CALTEX DRIVERS STRONG IN FINALE PRACTICE
Caltex-backed drivers Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Russell Ingall have all set times within the top ten during practice for the Dunlop Grand Finale, round 14 of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series at Phillip Island, Victoria, today.
Title contenders Lowndes and Whincup resided at the top end of the time-boards for the duration of the 2.5 hour, limited lap session with Lowndes sitting atop the sheets for over an hour and a half until the closing fifteen minutes.
The final laps of the session saw a flurry of quick times from Mark Winterbottom, Todd Kelly, Mark Skaife, Garth Tander and Lee Holdsworth, with Lowndes and Whincup eventually coming home at sixth and ninth quickest respectively.
Nipping at Whincup's heels in tenth was Ingall. The pilot of the #9 Caltex Racing Falcon is keen for a good result this weekend while he looks to maintain his running record of finishing in the top ten of every V8 Supercar championship since he started competing in 1996.
Currently 11th in the series standings, Ingall will be one to watch this weekend as he prepares to swap stables in 2008, with this weekend announced on Wednesday as his last with the Stone Brothers Racing and Ford outfits.
Ingall's team-mate James Courtney was 17th fastest, after sitting as high as tenth on the sheets as the field approached the final laps of this afternoon's run.
Winterbottom was quickest today, followed by title contender Garth Tander and Todd Kelly.
For the fifth consecutive year a Caltex-backed driver is in the hunt for the V8 title as the championship battle heads to a climax this weekend. On three of the previous four occasions Caltex-backed drivers have been victorious with Marcos Ambrose in 2003 and 2004 and Ingall in 2005.
Tomorrow's action begins with qualifying at 11.40am (AEDT) and the opening 27-lap race in the afternoon. A further two races will be held on Sunday.
Russell Ingall -- #9 Caltex Racing Falcon "The times from practice today probably don't give a good indication of our true position in the field," said Ingall.
"We are really struggling with tyres. We have trashed a lot of tyres in the last three meetings and it has depleted our stock.
"We are only a few tenths off the front runners on some pretty average rubber so it doesn't put us in bad shape for qualifying tomorrow."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "The car is working really well," said Lowndes.
"We started with a pretty good baseline today and made some very positive progression throughout the session.
"I had a pretty good second set of tyres, but just didn't get the best out of them when I was on a flyer.
"We are happy with our race package but still have a bit of work to do on our qualifying setup."
Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We were in the same situation as practice in Tasmania," said Whincup.
"We just don't have any good tyres left.
"I was really happy with the car balance today and I am confident we are going to be fast tomorrow."
James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "We had a pretty tough session today," said Courtney.
"We don't have many decent tyres to use at all.
"The first set of tyres pointed us in the wrong direction with our set up. We got back on track with a second set of tyres.
"The boys did some pretty lengthy changes to the Jeld-Wen Falcon in the session. We ran out of time to have a crack at it at the end.
"Once we get some green tyres on it tomorrow we will know if we have got it right or not."