Prodrive Racing Australia (now Tickford Racing) experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in 2015, from dominant race wins with both veteran Mark Winterbottom and rising star Chaz Mostert to the latter’s horrific qualifying crash at Bathurst. We look back at how the friendship between the teammates shaped the team’s incredible campaign with the then new FG X Falcon in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #128, our Ford special edition.
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It was a weekend that defined the championship. Mostert’s season-ending crash on Friday at Bathurst opened the door for Winterbottom to take control of the 2015 championship. But there he was plodding around well outside the 10 on race day, nowhere near enough to put a lock on the series and keep his 300-point lead over Craig Lowndes and David Reynolds.
On lap 102, his car was pitted in the key call of the race; the dice was rolled and he was the first onto slicks at the end of a wet stint. When Lowndes pitted on the next lap he returned to the track just in front of Winterbottom. He had jumped from nowhere into contention. The risky call worked.
Up until Bathurst the season had been all about the competitive tension between the young charger Mostert and the experienced old fox Winterbottom; different energies from two drivers at very different parts of their careers. And motor racing is all about controlling energies and maximising the return.
Prodrive Racing Australia (now known as Tickford Racing) managed it well in 2015. Hence the fact that prior to Mostert’s injury, it held first, second and third in the championship with Reynolds also coming to the party.
With Mostert out, the title was Winterbottom’s to lose, and after more than a decade of knocking on the door, his quest was made easier on Friday afternoon at Bathurst. Not that he was thinking that way; his teammate had just been hurt and it took a while to even turn his attention to the title.
“I was sitting in the car waiting to go out and they announced there had been a big crash; I knew Chaz was on the track and I was hoping it wasn’t him,” said Winterbottom.
“Then I saw the crash, and I really didn’t want to get in the car and do qualifying. It is not that I was scared or anything; I was taking an emotional battering.
“Yes, he’s a competitor, but he’s also a friend. When it happened, I was thinking about him and not the championship; I couldn’t believe it when someone asked me that a little later… ‘Are you serious?’ was my reply.
“You just don’t think that way, and at any rate, it is not how you want to win the championship.”
While the battle between Winterbottom and Mostert was fascinating, it relied on the team getting the 2015 Falcon racer right. Despite the protestation of the Holden teams, the Falcon was clearly handicapped with its aero package prior to 2015. It took a while to get some upgrades on the FG and to restore the aero balance when it had its rear wing trimmed to help the others.
The change to the FG X in 2015 gave the drivers a more stable car to race, especially under brakes, and the once under-the-pump team became the dominant force in pitlane.
With a better car to drive, the drivers were making fewer mistakes and because they were starting at the front and controlling the pace, the team was doing likewise. It looked like a different team from its previous guise as Ford Performance Racing; a united team.