Mark Winterbottom declared Tuesday’s run at Winton as “the best test day I’ve had in a long time” despite an engine failure costing considerable track running.
Already losing the first 90 minutes due to wet weather, Winterbottom was sidelined for two hours during the afternoon while his crew completed an engine change.
A warning light had seen the 2015 champion stop The Bottle-O Ford on the circuit, triggering a red flag stoppage.
Winterbottom and engineer Brendan Hogan had been midway through their program when the issue struck, forcing them to cram remaining changes into a handful of late runs.
“The guys worked ridiculously hard to get it back out,” Winterbottom told Supercars.com of how the afternoon unfolded.
“Normally they’d change an engine in 45 minutes, but at a test day you’re not as well set up to do it.
“The other crews are under the pump changing things on their cars, so there’s essentially two guys on my car, an engine guy and a couple of floaters to do it all.
“All up it cost us a couple of hours but the other cars (three team-mates) had good days with set-up directions and we fast-tracked all our changes at the end and I think we made progress.
“Everyone says they’ve had a good day and it sounds like 26 guys are going to win the next race, but we actually had a good day. It was probably the best test day I’ve had in a long time.”
Winterbottom had entered the day hoping to make progress in establishing a strong base set-up, which he says his car has been lacking through the early events.
Chaz Mostert has set the pace within the Prodrive team this year, quickly establishing a strong base alongside returnee engineer Adam De Borre.
“I think we’re pretty close to a base but unfortunately the drama hit right when we were looking good,” Winterbottom continued.
“Instead of going out again and saying ‘that’s our base car’, we had to put all the other changes in that we would have done progressively over four hours.
“But the other cars were quite quick, particularly Chaz, so we put a bit of his stuff on right at the end and it felt pretty good.
“I’ve got a lot more confidence rolling out with what we’ve got than what we had, but when you lose track time it definitely costs you, there’s no doubt.
“We’ve got to go out in Darwin now and re-evaluate it and see if it’s what we think.”
Winterbottom currently sits seventh in points, 262 adrift of Shell V-Power Racing’s championship leader Fabian Coulthard.
While the two Shell Fords and two Red Bull Holdens are looking ominously strong, Winterbottom says the points remain close enough for the season to turn around.
“We should be miles away the way we are at the moment, so the season is certainly not over,” he said.
“They (the Shell Fords) are going really quick and qualifying well. We need to get up there and put pressure on them.
“At the moment they’re running their own race. They take off, pit when they want and are dictating the races. That’s just raw speed.
“At the moment they’re doing too good a job and people need to put pressure on them to change it. When they do it’ll change what happens.
“Hopefully they didn’t find too much on their test day because they’re quick enough already.”