WHINCUP AIMS TO DEFEND CLIPSAL 500 CROWN AS CALTEX KICKS OFF SEASON 2007 Caltex-backed drivers kick off the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend with young gun Jamie Whincup leading the charge into the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide ...
WHINCUP AIMS TO DEFEND CLIPSAL 500 CROWN AS CALTEX KICKS OFF SEASON 2007
Caltex-backed drivers kick off the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend with young gun Jamie Whincup leading the charge into the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide this weekend.
Whincup, driver of the Caltex-backed #88 Team Vodafone Falcon, is the defending Clipsal 500 champion. The Victorian-raised, Gold Coast-based 24-year-old won on his debut with the Triple Eight Race Engineering team last season on the treacherous streets of Adelaide.
The victory began a breakthrough season for Whincup, which included victory with team-mate Craig Lowndes at the Supercheap Bathurst 1000 and his maiden top 10 finish in the championship.
Now the young star is looking to consolidate last year's results into more consistent pace, starting with his defence of the prestigious Clipsal 500 crown where he and Lowndes will debut the new livery of title sponsor Vodafone.
Caltex Racing driver Russell Ingall is determined to regain the form that saw the Adelaide-raised driver win the 2005 V8 Supercar Championship Series.
Ingall is a two-time Bathurst 1000 champion and also the 2005 V8 Supercar Champion, but has never won the Clipsal 500, widely regarded as the toughest event on the V8 Supercar schedule.
This weekend Ingall will seek to carry on the form that saw he and the Caltex Racing crew perform well at the team's preseason test at Queensland Raceway as he seeks to get his 2007 season off to a strong start.
Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes is one of only five drivers to lift the coveted Clipsal 500 champion's trophy, along with young team-mate Whincup, former Caltex-backed V8 Champion turned NASCAR star Marcos Ambrose as well as Jason Bright and Mark Skaife.
Lowndes, who narrowly missed last year's V8 crown, is one of the favourites for both this weekend's Clipsal 500 and this year's overall championship in the Caltex-backed #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon.
James Courtney will begin his second full season in the V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend at the Clipsal 500.
The driver of the #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon enjoyed incredible success in a celebrated international career that included the 1997 World Karting Championship, the 2000 British Formula Ford Championship and the 2003 Japanese Formula 3 Championship.
Now in his sophomore season of V8 Supercars, the Gold Coast-based driver is seeking similarly high standards and he chases another championship crown for his already-crowded trophy cabinet.
Russell Ingall -- #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon
"The feeling at SBR right now is definitely better," said Ingall.
"Last year was a disaster in a lot of respects and people in the team were disappointed. It wasn't an effort that was worthy of a championship team and it didn't start well for us from the word go.
"This year we are going in with a more known quantity with the race car. We are making really good progress and there is a lot more to come.
"It's a matter of don't reinvent the wheel. Come out with a good strong solid package, get the first couple of races out of the way and then start building, getting the car going quicker and really hit it hard from there."
Craig Lowndes -- #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon
"I am really looking forward to Adelaide and what I regard as being the toughest race of the year," said Lowndes.
"I love the whole build up the Clipsal 500 -- the atmosphere is just fantastic and you go through some varied emotions while completing the 500 kilometres which make up the event.
"Adelaide is a critical race in terms of the V8 Supercar Championship. If you can have a great weekend in Adelaide it generally sets you up for the rest of the year.
"Our performance last year was fantastic and the new car specification is very similar to what we competed with throughout 2006, which is extremely positive.
"Aerodynamics will play a big part through the notorious Turn Eight but there is not a huge amount of difference with the new aero package so we should be able to get on top of car balance pretty quickly."
Jamie Whincup -- #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon
"I just can't wait to get to Adelaide as it is one of my favourite tracks and a fantastic event full stop," said Whincup.
"Personally I am a lot better prepared than I have ever been at the start of a V8 Supercar season and I believe this will transfer through to my results next weekend.
"Overall, my whole situation is a lot more positive. I am one year wiser and will return to the car that won four rounds of the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship. Barring any problems we should be able to come away with a good result.
"There is definitely a lot more pressure on me to perform at Adelaide this year, but I am not in a position where I feel over-pressured and will be so nervous that I make mistakes.
"The pressure this year is a lot different to 2006 when I arrived at Adelaide not really knowing the car or the team that well. I think with another full year of competition under my belt I am a lot better prepared."
James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"This year it's definitely race wins and challenging for the championship that's on the agenda," said Courtney.
"I don't think anyone is going to be happy with anything less.
"Previously in all the other categories that I've been in, the first half of my first season has been trying, the second half has been good and then the following year I have won the championship. So I'd like to keep that trend going."