Hidden Valley: Caltex Racing preview

CALTEX DRIVERS HAVE DIFFERENT DARWIN PREPARATION Caltex Racing's entrants in this weekend's fifth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Hidden Valley in Darwin have had enormously different preparations over the last week or ...

CALTEX DRIVERS HAVE DIFFERENT DARWIN PREPARATION

Caltex Racing's entrants in this weekend's fifth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Hidden Valley in Darwin have had enormously different preparations over the last week or so.

Caltex Ford driver Russell Ingall and his Stone Brothers Racing teammate James Courtney battled terrible weather conditions during a two-day test at Queensland Raceway.

Courtney, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, will be making his first appearance at Hidden Valley this weekend, while Ingall will be one of only eight drivers in the field who will have competed in every Darwin race since 1998.

Ingall will be out to regain the championship lead after having enjoyed significant success at Darwin in the past.

He won the inaugural round of the championship held at the 2.9 kilometre circuit and has also finished on the podium on two other occasions.

Last year's visit to Darwin is one he would rather forget.

He started at the back of the grid after missing the weigh scales late in qualifying and despite a terrific effort to finish 14th and then fourth in the first two races, he did not start race three because of an electrical problem.

Team Betta Electrical's Craig Lowndes embarked on an intensive nine-day dirt bike ride to Australia's 'top end' in preparation for this weekend's event.

Lowndes was joined by a select group of Triple Eight Race Engineering teammates who rode alongside the multiple champion as he made his way across some of the country's most rugged terrain in the sweltering outback heat.

The gruelling journey concluded yesterday and Lowndes is hoping that the journey will prove to be a perfect preparation for the Northern Territory round during which drivers often find themselves overcome by soaring cabin temperatures.

Lowndes' Team Betta Electrical teammate Jamie Whincup completed the early stages of the ride and then joined his teammates for the closing stages of the 4159km journey.

The group covered up to 740km each day as they travelled their way north from Brisbane through Jericho, Kyuna, Borroloola, Mataranka Springs and into Litchfield.

Ford and Caltex both lent their support to the venture, providing the group with five support vehicles and a supply of fuel to go the distance.

Craig Lowndes sits in third place in the championship and is currently second on the adjusted pointscore, while Whincup maintains his impressive top 10 run in 8th position.

WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY--

RUSSELL INGALL -- CALTEX RACING

"Hidden Valley would be one of the top three races on the calendar in terms of popularity. The event gets many visitors and motor sport fans from interstate," said Ingall.

"It's also one of the few events where a lot of the drivers stay on at the end of the event to take in the sights of the territory. It has a bit of a laid-back atmosphere which is nice.

"My fondest memory of the Darwin event is getting my photo taken next to a eight metre crocodile. Luckily he was heavily sedated at the time, as I needed to be after the photo was taken.

"There is no doubt that last year's Darwin round was one of the most frustrating of my career. I don't think I have ever worked so hard for such an ordinary result."

"In saying that, I have had many race wins at Hidden Valley so I can't see any reason why we can't be at the front this weekend. After a pretty average Winton race, this one is especially important for Caltex Racing. It's one that we need to win to get us back out in front in the championship."

JAMES COURTTNEY -- JELD-WEN MOTORSPORT

"I've got no hands on experience at Hidden Valley but from what I have seen on TV it looks like a good circuit," said Courtney.

"I will spend some time with my engineers this week, going through data and video footage to learn as much as possible before getting a closer look at the circuit when we arrive.

"SBR has had good success at Hidden Valley in the past so we hope to be right on the pace. It will also be great to be back in the new JELD-WEN Falcon which we haven't raced since the Clipsal 500 Adelaide.

"This event is a good chance for the JELD-WEN guys and me to start the second half of the year off on a positive note. I'm really looking forward to it."

CRAIG LOWNDES -- TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL

"We visit quite a few circuits throughout the year that call upon all of a driver's physical strength, but Darwin adds the element of very high temperature that is crucial to be able to endure if you're going to figure in the results," said Lowndes.

"The ride will act as an intense physical and mental shakedown before the event, it's a round I have not managed a win at and yet its still one of my favourite tracks to compete upon.

"It has been good to spend some time out with the guys from Triple Eight who are all just as passionate about their dirt bikes as they are about cars."

-cr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers James Courtney , Russell Ingall , Craig Lowndes , Jamie Whincup