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Winterbottom tops Sandown practice

31 July 2009

Ford driver Mark Winterbottom harbors few fears of returning the marquee to the top in the face of an assault from a Holden powered TeamVodafone in 2010.

Winterbottom did exactly that by putting his Orrcon Falcon on top after practice at the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge in Melbourne today, beating TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup two days after the shock news his team was swapping camps next year.

Fans have been divided down the middle since Wednesday but Winterbottom believes FPR will “step up and deliver” for the Ford followers who may now have switched to his Orrcon team, or the Castrol outfit of his team-mate Steven Richards.

“We'll keep trying to represent the Ford logo and keep doing the best job we can. If we keep doing what we did today then we are on the right track,” Winterbottom said.

“FPR are a strong team and past results probably haven't showed that. We are our own team anyway and whether they have a badge on it or not doesn't affect me or the team. The fans decide who they go for.

“They will still wave Blue flags in the stand if that's what they are passionate about. It means that 888 have lost some fans there but maybe they've gained a few as well.”

With two days of intense scrutiny, critiscm and media, Whincup admitted he was not on top of his game in today's practice session but expected to return to normal in tomorrow's qualifying and first race of the weekend.

“It's been mixed without doubt,” Whincup said.

“We were just rapt to be anywhere near the front. It has been a big week for TeamVodafone off the track and it has affected us a bit on track, but with a good sleep tonight and we should come out firing tomorrow.

“There are some very unhappy Ford fans and there are some very happy TeamVodafone fans. The Holden guys don't really know what to do at the moment; they are stuck in the middle of it all.

“Our focus is on bringing news sponsors and new fans into the sport, that's our objective. Going across to Holden in 2010 means TeamVodafone is a better team and a better operation. There are multiple different things that will make us better.”

Winterbottom came from the clouds today. In the closing stages of practice he was 18th but one flying lap rocketed him to the top. Toll Holden Racing Team's Will Davison held on for third from Jim Beam's James Courtney and Wilson Security Racing's Fabian Coulthard.

“The car was quick… but I think it is still a little on edge. It is not that easy to drive," Davison said. "It was an interesting session; we made a lot of changes and we need to sit down and analyse (the data) tonight. We were happy; the car was fast and there is no need to win the Friday Grand Prix like I have a few times (this year). It was probably a relief to be bumped off there at the end."


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