A tough run in a race it finished first and third last year highlighted Tickford Racing's "deficiency in some areas", believes Chaz Mostert after the RABBLE.club Sandown 500.
Mostert and James Moffat were Tickford's best finisher in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup opener in 10th, 58 seconds behind winners Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell.
The team's three other Fords all finished more than a lap down, with Cameron Waters/David Russell 13th, Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto 17th and Richie Stanaway/Steve Owen 20th.
Last year, Waters and Stanaway won at Sandown and were joined on the podium by eventual Enduro Cup winners Mostert and Owen in third.
In the pursuit of straightline speed in the 2018 event, the team had to trim the aerodynamics of its FG X Falcons, hurting rear grip and in turn exacerbating tyre wear.
“It was a tough day," Mostert said, whose Supercheap Auto Ford started seventh.
"This race really showed our deficiency in some areas.
"Even though it’s not the result we want, at least it’s a 500-kilometre race that gives us a clear indication of things we need to work on.
"We’ve got to look forward in these tough times, there are some positives in our-one lap speed, but we just really struggled for constant race pace, and that was probably the thing that cost us the most.”
Waters felt "P13 is OK on the whole" but noted "we've got a few deficits to work on".
Canto jumped from fifth to third at the start in the Bottle-O Falcon, and ran there through the first stint.
The car was seventh when he handed it over to Winterbottom, before tyre life deteriorated in sunnier conditions.
“The car did the same thing all weekend, to be honest, and the race was the worst it was," Winterbottom said.
"I don’t know what it is yet, but the car dropped off a cliff.
"After about 20 laps we were reasonably competitive, but then we dropped off a cliff and we really struggled.
"The next stint we really struggled, I couldn’t turn into the corner without losing the rear, and once it stopped sliding it would understeer.
"Three years ago we won, today I got lapped, tough day.”
In a trying rookie season, Stanaway classed his day with Owen as "pretty smooth" after losing track position.
"It’s a bit of a weird feeling, being so successful here last year with Cam and finishing 20th 12 months later," he noted.
"But hopefully in 12 months we can be back up the pointy end here."