Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom had to settle for the final spot on the podium in the Falken Tasmania Challenge at Symmons Plains Raceway on Saturday.

Track positions changed continually during the opening race of the weekend as unsettled weather sent cars spinning into the gravel or dashing for the pits. In a bold strategic move, 'Frosty' was the first to opt for wets and the leaders soon followed.

After that he and championship rival Jamie Whincup stuck together for most of the 50 laps in a bumper-to-bumper fight for the title. The two clashed more than once, in one instance bending the Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon's steering.

The damage cost 'Frosty' his advantage and he had to settle for third behind Whincup.

"That was a great race but it was tough just to stay on in the early stages," said Winterbottom. "Whether to put wets or slicks on was crucial and we were the pioneers to come in and make the change. We had the right strategy and the right car to win but Jamie and I banged wheels and bent the steering quite badly.

"The racing was hard but clean. Some people were raging through and you had to decide whether to push hard and catch them. Only one in five stayed on the track and unfortunately one of them was Whincup and I just couldn't catch him."

Steve Richards meanwhile was an early victim of the treacherous conditions. After defending team-mate 'Frosty' in the hectic opening laps, the Castrol FPR Falcon pushed hard to regain position but was put out of the race when Lee Holdsworth turned in on him.

"Holdsworth had something happen at turn six and a couple of cars got up the inside including me," Richards reflected. "I wasn't quite level but enough that he should have given me a bit of room but he just turned across the front of me.

"I actually straightened him up! The collision plucked my wheel off and damaged the right front suspension."



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