There's more speed to come!
That's the message from Prodrive Racing Australia (PRA), which after three 2015 V8 Supercars events is confident the new FG X Falcon has the potential speed to be a championship winner.
While it has yet to claim a championship race or pole position this year, the new Falcon did slay its rivals in both qualifying and the races at the F1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix where Pepsi Max's Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert recorded four consecutive 1-2s.
And in the most recent championship outing at the Tyrepower Tasmania Supersprint the four PRA Falcons qualified in the top 10 10 times out of a possible 12 and finished the races in the top 10 eight times out of a possible 12.
Last year, the four PRA (then Ford Performance Racing) FG II Falcons managed five finishes in the top 10 in both qualifying and races at Symmons Plains.
"We are confident the steps have been made in the right direction and things can only get better from this point," PRA chief engineer Nathaniel Osborne told v8supercars.com.au.
"We feel we can improve the car further again. Every time we run the car we find gains and new avenues for improvement so I think we have definitely made steps forward and the results are a good indication of that."
The FG X is a thorough aerodynamic overhaul of the FG II, which shifts the balance rearward, meaning more grip for the rear tyres, which should in theory improve single lap speed and reduce the Falcon's tendency to lock rear brakes.
That's achieved by a redesign of the front bumper cheeks, an extension of the undertray and the movement of the rear wing further back and down. The wing is also bigger, has two more degrees of adjustment and a bigger gurney flap.
The team has also been allowed to pare some weight off the biggest and heaviest car in the field by moving to an integrated bumper and headlight and moving away from standard radiator supports.
"We know to win these championship you have to win races and we feel whenever we go to the rounds we have no doubt we can now win races," explained Osborne, who also led the FG X aero development program.
"Sometimes last year we felt happy if we could hang on to a podium or top five, but we are going to every round now with the expectation that we can win. That is our goal and if you win races you win championships.
"There is definitely a sense of confidence and achievement within the team that we can get the job done this year."
If Osborne's prediction does pan out it would be PRA's first driver or team championship and come in the final year of Ford factory participation in V8 Supercars
Osborne said a crucial advantage of the FG X was its consistency, which allowed Winterbottom, Mostert and their team-mates David Reynolds (Bottle-O) and rookie Andre Heimgartner (Super Black) more confidence.
"The car is a lot easier to get a lap time out of," explained Osborne. "Every time we go out the guys are learning more and more about how they are going to generate the speed and how to change the set-up to maximise that.
"They all report it (FG X) is much more consistent and much more stable, so instead of being scared half the time they are able to focus on where they need to improve and where their lap time is disappearing.
"The boys are able to run at the front when they can get the package correct. It shows they are very capable and have a lot of potential."
Those front-running results included a front row start for Reynolds in Race 6 and Heimgartner's exceptional top 10 qualifying and finish in the same race.
Osborne said a key area that needed to be worked on was extracting ultimate qualifying speed from the FG X on the Dunlop hard tyre.
"It's something we haven't got on top of and we find it a lot easier to get going on the soft tyre," he conceded. "We are not terrible ... but we don't seem to perform as well as on the soft
"You could see that a little bit in Tasmania where we had the two compounds and very competitive cars on the soft tyre but not as competitive on the hard - just lingering around the bottom of the top 10. We were up at the top of the 10 on the soft tyre."
For all the promising speed of the FG X Osborne acknowledged the start to the 2015 championship belongs to the Holden Commodore, which has claimed every pole and race win - with four of the six wins accounted for by Red Bull Racing Australia's Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes.
The VF II Commodore has also gone through its own aerodynamic adjustment for 2015, with 20mm added to the front undertray and the rear wing moved up 60mm, back 20mm and its maximum angle slightly reduced in search of a drag reduction.
"We feel we have made some big gains in the off season but clearly there are some other teams that made big gains too and they are just doing a slightly better job at the moment and getting the most out of their car," said Osborne.
"It is not a big gap. I feel we are going to have our weekends where we are going to have good results and maybe we will come away with fastest laps and stuff like that."