Prodrive Racing Australia - Ford's striking force in the Supercars championship
Prodrive Racing Australia, founded in 2003, is the team which competes in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship.
The team based in Campbellfield was founded in 2003 when the British motorsport and advanced engineering group Prodrive purchased Glenn Seton Racing team. The first step was renaming the team to Ford Performance Racing. The idea was the promotion of the Melbourne-based manufacturer Ford Performance Vehicles which was owned by Prodrive.
Ambitious project had a slow start
The new team has big ambitions. The program was expanded and FPR fielded three cars instead of only one. Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes, and David Besnard were the drivers in the team’s first year which was marked by Craig’s win at Phillip Island Circuit. Lowndes finished 5th in the standings what was a solid achievement for the start.
In 2004 Ford Performance Racing reduced the program to two cars, driven by Lowndes and Seton. However, that season was really poor for the team. Even after taking the 2nd place at Bathurst, Seton and Lowndes couldn’t be happy with their final results as they finished 15th and 20th respectively.
Both drivers left the team in 2005. Greg Ritter and Jason Bright were brought as the replacements. Bright had a solid campaign and finished 9th in the final standings, while Ritter struggled and was replaced with David Brabham for the last two rounds. FPR finished 8th in the Teams’ Championship that year.
FPR’s progress began in 2006
Mark Winterbottom joined Jason Bright in 2006 as one of the drivers of Ford BA Falcons. That was very good year for Ford Performance Racing which finished 2nd in the Teams’ championship. Winterbottom finished 3rd in the Drivers’ championship with two race wins and numerous podium finishes in his account, while Bright, who scored five wins that year, was 5th overall. Driving alongside, they won Sandown 500, one of the most important races of the season.
Bright left FPR in 2007 and was replaced by Steven Richards. FPR already was established as one of the best teams in V8 Supercars championship and that was proved during that season. The team dropped to the 4th position in the Teams’ championship after Winterbottom won two races, both in Bahrain, while Richards was triumphant at Surfers Paradise.
The most disappointing moment that year definitely was when Winterbottom left the circuit late in the race while leading at Bathurst. However, both drivers were among Top 10 in the final standings – Mark ended 5th and Steven 7th.
Winterbottom led Ford Performance Racing
The same pair of drivers was in 2008 and again both did well. Winterbottom was the title contender until the last round when his form dropped and lost the battle for the trophy to Jamie Whincup. However, Frosty, what is Winterbottom’s nickname, had a wonderful first half of the campaign during which he scored no less than seven race wins.
On the other side, Richards won only once, at Hidden Valley Raceway, but had many strong finishes before taking the 8th place overall. Nevertheless, his results helped the team to finish 2nd in the Teams’ championship, losing to Triple Eight Race Engineering, by only 55 points.
In 2009, when new Ford FG Falcon was introduced, Winterbottom and Richards failed to repeat good results from the previous campaign. Mark scored two wins before finishing 5th overall but Richards dropped to the 13th position after having just two podiums that year. The team finished 4th in 2009 Supercars standings.
Chasing the big rival in the Teams’ championship
For the second time in his career, Winterbottom was close to the title in 2010. He was in fine form during the whole season, scored three race wins and plenty of podiums, but that wasn’t enough for the triumph, so he finished 3rd overall, behind James Courtney and Jamie Whincup. Unfortunately, Richards’ results have continued to deteriorate and he dropped to the 15th position. For the second year in the row, Ford Performance Racing finished 4th in the Teams’ championship.
It wasn’t surprising when Richards was replaced with Will Davison for the season of 2011. That change resulted with better results and FPR moved up to the 2nd place in the standings. Winterbottom again was among title contenders but again finished 3rd, behind Whincup and Lowndes, while Davison was 7th.
The 2012 season was even better and FPR narrowly missed the title, again after the tight battle with Triple Eight Racing Engineering. Winterbottom and Davison had a strong start of campaign. They won 9 out of 13 races, but later in the year they scored only two more wins but having numerous podiums. At the end of the campaign, Mark and Will were 3rd and 4th respectively.
The team got new owners in 2013
In 2013, the team went through another overhaul. Prodrive sold the team to Rod Nash and Rusty French. The next chapter of the history started well for the team. Winterbottom won the Bathurst 1000 before finishing 4th in the standings, but Davison now was the one who was better as he finished 3rd in the standings, despite having less number of wins than his teammate. FPR again was as a vice-champion.
Chaz Mostert joined the team in 2014, replacing Davison. The new driver immediately met the expectations after winning the Bathurst 1000. However, Frosty had the upper hand at the end of the season as he finished 3rd in the standings, while Chaz was 7th. Unfortunately, the team again wasn’t able to climb to the throne and had to settle for the another runner-up title.
FPR became Prodrive Racing Australia and finally wins the title
Finally, in 2015 the team has changed its name to Prodrive Racing Australia. That was caused after Ford decided to pull out from the Supercars championship, starting from 2016. The team introduced new Ford FG X Falcon and that year one trophy finally was won. Mark Winterbottom became a champion after scoring nine race wins, including Sandown 500. Frosty that year also finished 2nd at Bathurst.
However, the team again wasn’t successful in assault to the trophy and again finished behind its biggest rival Triple Eight Race Engineering. Probably the main reason for losing that battle was Mostert’s injury in the qualifying for the Bathurst 1000. Earlier in the year he was in very good form but was forced to miss the last four rounds. His replacements were unable to emulate Chaz’s results what proved to be decisive for losing the Teams’ championship battle in the final round.
Winterbottom failed in an attempt to defend his crown in 2016 as he finished 6th in the points, just in front of Mostert, while Prodrive Racing Australia dropped to the 4th position in the V8 Supercars Championship.
Since 2010 the team prepares cars for the customer teams. Rod Nash Racing was the first who arrived under the Prodrive’s umbrella and later was joined by Charlie Schwerkolt Racing, Super Black Racing, and Britek Motorsport. Over the years, Prodrive Racing has run a number of customer cars for other franchises.
The team is also involved in the development series as well as in Dunlop V8 Supercars Series. The biggest success was achieved in 2016 when Garry Jacobson and Jack Le Brocq finished 1st and 2nd respectively, winning 11 out of 16 races for the team.