CALTEX RACING SET FOR SUCCESS AT ORAN PARK Caltex drivers will be pushing hard this weekend in Round 7 of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Oran Park Raceway in Sydney, trying to maintain the form that has seen Caltex-backed drivers win...
CALTEX RACING SET FOR SUCCESS AT ORAN PARK
Caltex drivers will be pushing hard this weekend in Round 7 of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Oran Park Raceway in Sydney, trying to maintain the form that has seen Caltex-backed drivers win the Oran Park round, and then the championship, for the last three years.
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall claimed the round win last year at the western Sydney venue in the best performance of his Championship season, while his former team-mate Marcos Ambrose won the round in the two years prior to that.
Ingall understands that this weekend's Oran Park round is crucial for his back-to-back Championship aspirations, with the Caltex Racing driver currently sitting fourth in the points standings.
"Everyone on the V8 circuit has favourite tracks where the driver and team perform well," said Ingall.
"SBR's favourites start from Oran Park onwards so the game plan was to make sure we were in the top five in the championship so we can battle it out for the second half of the year. So far the plan is on schedule, and we need to step up a gear from here onwards.
"Up until last year Oran Park was never one of my favourite circuits but I'm easily influenced, winning there in 2005 certainly makes it more likeable!"
The Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical will be leading the charge to extend Caltex's dominance at the circuit, entering the second half of the season as the only Ford team to win a round and the only team in the championship to have both of its drivers win a round so far.
Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes has recorded two round wins so far this season at Winton in Victoria and Hidden Valley in the Northern Territory and is second in the championship entering Oran Park.
This success came after a sensational debut for his Team Betta Electrical team-mate Jamie Whincup, who starred on debut for the Triple 8 squad to drive his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon to victory at the opening round of the series at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.
Lowndes has finished on the podium in the last four rounds while another top 10 result for Whincup at Queensland Raceway elevated him to seventh in the championship standings.
Last year Lowndes had one of the quickest cars at Oran Park and only a black flag held him back from a podium finish. The combination of current car speed and previous results points to a strong round ahead for Lowndes.
"We had great car pace at Oran Park last year and given this track is less sensitive to horsepower and more about handling I am really looking forward to this weekend's racing," said Lowndes.
"This is the last of the sprint race formats before the endurance rounds and the last time we will ever contest a reverse grid race.
"I'm really confident of the team's handle on the car's setup, we were second quickest here last year and we found a great compromise with handling also -- Oran Park is one of the last remaining bumpy tracks and given the tightness it is often difficult to pass.
"I've had some pretty good results here in the past and got the fourth placing last year even with a drive through penalty, I'm just hoping to make it through all the congestion there will be down at turn one in the reverse grid race."
Whincup agrees that the technical Oran Park layout will serve as an important challenge as the last of a long string of sprint race format rounds before teams switch their attentions to the endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst.
"This is our last round before the endurance races now so its really important to me to get a good run, there's now only around a month until Sandown which will just fly by," said Whincup.
"I really enjoy Oran Park as a driving circuit -- I like the terrain and it's definitely one of the places we visit throughout the year where I feel very comfortable.
"The results may not have been there for Triple Eight last year but the team was clearly the fastest out there, the guys have the knowledge to keep the cars competitive lap after lap.
"This is our first visit to New South Wales for the year and the next is the big one -- Bathurst; it's a pretty good warm-up for the fans down there and our last chance to accumulate good points before pairing up."
Ingall's Stone Brothers Racing team-mate Courtney fell just short of his first podium finish at Queensland Raceway and will be hoping again run with the frontrunners on a happy hunting ground for Caltex-supported drivers in his Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon.
The round also represents a homecoming of sorts for Courtney, who grew up in Sydney and raced as a youngster on Oran Park's karting circuit.
"Well I know the go-kart track at Oran Park pretty well but that's not going to help me much this weekend," said Courtney.
"I feel like a local having grown up with the circuit in my backyard but it is another track where I am going to have go through the learning process.
"I've driven the short circuit on a ride day last year so that's going to make things a little easier than I've had it at other circuits that are new to me.
"I've been doing my homework with my engineers in the lead up to the round to make sure I know as much as I can about Oran Park, then it's just a matter of getting out there and having a crack.
"We were really strong at Queensland Raceway and we know that we can run at the front so I'm just really looking forward to getting out there."
Lowndes currently sits second in the championship, 38 points adrift of leader Garth Tander. Ingall is in fourth position with Whincup seventh and James Courtney 22nd.
A 38 lap race will be held on Saturday while Sunday's program features the season's last reverse grid race (53 laps) and a final 53 lap journey capping off the round.
-credit: caltex racing