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Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday March 13, 2010

Daniel Lewis

ON HIS Twitter account this week, Mark Winterbottom said: "I'm hoping some new bits will arrive on Tuesday to be bolted on to my car just in time for it to roll into the truck. I'm looking forward to racing in front of Aussie fans and confident my car will be the best car i have ever driven over 78 laps around the Adelaide street circuit."With V8 Supercars about to run its first domestic round of the 2010 season in front of a big Adelaide crowd after two fly-aways in the Middle East, every Ford fan in Australia is hoping those "bits" Winterbottom mentioned will give his Falcon an edge over the Holden Commodore of TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup, who is aiming for a third straight championship after a stunning start to the season, winning all four races in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain last month. Winterbottom flew the flag defiantly for Ford, with three seconds and a third. In the last race in Bahrain, he pushed Whincup hard most of the way, forcing him to make some uncharacteristic mistakes.The Clipsal 500 in Adelaide - where the V8 season usually begins - has not previously been a happy hunting ground for Winterbottom. Since first racing there in 2004, his "pretty average" record boasts a second in 2008, but he has also had "did not finish" against his name several times.The new "bits" are roll bar adjustors that will better enable Winterbottom to finetune his car in the middle of a race. "In the past we haven't had that adjustability," he said. With the turn of a blade, he can now effectively change the "roll stiffness" of the car, which affects how the car handles. Winterbottom said being able to better control roll "could be the difference between second and first. You only need a little bit and hopefully that's enough. It gives you pace over the distance. Over in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain I was quicker than [Whincup] at times in the race, but without adjustability you are limited."[Good roll bar control] won't give you outright speed, but it will give you pace over 78 laps. As the rear tyre starts to wear you adjust the bar. We run an 80-litre [fuel] tank and 80 litres is about 65 kilograms so [as the tank empties] the ride height of the rear will change quite a lot so you have got to adjust for that. It's just keeping on top of the car before it starts to lose time. So if it drops a 10th of a second you should be able to get that back by adjustability."Winterbottom said Whincup had been able to pull away from him in the Middle East because he had been able to adjust his car mid-race."It's about knowing the right time to do the right change."Drivers practised on the 3.2-kilometre Adelaide Parklands circuit yesterday for the 250-kilometre races today and tomorrow.Whincup had his car blessed by a Catholic priest this week in the city of churches, where he has shown a religious fervour for winning. In 2008 and 2009, when TeamVodafone was still driving Fords, Whincup claimed every race. You have to go back to 2007, when brothers Todd and Rick Kelly claimed a race each, to find an Adelaide podium that didn't have Whincup on the top step.

© 2010 Sydney Morning Herald

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