CONTROVERY LEAVES LOWNDES IN LIMBO
Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes has finished a gallant second in the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship Series pending further investigation into an incident after a tough weekend for Caltex-backed drivers in the Caterpillar Grand Finale at Phillip Island in Victoria yesterday.
Contact with Rick Kelly in the opening stages of the final race of the year sent Lowndes into Todd Kelly at Honda Hairpin, the resulting incident damaging Lowndes's steering and leaving him to limp around to finish in 29th position, four laps down, giving him second in this year's championship in the Caltex-backed #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Falcon. Rick Kelly was served with a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident.
The Investigating and Prosecuting Officer Peter Wollerman viewed further footage of the incident and arrived at a final decision. Triple Eight Race Engineering disagreed with that decision and decided to take the matter to a stewards hearing.
That hearing will take place at midday today at a venue to be determined.
Lowndes had entered Race 3 on equal points with Rick Kelly by virtue of finishing third in Race 2, only to see his fourth V8 title slip through his fingers as a result of the incident, finishing second to Kelly in the championship by 37 points.
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall finished the 2006 season eighth in the championship after finishing 26th in today's final round of the season due to mechanical issues.
Ingall had his hopes of a strong finish to the year set back when he was served with a drive-through penalty after contact with Steve Owen at the start of this morning's Race 2.
Ingall finished Race 2 in 26th position and then had his progress through the field stalled in the final race when alternator problems brought the 2005 V8 Supercar champion into the pits.
The Caltex Racing driver finished seven laps down in 30th position, dropping Ingall to eighth position in the final championship standings.
Jamie Whincup made a strong recover from yesterday's dramas to finish 13th overall for the round.
Whincup steered the Caltex-backed #88 Triple Eight Race Engineering Falcon to ninth in Race 2 and seventh in Race 3 to sneak into the top 10 in the final championship standings.
James Courtney finished 18th overall for the round after mechanical issues hampered both in today's races, leaving the pair to push on to gain points towards the championship.
Courtney experienced engine temperature problems in the opening race, and spun on leaking coolant early in the race, dropping the Jeld-Wen Motorsport driver down the order.
The Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon then spun after contact with John Bowe on the exit of the Siberia corner, hitting the wall and ending his race.
Courtney recovered in Race 3, driving through the field after starting from pit lane to finish in 12th, missing a top 10 championship finish in his rookie V8 season by only 10 points to end the year in 11th.
Todd Kelly won the Caterpillar Grand Finale at Phillip Island with two race wins for the weekend, ahead of Race 3 winner Mark Winterbottom and Mark Skaife, while Rick Kelly clinched the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship Series.
Russell Ingall -- #1 Caltex Racing Falcon
"We had a start line incident in Race 2 that got me a drive-through," said Ingall.
"It was unfortunate because at times we were up to a second-and-a-half quicker than anyone on the track. It's disappointing when you have that car speed but you are last on the road.
"Race 3 was a battle from the start with electrical problems and we were lucky just to finish the race.
"It's a bit of a shame that we were not in with a show at the last round. It's been a lack lustre year for us and as champions we would have liked to defend the title stronger than we have.
"But that's the climate of V8 Supercars these days. You never know if you are going to be quick enough and it's been pretty up and down.
"It would have been nice to put on a bit more of a fight for the championship, we were leading at Round 3 and we were always in the top five but we dropped the ball a bit towards the end.
"SBR will regroup and try and get that title back next year.
"Winning the championship is like tasting a good beer; you just want more of it.
"I've had a taste of winning the championship. It's been a great year. I've enjoyed being the V8 Supercar Champion. It's something that I strived to do, I spent 10 years getting there.
"I was close so many times, and then finally to grab it, I definitely want it back again."
James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"Race 2 wasn't the best of races," said Courtney.
"We had a pretty good start and the car was running okay. I made a bit of stupid mistake entering pit lane, trying a bit too hard to make up time and went off.
"We had a problem with the car overheating and during the race I was just trying to keep a gap to John Bowe to get some clean air.
"JB (Bowe) was fighting with (Paul) Dumbrell and slowing up and that was stopping the clean air getting to the engine. The guys said see if you can get past him quickly so I drove up the side but we came together and I came off second best.
"The boys did a great job getting the car back out for Race 3. We did pretty well to drive to 12th after starting from pit lane. I had a bit of fun out there in the final race.
"Today wasn't the way we planned it but we had a pretty quick car today so we've got a lot to look forward to next year."
-credit: caltex racing