Bahrain: Caltex Racing preview

CALTEX DRIVERS CHASE THE DESERT 400 IN BAHRAIN Caltex supported V8 Supercar drivers will be striving to become the first winner of the Desert 400 when the V8 Supercar Championship Series makes its inaugural visit to Bahrain this weekend. The...

CALTEX DRIVERS CHASE THE DESERT 400 IN BAHRAIN

Caltex supported V8 Supercar drivers will be striving to become the first winner of the Desert 400 when the V8 Supercar Championship Series makes its inaugural visit to Bahrain this weekend.

The state-of-the-art Bahrain International Circuit is host to Round 12 of the championship, the first round of the series to be held in the Middle East and the second to be held outside of Australasia, following on from last year's round in Shanghai, China.

Like the Shanghai International Circuit, the Bahrain layout is the work of renowned circuit architect Hermann Tilke. The V8 Supercars will use a 3.6-kilometre version of the circuit, as opposed to the 5.4-kilometre circuit used by the Formula 1 World Championship.

Caltex Ambassador and Triple Eight racer Craig Lowndes has not had luck fall his way since winning Bathurst in October. Lowndes is now 73 points behind Rick Kelly in the championship and will be giving it his all to claw back some of the deficit in Bahrain, the penultimate round of the championship.

Lowndes has been in the Middle East for over a week acclimatising to the temperatures and surroundings of the region and is confident there is still plenty of time and points available to haul in Kelly's championship lead.

Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall, who currently lies fourth in the championship standings, believes the wide and open Bahrain circuit will offer a fast-paced challenge for the three races to be held.

The defending V8 Supercar Champion is looking forward to the challenge of a new circuit as well as the unfamiliar surroundings the Bahrain round will bring.

Jamie Whincup will revert back to his Clipsal 500 winning car for this weekend's Desert 400 after a heavy crash at the Ferodo Triple Challenge in Tasmania damaged the Triple Eight squad's Bathurst winning Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon.

Whincup currently lies 10th in the championship and the young gun has been doing everything in his power to avenge the disappointment of Tasmania this weekend in Bahrain, even adjusting his sleeping patterns to the Bahraini time zone prior to flying to the Middle East.

James Courtney will be pushing to break into the top 10 in the championship in his rookie V8 Supercar season. Courtney currently sits in 11th place in the standings, just 13 points behind 10th placed Jamie Whincup.

Courtney has spent the bulk of this season learning new circuits as he embarks on his first V8 Supercar season in the Jeld-Wen Falcon. With Bahrain being new to all the drivers and teams, Courtney feels confident he is in contention to score his third podium result of the season.

The Desert 400 will certainly be a unique round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series. Not only will it be the furthest away from Australian shores a V8 round has ever been staged, the weekend will consist of practice on a Thursday, qualifying and the 27-lap Race 1 on Friday, then two 37-lap races on the Saturday, working in with the local Bahraini weekend.

CALTEX QUOTEBOARD

Russell Ingall -- #1 Caltex Racing Falcon

"No one's raced in Bahrain before so it's going to be new to all of us," said Ingall.

"It looks a lot like Shanghai, a very flat track, big flowing corners; also a bit like a bigger version of the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.

"It's good for the Championship to be branching out with new events like this. It's going to be pretty spectacular for the people there and hopefully it will be great viewing for the punters on the TV back home.

"Having these big events in addition to the rounds in each state creates a great spectacle and that can only be good for the sport."

Craig Lowndes -- #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon

"I have spent the past week in Bahrain acclimatising and checking out the circuit so I am quite eager to actually get the car out on track tomorrow," said Lowndes.

"It is great to be going out on a level playing field this weekend. Like Shanghai last year no one will have a clear advantage in Bahrain.

"We are confident we can get up to speed quickly as the track is very similar to Shanghai where we showed we had good pace and car set-up.

"I have swapped from being the hunted to the one doing the hunting and with 640 points still available I am looking forward to the challenge."

Jamie Whincup -- #88 Team Betta Electrical Falcon

"It should be a good weekend," said Whincup.

"I enjoy the wide, fast flowing circuits and they seem to suit the Triple Eight cars as does the heat.

"We have had a tough run in the past couple of meetings but we need to turn that around this weekend and collect as many points as possible.

"Practice will be interesting as we will all be on the same tyres so we will get a true indication of car speed right from the first session.

"I don't feel I could have done any more in preparing for this round, I have watched a lot of Formula 1 footage, run through some simulated data and even gone as far as changing my sleep pattern to the Bahrain timezone before I left Australia to prevent jetlag."

James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon

"I'm feeling pretty comfortable heading to Bahrain," said Courtney.

"We know that we have found some pace, we were quick at Symmons Plains but we just weren't able to come away with the result.

"Heading to a new circuit, everyone is going to have to go through what I have at most of the races this year; learning the circuit, searching for a qualifying se-up, searching for a race set-up, and all in the two-and-a-half hour practice session. I should be pretty good at it by now.

"It's going to create a level playing field and we hope to have the Jeld-Wen Falcon at the front."

-credit: cr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers James Courtney , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Craig Lowndes , Jamie Whincup , Phillip Island