Hidden Valley: Caltex Racing Saturday report

LOWNDES LEADS THE WAY FOR CALTEX Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes led the charge for the Caltex supported drivers at the Sky City Triple Crown, round five of the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship, at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway today. After ...

LOWNDES LEADS THE WAY FOR CALTEX

Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes led the charge for the Caltex supported drivers at the Sky City Triple Crown, round five of the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship, at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway today.

After qualifying fifth Lowndes was engaged in a titanic battle for fourth position for the majority of today's 34-lap race with fellow Ford driver Mark Winterbottom. The pair was virtually inseparable for the final 20 laps with Lowndes eventually crossing the line fourth.

As Lowndes battled inside the top five defending series champion, Russell Ingall, was climbing up the order from his 13th qualifying position to be inside the top ten just after half race distance aboard his Caltex Racing Falcon.

Like Lowndes, Ingall was also involved in a closely fought battle for the majority of the race. Ingall was battling with Jamie Whincup in his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon and Paul Dumbrell.

The Caltex supported pair ran nose-to-tail over the final few laps behind Dumbrell with Whincup claiming ninth position by the narrowest of margins as they crossed the line.

Young gun James Courtney continued to show glimpses of his true potential aboard his Jeld-Wen Falcon -- lubricated by Caltex Havoline - by moving up from his 21st qualifying position to finish 16th.

Today's race was won by Mark Skaife ahead of Rick Kelly and Mark Winterbottom.

There will be a pair of 48-lap races contested tomorrow, the first of which will be started in the reverse order of today's finishing positions.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY--..

Russell Ingall - Caltex Racing

"We had a bit of a battle on our hands today. We didn't make as much progress through the field as we would have liked," said Ingall.

"We didn't make up many spots during the pit stop which is usually a strength for SBR. Everyone else must have had very good stops as well.

"There was a fair bit of blocking going on during the race. The Caltex Falcon was a full second a lap quicker than Max Wilson. We were in with a good chance to catch the lead bunch but we got held up and couldn't do much about it.

"I guess that's the price you pay when you qualify back in the field."

Craig Lowndes -- Team Betta Electrical

"I got a good start and went wide in the first turn but maintained my position," said Lowndes.

"The car was really good and had great pace today, in hindsight we should have stayed out for another lap before pitting and maybe we would have got past Winterbottom in pit lane.

"We followed him into the pits and followed him out, then he held me up for most of the race and I just couldn't find a way past him."

Jamie Whincup -- Team Betta Electrical

"It feels really good to finish Race one in better spot than I started especially after my average start," Whincup said.

"The car feels great and I remained competitive particularly towards the end of the race, I guess that showed with me passing Russell (Ingall) right on the line.

"But the irony with the championship is, that I achieved my best race result to date at Hidden Valley but still will be starting 23rd in tomorrow's reverse grid race."

James Courtney, Jeld-Wen Motorsport

"We had a run in with Murphy early in the race. We suffered some damage in the doors and the rear but it didn't affect the handling of the JELD-WEN Falcon too much," said Courtney.

"We pitted relatively early but stalled during the stop which wasn't good.

"We had some good speed in the car throughout the race. Unfortunately we got a flat spot in the front so I backed off a little to make sure we didn't get a flat like a few others did.

"There were a few positives today and we hope to take today's car speed into race two with us tomorrow."

-cr

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Series Supercars
Drivers James Courtney , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Jamie Whincup , Mark Winterbottom , Paul Dumbrell