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Prodrive Racing (Australia) duo Mark Winterbottom and Dean Canto finally put their experience and obvious pace to good use, charging from ninth on the grid to finish just one spot shy of the podium in the opening race of the Castrol Gold Coast 600.

After a frustrating qualifying session blighted by kerb sensor issues the team took the unusual step to start Winterbottom in the #1 The Bottle-O Ford.

Against a field of co-drivers he made what he described as one of the best starts of his career to vault to fourth in the opening laps. That soon became third and after he handed over to Canto during a safety car stop, they found themselves second.

As strategies played out Canto stayed in the top 10 before handing over to Winterbottom in fourth – a position he held until race end.

Steve Owen started alongside Winterbottom and enjoyed a similarly strong start to the race despite not enjoying the handling of his #55 Supercheap Auto machine.

Race strategy and safety cars dictated he ran a lot longer than normal but when he handed over to Mostert a high overall finish was on the cards.

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Mostert, like his co-driver, was unhappy with the set-up and would find the tyre bundle at Turn 11 late in the race.

This dropped him out of the top 10 only for late race dramas to see him move back to ninth by the chequered flag.

Kiwi duo Richie Stanaway and Chris Pither avoided early mid-pack chaos and drove a measured race to secure 10th place, an encouraging result on Stanaway’s Gold Coast Supercars debut.

Stable mates Cameron Waters and Jack Le Brocq had an early finish after Le Brocq made contact with the Turn 11 wall, damaging the Monster Energy Ford and putting the duo out of the race before Waters was able to take the reins.

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DRIVERS’ VIEW
Mark Winterbottom – #1 The Bottle-O PRA Ford: 4th
Qualifying: 9th
Race: 4th

“It was a tough day but we did a really good job with the strategy. I questioned the engineers a lot but we stuck to it and it paid off. It was cool to race hard early and have a good start and pass a lot of cars. Dean did a great job to hold off the main guys in his stint. In general we were fourth-to-fifth quickest and we finished fourth so to do that you have to be pretty happy with where we ended the race. The pit stops were great and we had a very good race overall.”

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Dean Canto – #1 The Bottle-O PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 9th
Race: 4th

“We rolled the dice with a different strategy and it started to work out ok when I got in for the first pit stop. The safety car then came out and it hurt our strategy but I put my head down and only a couple of the regular drivers got past me. I minimised the loss from there and then our last driver change was our best of the Enduro Cup and that allowed us to jump a few spots in the pit stop. Overall the speed of the pit stops and the strategy gave us a better result than if I had started. We need to work on the car to bridge the gap to the top three.”

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Cameron Waters – #6 Monster Energy PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 18th
Race: DNF

“We didn’t quite get it together in qualifying and lost a couple of tenths in the back chicane. Jack had a good start and stayed out of trouble despite getting a bit of damage from the big pile up at the hairpin. Unfortunately he clipped the wall at Turn 11 and that put us out. Hopefully the car isn’t too damaged but I know the crew will get it back out there for tomorrow. It is disappointing but watching the race showed me some areas where I can improve for tomorrow so I’ll put that to good use tomorrow.”

Jack Le Brocq – #6 Monster Energy PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 18th
Race: DNF

“The race was going ok even though the car was wounded from earlier in the race when there was a big incident at Turn 4. I was just going through the motions of the race and the rear of the car was getting looser. In the entry to Turn 11 I hit the inside wall and that pitched us into the outside wall which wasn’t good and ended our day. Hopefully we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

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Chaz Mostert – #55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 10th
Race: 9th

“I didn’t do the best job in qualifying and that made it harder for Steve starting further down the pack. He did a really good job to stay out of the drama that was going on and he handed me back a straight car. We just didn’t have the pace and I didn’t feel comfortable and to do fast lap times was easy but the tyres went off which hurt me the most. We need to work on our platform tonight and see what we can come up with for tomorrow.”

