1 January 1901
FPR takes 1-2 in Darwin opener.
Ford drivers Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards played the diplomat card after a tumultuous few days for the Blue Oval that ended - at least for today - with the first 1-2 for the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing team at the SkyCity Triple Crown in Darwin.
Winterbottom and Richards completely outclassed their opponents just days after Ford announced it would back only FPR and Stone Brothers Racing from 2009, outside of assisting teams with the conversion to the new generation FG Falcon.
“It's really irrelevant what has gone on,” championship leader Winterbottom insisted, “All that stuff is good for publicity but, when it comes to winning races, it really doesn't make much difference. There's the money side as one thing, but there's a lot of other things in the background that helps you win races. All the Ford guys have got support and the guys are going to have [ongoing] FG support.”
Winterbottom said that today's domination of the field, with Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander a distant third, was not justification of any recent decisions, but simply good preparation.
“What has happened in the last week doesn't make you appreciate a win any more, or strive you to win any differently,” he claimed, “We have been trying to get a 1-2 for a while now but, whether it was 'Richo' in New Zealand or me in Perth, we just haven't had two cars at the same time that are competitive.”
Richards had a similar view. The veteran has been in the Championship as long as most and has seen many changes along the way.
“The economy changes, the objectives change and, when things are not as they used to be, things have to be changed,” he said, “I'm not privy to the reasons why or what happened but, at the end of the day, Ford are still supporting the teams and they have committed to parts and FG Falcons next year. We, as individuals, are trying to do the best job for FPR and our sponsors. Clearly, the teams will survive, move on and, in a month or so, it won't be quite as sharp of a pain that it is now.”
Issues aside, Tander put it bluntly when it came to describing the first of three races this weekend.
“Those guys were certainly in a league of their own in that race,” the reigning champion admitted, “Our car wasn't good at all, and we have a lot of work to do. [But], third with an evil car means there is a lot of promise for tomorrow.”
Ford's domination of proceedings continued throughout the top five, with Team Vodafone pairing Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes next up, ahead of a mixed group comprising Sprint Gas Tasman's Jason Richards and Supercheap's Russell Ingall for Holden, with HSV Dealer Team leader Rick Kelly sandwiched in ninth between the Fords of Will Davison and James Courtney.
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