In a repeat of the 2003 result, Ford Performance Racing drivers Craig Lowndes and Glenn Seton secured second place in a thrilling Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 at Mount Panorama.
The CAT FPR Falcon drivers displayed their intentions to challenge for the race win early, with Lowndes powering from ninth on the grid up to fourth by lap 25. The triple Champion then used the opportunity of a caution period re-start to vault from fourth to first on the climb up Mount Panorama. Lowndes, who celebrated his 10th anniversary at Bathurst today, retained the lead and set the fastest lap of the race in the mid stages.
He extended FPR's lead before making the first of eight pit stops during the race (three more than any of the lead competitors) to hand the car over to co-driver Seton.
"It was an up and down race for us, as we made eight pit stops as I'm sure everyone noticed," he said. "We had a slight problem with engine oil pressure throughout the race and we needed to keep topping up the oil tank to ensure that we would be able to finish the race. We had enough safety cars to keep us on the lead lap which was fortunate. I had a great first stint and Glenn did a fantastic job during his two stints.
"It was a bit hard as we didn't know when we were coming in to pit due to the problem, but we kept at it as hard as we could. This is a tremendous result for the team after the season that we have had - obviously we would love to have gone one step further, but passing Bowe was no mean feat and with six laps left after that there was no way to catch Murphy."
Seton drove two strong stints during the race, ensuring that FPR retained the lead well into the next driver change. The 39 year old double champion will have to try once again in 2005 to win the elusive Bathurst title he has always craved after claiming his third Bathurst runner-up trophy in 21 years.
"I am very happy with this result - just to be on the Bathurst podium is fantastic," he said afterwards. "I definitely don't mind finishing second if you can't finish first - and it is a great way to mark my 21st start. It was great teaming up with Craig again, we worked very well together throughout the week. We got the car into pretty good shape and we worked very hard in the race. I'm thankful to the team for the effort that they have made, as we have had a pretty hard year and we have come to Bathurst and finished second.
For Ford Credit FPV Falcon drivers Adam Macrow and Alain Menu, the race started with promisingly after an strong opening stint by Macrow.
The youngster raced from 33rd (and last) to first in a super-fast 34 lap stint, matching the pace of the leading competitors. However, Menu was six laps into his stint
when he encountered slow traffic at the top of the mountain.
An overtaking move turned into an accident at Forest Elbow which damaged the steering of the car. After losing several laps in the pit garage, the team made the difficult decision to retire it from the race.
"Not long after I started my stint I was getting baulked by a train of cars across the top of the mountain," the Swiss star said. "I saw some cars overtaking one of the WPS cars which was wide on the outside through Forest Elbow and I followed them, then the driver turned in and we touched, damaging the steering rack.
"We tried to repair the problem but the car was impossible to drive - the crew worked hard to replace the rack but we lost too many laps in the process to warrant continuing. It was a shame for Adam after his great opening stint and for the team after preparing and developing such a fast and reliable car for this race."
After his strong showing at the start of the race, Macrow was understandably disappointed with the final result.
"It was very disappointing end to what was shaping up to be a great race," he said. "I had an absolutely fantastic car - the car was the best that it has been all weekend - awesome engine power and great brakes. Full credit to the FPR crew for giving me such a weapon that even with a full fuel load was as fast, if not faster than the best out there.
"I pushed very, very hard during the race to make up for our mistake in qualifying and we certainly did that - there is no doubt that we were in line for a top ten finish today."
Chief engineer John Russell was delighted with the second place finish, and was also impressed by the pace shown by Macrow during his opening stint in the race.
"A fantastic team effort and good luck brought Glenn and Craig their second successive runner-up place at Bathurst," he said. "Adam Macrow drove a remarkable first stint from the back of the field to be placed only two cars behind Craig when he made his stop. Unfortunately Alain was involved in an incident which damaged the steering and the repair took too long for us to continue and not interfere with other people's racing. All in all, today we demonstrated FPR has great car speed, strategy and reliability."
For Nick Fry, managing director of the Prodrive Group, the Bathurst race was an encouraging sign that the team is heading in the right direction.
"A fantastic team effort from everybody," he said. "From where we were at Winton to where we are now is a tribute to every single person in the team. They have all pulled together, the motivation is absolutely fantastic and it is all coming together. There is a lot of hard work still to be done but we are definitely on the right track."