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Steve Owen – #55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 10th
Race: 9th

“It was a tricky day and a very long stint for a co-driver. That said, we ran up the front and everything went ok but I found the car hard to drive and it obviously caught Chaz out. We need to find some pace overnight because we can’t match the speed of the lead few guys.”

Chris Pither – #111 Super Black PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 17th
Race: 10th

“I think we had a reasonable finish from where we started and I think we can learn more from qualifying today and maximise our speeds through the chicanes tomorrow which will make us relatively competitive. If we can tickle the car up a bit and start further up the field I think we are on for a higher overall finish inside the top 10.”

Richie Stanaway – #111 Super Black PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 17th
Race: 10th

“It was good fun today and I came through with Steve and just tried to follow him and keep up with the pace. I didn’t get a lot of practice so I just wanted to build up to the limit without making mistakes as it is easy to do here. I chipped away and got a lot more laps than what I was anticipating. I am pretty happy to finish in the top 10 which was a great result for us. We can make the car quite a bit better overnight so there is big room for improvement which should lead to a better run.”

Tim Edwards – Team Principal:

“As usual at this track it was a day of extremes and we enjoyed and endured in equal measure. Starting Frosty had its risks but the team backed each other and we made it work to our benefit which was encouraging for everyone. There are lots of stories out of today but we know we need to qualify better and if we can do that it will make a big difference to our final results if we can start higher up. It will be a busy night but we all feel we can make the necessary steps forward.”

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Prodrive Racing (Australia) endured a tough end to the Castrol Gold Coast 600 with Mark Winterbottom narrowly missing the podium in fifth after a valiant drive with a less-than perfect handling car.

He finished just ahead of team-mate Chaz Mostert who came home sixth with Cameron Waters finishing where he qualified in 14th.

Winterbottom’s co-driver Dean Canto again impressed, making a strong start despite getting boxed in. By the time he pitted and handed the car over to the champion the #1 Ford was second overall.

Winterbottom battled hard and was in the podium positions until the closing laps where he dropped a couple of places as he struggled for pace.

Mostert’s race was similar with Steve Owen also starting strongly and racing at the front until passing off to the #55’s regular pilot.

Like his team-mate he fought hard and stayed well inside the top five until the end of the race.

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Junior pairing Cameron Waters and Jack Le Brocq enjoyed a much more favourable day, with Le Brocq running without incident and gaining valuable experience in just his second start on the Gold Coast.

Minor contact in the pack early slightly bent the #6’s steering but the duo battled on to record a finish and gain much-needed points.

Kiwi duo Chris Pither and Richie Stanaway suffered at the hands of the track’s concrete barriers with broken steering after contact knocking the #111 pairing out early in the race.

Earlier in qualifying Winterbottom and Mostert survived a tense session to advance to the top 10 shootout. The tight time gaps saw Waters miss the cut by just 0.15s to qualify an eventual p14 while Pither was a further two spots back in 16th.

In the shootout Mostert improved two places despite a wild lap, while Winterbottom set the eighth-fastest time in the one-lap session.

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DRIVERS’ VIEW
Mark Winterbottom – #1 The Bottle-O PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 7th
Top 10 Shootout: 8th
Race: 5th

“We did a good job, the whole team did, to get us up the front and to be second just behind the outright leader after I got in the car was exactly what we needed. From there the bottom line is that we didn’t have the pace. Everyone is trying hard and it isn’t through lack of effort which is frustrating as we are all pushing hard. We got the most out of what we had but we have two more events remaining and will keep developing new things to bridge the gap.”

Dean Canto – #1 The Bottle-O PRA Ford:

“I was getting hopeful we were going to finish third so I could complete the full set of surfboard trophies as I’ve finished first and second here before, but it wasn’t to be. I knew Mark had a tough task ahead of him as he had to save fuel, the car wasn’t the greatest and I thought we might’ve had enough margin but clearly we didn’t. It is a shame not to be on the podium but we moved forward in both races and the car only has a few minor marks on it. It has been a very tough endurance campaign for Mark and me. It would’ve been nice to spray some champagne at some point but we’ll have to leave it at that for this year.”

