Ford Performance Racing pairing Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards have admitted that the L&H 500 at Phillip Island this weekend will play a crucial part in helping to decide the destiny of the 2008 V8 Supercar Championship title.
The FPR team goes into the weekend leading the teams' title race while Winterbottom is second in the drivers standings – but the Phillip Island event could prove critical to the title race with the points on offer.
Two races on Saturday, with each driver taking part in one and the combined points from both making up the grid for the main event, will be worth 50 points each while the L&H 500 on Sunday will be worth 200 points and Richards admitted that a good result would be critical to keeping title hopes on track.
“These next two races are probably the most important in our championship with 300 points up for grabs at each,” he said. “Two solid results could move us into first and second in the championship; one bad result could put us out of contention.
“Our preparation has been unbelievable though; we've had a good couple of tests and we're working together really well. We went through a regimented process whereas the other guys on track seemed more bothered about doing quick times.
“I think the new qualifying format is going to be really challenging and pretty exciting. It will keep everyone on their toes and gets us out of the usual rut, which is good for the category.”
The team heads into the weekend on the back of two solid test days since the last round of the year at Winton and Winterbottom said that the decision to pair him with Richards following those tests showed that the team was focused on victory.
“Winton wasn't a great result for me; I lost the lead of the championship but in retrospect it probably wasn't such a bad thing,” he said. “These next two races are the most important in the season and the worst approach would have been complacency. I'm certainly not that now!
“We've put all our eggs in one basket with me and Richo being in the one car so we've got to get a good result or both our championships suffer. We could have teamed up with our other drivers and split the odds, but we want to win.”
Dean Canto and Luke Youlden will team together in the Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon for the weekend.