TOP THREE FOR LOWNDES AS INGALL CHARGES HARD Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes was his consistent best to finish third as Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall pushed hard to record a top ten result in the opening 50-lap V8 Supercar race at Barbagallo...
TOP THREE FOR LOWNDES AS INGALL CHARGES HARD
Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes was his consistent best to finish third as Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall pushed hard to record a top ten result in the opening 50-lap V8 Supercar race at Barbagallo Raceway today
Lowndes started the day by qualifying in fifth position aboard his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon, while Ingall struggled to extract the maximum pace out of his Caltex Racing Falcon and started the race from 17th.
With very little passing opportunities around the 2.41km circuit, a good pit strategy and pit stops was vital to a good result. Ingall pitted early in the race, a strategy which gained him several positions.
On lap 20 Lowndes moved passed Mark Winterbottom to fourth position which became third when all drivers completed their compulsory pit stops. At the same time Ingall had moved up four spots and was knocking on the door of a top ten finish.
For the remainder of the race Lowndes was engaged in a close fought battle for the lead while Ingall was in the middle of a six car freight train that was battling for positions eight through to 13th.
James Courtney put in a very mature drive aboard his Jeld-Wen Falcon - lubricated by Caltex Havoline - to finish two spots behind Ingall in 12th.
An off track excursion on the opening lap put Jamie Whincup to the rear of the pack and he was forced to fight his way back from dead last. His bad luck continued when he stalled his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon exiting the pits. He eventually crossed the line in 21st, the same position he qualified.
Today's race was won by Mark Skaife ahead of Steven Richards and Lowndes.
Tomorrow will include two 58-lap races the first is a reverse grid race where starting positions are determined by reversing the finishing order from today's race. The grid for race three will be determined by combined the results from the opening two races.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY----
Russell Ingall, Caltex Racing
"We got ourselves into a bit of trouble today, certainly not qualifying where we wanted to be.
"The track changed a lot overnight and the set up that ran so well on Friday didn't suit today. It's pretty unusual for tracks to change that much but the grip levels on this circuit are known to be affected by the weather and the sand.
"We pitted early in the race to break out of the bunch. It's a bit of a gamble as it leaves you on one set of tyres for a long time. It worked well for us today, we managed to jump up a couple of spots and it was a really good pit stop by the team.
"We haven't quite hit the mark with set up yet. We know the direction we are heading but without testing, it's trial and error in races which makes it difficult.
"If there was a plus to come out of today it would be that my closest rival in championship, Rick Kelly, only finished three places in front."
"The reverse grid tomorrow is going to be very different from the race in NZ. Front to back today there was very little passing. The level of all the cars has lifted and there are not many that have the speed to overtake the next car. That was echoed throughout the field today."
James Courtney, Jeld-Wen Motorsport
"We were confident that we would qualify in the top ten after yesterday's practice but we were caught out a little by the cooler weather. The set up of the Jeld-Wen Falcon was not ideal for the conditions.
"We had a good start in the race but lost some spots on the pit stop; we could have probably pitted a little earlier.
"Once I got out of the pits it was like a train. It was really difficult to make a lunge off the line with the sand on the track.
"Both Russell and I felt that we had a little more pace than the others in the group but not that extra bit to make the pass. You find yourself waiting for the car in front to go off or make a mistake.
"It's going to be really difficult to make your way through the field in the reverse grid race tomorrow.
Craig Lowndes -- Team Betta Electrical
"While we didn't have cold tyre grip early in the race our car speed was consistent for the entire race.
"We had a great pitstop and good strategy and managed to get on the back of Skaife and Richards and stay there but we were not able to make a serious passing attempt.
"Hopefully we can get through turn one unscathed tomorrow and with a bit of luck going our way, we'll come away with a top three result.
Jamie Whincup -- Team Betta Electrical
"Qualifying was disappointing and being that far back in the field for the start of the race I exposed myself to the danger zone.
"The team bought me in for an early pitstop but I stalled the car and that cost an additional 10seconds and valuable track positions.
"From there I raced a pretty lonely race but the car remained consistent and I was able to make up some ground.
"In the reverse grid tomorrow I am starting from tenth and it will be a case of getting through turn one safely before focusing on chasing the leaders."