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Cameron Waters – #6 Monster Energy PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 14th
Race: 14th

“We didn’t really have the car performance we wanted. It was good to get to race and to finish where we started. It was also good to finish in general as we haven’t been finishing many races lately but overall we weren’t happy with the set-up we had this weekend. There is some homework to do.”

Jack Le Brocq – #6 Monster Energy PRA Ford:

“It was a much better day today. I wanted to make sure I got through the race unscathed and while I was a bit hesitate at the start, I was feeling my way back into it after the crash. We got battered again at the start and the steering was bent from the first lap which wasn’t ideal. On the positive side we saved a lot fuel in the middle part of the race before Cam got in the car in 12th. He had a bit of a wounded car and came home 14th but we finished where we started.”

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Chaz Mostert – #55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 8th
Top 10 Shootout: 6th
Race: 6th

“We struggled to really dial the car in all weekend so we will have to make sure we come back next year with a pretty aggressive set-up and some new ideas to get our pace back as we’ve traditionally been in contention at Surfers Paradise. Today was a bit of a hard slog – we started sixth and Steve drove so well. He was in the top two or three co-drivers for pace but he wasn’t happy with the pace of the car either. When I jumped in I tried my hardest but just couldn’t quite match the pace of the guys around me. I wish we were further forward but we have a straight car and head to Pukekohe where we’ve had a lot of good results so we are confident we’ll bounce back.”

Steve Owen – #55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford:

“It was a pretty tough weekend as we didn’t have the car speed to finish where our one-lap pace was. We did however collect a lot of points and the car is straight which is no small feat at this track. It is a quick turnaround to New Zealand so the debrief and planning for the next round will be important. The championship is fairly tight so if we can have a few strong results Chaz can jump up higher in the points.”

Chris Pither – #111 Super Black PRA Ford:
Qualifying: 16th
Race: DNF

“Today we suffered at the harsh hands of the Surfers Paradise concrete walls. Richie attempted a pass and it didn’t quite come off but sadly the consequences were terminal. Broken steering resulted in contact with the wall and we were out on the spot.”

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Tim Edwards – Team Principal:

“Today was a disappointing day for all of us as while we worked well as a team, strategised correctly and performed great pit stops, we simply did not have the pace required to get on the podium. Mark and Chaz fought hard late in the race and did what they could but we simply aren’t where we need to be pace-wise. There is work to be done but we will regroup and give it our all next time out. It is a quick turnaround to New Zealand, we enjoy racing at Pukekohe and I have no doubt we will be challenging at the front when we get there.”

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GOLD COAST 600 – RESULTS
RACE 22
1) Shane van Gisbergen/Alex Premat – Triple Eight
2) Scott McLaughlin/David Wall – GRM
3) Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell – Triple Eight
4) Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto – Prodrive Racing Australia
5) James Moffatt/James Golding – GRM
9) Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen – Supercheap Auto Racing
10) Chris Pither/Richie Stanaway – Super Black Racing
DNF) Cameron Waters/Jack Le Brocq – Prodrive Racing Australia

RACE 23
1) Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell – Triple Eight
2) Shane van Gisbergen/Alex Premat – Triple Eight
3) Scott McLaughlin/David Wall – GRM
4) Craig Lowndes/Steve Richards – Triple Eight
5) Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto – Prodrive Racing Australia
6) Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen – Supercheap Auto Racing
14) Cameron Waters/Jack Le Brocq – Prodrive Racing Australia
DNF) Chris Pither/Richie Stanaway – Super Black Racing

DRIVER CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1) Shane van Gisbergen – Triple Eight: 2812
2) Jamie Whincup – Triple Eight: 2664
3) Craig Lowndes – Triple Eight: 2427
4) Scott McLaughlin – Garry Rogers Motorsport: 2351
5) Will Davison – Tekno: 2235
6) Mark Winterbottom – Prodrive Racing: 2139
7) Chaz Mostert – Prodrive Racing: 2039
17) Cameron Waters – Prodrive Racing: 1296
18) Chris Pither– Super Black Racing: 1249