V8 CHAMPIONSHIP SECOND AND THIRD FOR CALTEX
Caltex-backed drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes have claimed second and third for the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series with hard-fought performances in the final two races of round 14 at Phillip Island, Victoria, today.
Both Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcons entered this morning's race in the title hunt with Whincup tied for the lead with Garth Tander. Solid performances from both pilots saw them cross the line third and sixth, unfortunately resulting in Lowndes falling out of the points chase for the title.
Whincup's result saw him start the final race on the second row behind Tander and Holden-pilot Todd Kelly, with the fight set to come down to the wire -- the championship ultimately coming to rest on one position.
As the closing laps wound down, Kelly led with Whincup in second, Tander third and Lowndes fourth, with Whincup needing to take the lead from Kelly and for Tander to slip to fourth for the Ford-pilot to take the championship.
Lowndes overtook Tander with two laps remaining, however with Whincup having pushed his rear tyres to the limit to catch Kelly he was unable to launch a challenge instead taking second for the race, third for the round and runner-up for the championship.
Lowndes and his Caltex-backed #888 TeamVodafone Falcon crossed the line in third, handing him fourth for the round and third in the chase for the title.
While the Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcons had their eye on the ultimate prize, the pilot of the #9 Caltex Racing Falcon Russell Ingall was taking part in a battle of his own.
Unfortunately for the 2005 Champion and 1997 Phillip Island round winner, Ingall was unable to reach his goal of continuing his running record of finishing in the top ten of every V8 Supercar Championship Series since he started competing in 1997, with a drive through penalty throwing a large spanner in the works of his plans.
Strong early race performances saw 'The Enforcer' looking likely to finish in the top half of the time sheets after finishing eighth in yesterday's opening race, however it just wasn't to be with today's runs seeing him finish 19th and 26th respectively.
Most frustrating for the driver, for whom this weekend is his last with the Stone Brothers Racing and Ford outfits, was the drive through penalty he was served with ten laps remaining in the final stint for contact with Greg Murphy, which saw him sent to the rear of the field and effectively ended his race.
Despite the race results, Ingall's performance allowed him to finish 13th for the round and 11th for the series, just 32 points shy of a spot in the top ten.
While Ingall persevered, his team-mate James Courtney was making up for lost time with the pilot of the #4 Jeld-Wen Falcon continuing the fighting spirit which was brought out by an early race one spin yesterday.
Forced to fight his way back through the field then to cross the line in 12th, Courtney continued the trend today to come home seventh and sixth in today's closing races to finish eighth for the round and ninth for the series.
Garth Tander was announced the victor of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series with 625 points and also the winner of the round on 63 points, followed by Todd Kelly and Whincup.
The teams will now take a short break before preparations begin for the opening round of the 2008 championship, the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, will be held on February 21 -- 24.
This weekend's finale round also marked the end of Caltex's association with V8 Supercars, with the sponsor in that time seeing five consecutive titles challenged for and three won - with Marcos Ambrose in 2003 and 2004 and Russell Ingall in 2005 holding the ultimate trophy high.
"Today was the end of an era for Caltex and what a fantastic ride it has been," said Liz Whiteway, National Manager Brand and Communications for Caltex.
"We have to thank Stone Brothers Racing for their professionalism and friendship over the past seven years in the sport. Obviously the highlight from a competition perspective was Russell's championship in the Caltex Falcon in 2005.
"We also had a fantastic result with Marcos (Ambrose) winning Championships in 2003 and 2004 in Havoline lubricated and backed-cars.
"In more recent years we have enjoyed a relationship as a support sponsor of Triple Eight Race Engineering and have seen the team's cars win the last two Bathurst 1000s with our lubricants.
"As they say nothing lasts forever but we have some terrific memories and achievements we can be proud of and friendships which will continue on.
"We wish Stone Brothers Racing and Triple Eight Race Engineering all the best in coming seasons and we will watch their performances with interest."
Russell Ingall -- #9 Caltex Racing Falcon "Today's result was not how I hoped to finish my five years at Stone Brothers Racing," said Ingall.
"But I had nothing to lose and was out there having a go. That's how I have always approached racing.
"I've had a great innings with SBR and I will never forget winning the Championship with them.
"I've really appreciated all the effort from everyone over this year and for the past five years. Now I look forward to the future to see what that brings."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We did all we could today but in the end we fell short," said Lowndes.
"We played a fair fight and pushed hard but just couldn't do enough to get the title for Jamie.
"I'm disappointed but still very proud of the team and what we have achieved this season."
Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "It was a fantastic year for our team," said Whincup.
"It was a great team effort and I am proud of everyone in our organisation.
"We were beaten by a better guy on the day but we have come a long way this year and next year will be another great challenge."
James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "We finished inside the top ten in the Championship this year which was the general aim, but we were not in the top three as we thought that we should be so we haven't achieved our goals," said Courtney.
"On the positive side, we do know what we need to work on to get up there.
"We will come out with guns blazing in the new year and hopefully kick off with another pole position at the Clipsal 500 and get that first race win."