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Ford's Frosty fit for opener

Mark Winterbottom uses every centimetre of track during testing at Winton raceway.

Driver Mark Winterbottom, in particular, carries plenty of momentum and confidence into this weekend's Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, albeit the opening round of the season.

The 26-year-old finished 2007 in sensational form, showing remarkable speed at Sandown and Bathurst, before winning the penultimate round at Bahrain in the Middle East.

He is rated among the leading contenders for 2008, along with reigning champion Garth Tander and Triple Eight Ford pair Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.

“I think the momentum carries on,” said Winterbottom.

“The morale in the team is really high because of the way we finished last year. A lot of them didn't want to take the Christmas break off."

“Everyone's feeling confident and feeling this year is our best chance.”

The man they call “Frosty” feels he is in the peak fitness of his career going into Clipsal, regarded the most physically demanding race on the calendar.

His only concern is race fitness, having not spent a lot of time behind the wheel over the past couple of months.

“I feel really, really good this year. I trained really hard for Christmas. I can run further, swim further — a lot of better things fitness-wise,” said Winterbottom.

“But when you hop in those cars, any fitness you have is almost irrelevant because they're really hot — you're working muscles you don't really work."

“When you go into Clipsal without being in a car for a while you can be a little underdone."

“But this is my fifth season now, so my experience is probably more important than any of the fitness training I've done.”

Holden veteran Russell Ingall celebrates his 44th birthday on Sunday, as the race celebrates its 10th.

He warned that even though he might be getting older, he was still just as eager.

“I'm looking forward to Clipsal more than my birthday,” said Ingall, who has returned to Holden after five years with Ford."

“You can't stop getting older, that's life. You can only hope and plan for the best, and the best birthday present I could wish for is to come out of the box and win straight up in Adelaide.”

Just 16 of the 31 car-driver combinations from last year's Clipsal have carried over into the 2008 V8 Supercar Championship Series.

Those missing are Dean Canto and Jack Perkins, who will both line up in the Fujitsu Series, the retired Brad Jones and John Bowe, the now defunct WPS Racing's Max Wilson and Jason Bargwanna, as well as Steve Owen, Adam Macrow and Alan Gurr.