th.
David Reynolds battle with Coulthard would eventually be won by the BJR driver after Reynolds struggled late in the race with front tyre grip. As a result Reynolds nursed the tyres home in 7th position and with that result he moves back into the top ten in the championship.
Mark Winterbottom – #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Ford
Race Result: 3rd
"I didn't get a great start today - when the wheels are spinning and cars are going around you. You are like a surfer in the middle of the pack of sharks. We tried a number of things on the car today that didn't work - we probably went backwards a little bit but we were still good enough for 3rd. you have to try things but Eastern Creek probably didn't suit our cars as much as Sandown will. We always thought this may have been a bit of a danger round but we ended up gaining points and getting two podiums and we have a straight car so we look forward to three weeks' time and an opportunity win at Sandown."
Will Davison – #6 Tradingpost FPR Ford
Race Result: 5th
"Disappointing day. It's not a disaster - we got good points still which is important if we don't get it right. We have to make sure we consolidate and score points but I am really disappointed with where we finished.
I thought we got off to a great start with a great launch. The car felt really good for the first 8 or 9 laps then I dropped a wheel off the track and that made the steering feel funny - like the steering was quite bent or the right front tyre had lost pressure. Even after the last pit stop for new tyres - that didn't seem to fix the issue so I just had to nurse the car and the tyres for the rest of the race.
We have to look into what happened with the car but I am sure we will bounce back as we head into our home event at the Sandown 500."
David Reynolds – #55 The Bottle-O FPR Ford
Race Result: 7th
"Today went better. We had really good pace on hard tyres.
Qualifying didn't really come to us like we thought. I think we ended up going out a little too early. I don't think the car was as good as yesterday which is why we qualified 9th.
I got a ripper start today and that was a major improvement on yesterday. I had a really great race with Fabian Coulthard. He was glued to my rear bumper for most of the race until we put on our soft tyres and he just had better balance and found his way around me and drove away.
In the last few laps I had a great race with Brighty (Jason Bright). He was catching me quickly but couldn't get passed."
Tim Edwards - FPR Team Principal
"While it was a good result for the team today it was far from a great result because we should be winning races. We learned a lot during the event but we made some decisions that didn't help us to find the speed we need to gain our advantage back over Triple Eight. They were better than us today and that doesn't sit well with our team so we will go back home tonight and will continue to work on winning the next event - the Sandown 500."
Sydney Motorsport Park 360 - Race 2
1st Jamie Whincup - Triple Eight
2nd Craig Lowndes - Triple Eight
3rd Mark Winterbottom - Orrcon Steel FPR Ford
4th Russell Ingall - Supercheap Auto Racing
5th Will Davison - Tradingpost FPR Ford
7th David Reynolds - The Bottle-O FPR Ford
1st Jamie Whincup - Triple Eight - 2238 points
2nd Mark Winterbottom - Orrcon Steel FPR Ford - 2237 points
3rd Will Davison - Tradingpost FPR Ford - 2116 points
4th Craig Lowndes - Triple Eight - 2084 points
5th Shane Van Gisbergen - Stone Brothers Racing - 1634 points
10th David Reynolds - The Bottle-O FPR Ford - 1179 points
1st Ford Performance Racing - 4353 points
2nd Triple Eight - 4347 points
3rd Stone Brothers Racing - 2920 points