Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! We have finally arrived at one of the two titans of the V8 Supercars Series — this is our look at the factory operation from Ford, Ford Performance Racing.
Ford Performance Racing
#5 – Mark Winterbottom, Pepsi MAX Ford Falcon FG
#6 – Chaz Mostert, Pepsi MAX Ford Falcon FG
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 2nd
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: “Frosty” finally winning his first Bathurst 1000
There is one major question at Ford Performance Racing: “What do we have to do to beat Red Bull Racing Australia?”
It’s no secret that Ford Performance Racing and Red Bull Racing Australia have different sets of standards from the rest of the V8 Supercars field. At FPR and RBRA, the only satisfactory results are wins, and the expectation year in and year out is to win both the teams’ and drivers’ championships. They are the proverbial “Rome” and “Paris” of the V8 Supercars Championship, and are the only teams that can consistently provide a challenge to one another. Likewise, what would be a wonderful finish for any other team in the Championship is only good for FPR if it means that they beat Red Bull; otherwise, it is a failure.
By the standards of the rest of the field, FPR put up some staggering numbers: five victories between drivers Mark “Frosty” Winterbottom and and Will Davison, 19 podiums, and 30 top 5 finishes. However, those numbers were only good for second (in a tie with Brad Jones Racing, who also scored five wins), third (BJR had 20 podium finishes), and third (behind BJR’s 36 top 5 finishes) in the series, respectively.
While Red Bull Racing were not as dominant in 2013 as they were in 2012, FPR failed to make much headway from the season before; rather, it was a case of more parity throughout the V8SC field that explained the down numbers from RBRA instead of an increase in FPR’s performance.
For a season that will largely not go down as a success, FPR can claim one major victory over Red Bull from 2013: the victory in “The Great Race”, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Mark Winterbottom finally won the most prestigious race in Australian motorsport in his 11th attempt, holding off defending winner (and RBRA driver) Jamie Whincup in a thrilling battle throughout the race’s final 15 laps. Now that “Frosty” has his victory on “The Mountain”, he will likely be able to devote just that much more energy towards claiming his first V8 Supercars Driver’s Championship in 2014.
This season will see Chaz Mostert become Winterbottom’s new teammate at FPR, replacing Will Davison (who departed for Erebus Motorsport). Chaz has been a driver that the leaders at FPR have been touting as the next great V8 Supercars driver for some time, and was impressive in his half-season with Dick Johnson Racing last season. He won a race at Queensland and brought home a third-place finish in the finale at Winton in DJR’s relatively underpowered equipment; now that he has some of the best equipment in the series underneath him, the pressure will be on Mostert to deliver on the potential he has shown so far.
While the championship might be out of reach for him, a realistic target will be to beat Valvoline Racing GRM driver Scott McLaughlin in the drivers’ standings. Mostert and McLaughlin figure to be the next great V8 Supercars rivals in the future, as they have shown more promise than any of the other young drivers on the circuit; 2014 will be their first great battle to see who will be the next superstar in V8 Supercars racing.
As for Winterbottom, there is one result, and one result only, that will make his season a success — that of winning the drivers’ championship. He has the equipment to beat RBRA on any given raceday, but the issue with Winterbottom in the past few seasons (and the reason as to why he has been behind both RBRA drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes) in the championship is because of what he does when he does not have a car to beat the pair of Red Bulls.
Whereas Jamie and Craig can salvage a decent finish with a terrible car, Mark has had some flat-out bad days at the race track that ultimately make up the difference in the points. The prime examples of this came at Pukekohe, where Frosty didn’t finish above 13th in any of the four races there, and at the Circuit of the Americas, where Mark finished eighth, sixth, seventh, and sixth as Whincup won three of those four races. If Winterbottom is going to finally beat Whincup and Lowndes for the title, he will have to cut down on those bad finishes and turn them into top-fives. If he can do that, the difference between the performance level of the FPR cars and the Red Bull cars is so marginal that Frosty can go out and outrun the Red Bulls to win the title.
More consistency is needed, but the equipment and ability is there for Mark Winterbottom to claim the first V8 Supercars Drivers’ Championship for a Ford since James Courtney won the title with Dick Johnson Racing in 2010.
For more information about Ford Performance Racing, visit http://www.fpr.com.au/.