REGAINING V8 SUPERCAR CROWN THE ONLY FOCUS FOR HOLDEN AS TITLE COMES DOWN TO PHILLIP ISLAND DECIDER Regaining the V8 Supercar Championship Series trophy is the sole focus for Holden as its young star Rick Kelly heads into this weekend's Grand ...
REGAINING V8 SUPERCAR CROWN THE ONLY FOCUS FOR HOLDEN AS TITLE COMES DOWN TO PHILLIP ISLAND DECIDER
Regaining the V8 Supercar Championship Series trophy is the sole focus for Holden as its young star Rick Kelly heads into this weekend's Grand Finale at Phillip Island with a slender seven point margin over Craig Lowndes.
Despite winning the famed Bathurst 1000 for a record seven straight years up until last year, Holden hasn't won a championship since 2002 when Mark Skaife won for the Holden Racing Team.
Kelly, who fought back brilliantly in Bahrain after contact at the first corner of the second race spun him down the field, has led the championship since the Symmons Plains round and heads back to familiar territory in the form of the 4.45kilometre Grand Prix circuit.
It was his Toll HSV Dealer Team's test circuit last year and he and teammate Garth Tander finished second and third there in last year's round.
However, Kelly believes that all counts for nothing and that this weekend is by far and away the biggest weekend of his V8 Supercar career.
"By about 5 pm on Sunday, I will be enjoying the best time of my life or the most disappointing," Kelly said.
"Craig and I go into the final round on an even footing. Essentially, we have to beat each other to grab the trophy. Holden against Ford, head to head. It was the way it was meant to be, and it should be a fair dinkum battle down to the wire.
"It is great for the series, the fans and the event at Phillip Island. Without a doubt, Craig will be hard to beat there. He goes well at the island. But so do we.
"Garth and I were both on the podium there last year, and our cars are an improvement over our 2005 machinery. And Phillip Island was our test circuit until this year, so we know the place pretty well.
"As well, we enjoyed a pace advantage over the Triple Eight cars at Indy, Symmons Plains and Bahrain, which gives us confidence. But whatever the outcome, it has been a good year for our team and me personally.
"I came into the year with a goal to finish in the top five each round and we have done that in all but two of the rounds.
"Better still, we have finished on the podium in seven out of 12 rounds. So our average finish per round is slightly better than fourth.
"I think that even my old Mildura Secondary College teachers would give that a tick! "The job's not done yet, and we won't be changing our strategy of taking it one session at a time. This approach has served us well this season, earning us one title and putting us in with a good chance of another."
With the Toll HSV Dealer Team clinching the Team's Championship and Ford winning the Manufacturer's Championship in Bahrain, the driver's title remains up for grabs as the crowning glory for either manufacturer.
Phillip Island will also be the farewell of the VZ Commodore. A chassis platform that began with the introduction of the VT in 1998, the car has proven to be highly successful, helping Holden to a record seven straight Bathurst crowns between 1999 and 2005 and five championships from 1998 to 2002.
HOLDEN MOTORSPORT QUOTEBOOK
Garth Tander (#16 Toll HSV DT Commodore VZ 4th in points)
"We tested there last year, so we have a fairly reasonable amount of recent data from Phillip Island to look at. Couple that with the fact that our cars have had very good speed in the past three or four rounds, then I am reasonably confident going into Phillip Island. But it is going to be a very intense weekend, obviously, with the championship battle going on. The whole team will be focussed on getting Rick across the line, and while I will have my own races to run on the track, I will be lending all the support I can around the pits to help him bring it home." th Todd Kelly (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ 7 in points)
"At the beginning of every season our focus is trying to win the championship, but if there was a championship held over the last five rounds I'd really like our chances! To fight back from being in a pretty ordinary position in the series and on the end of some pretty rotten luck, to now be visiting the podium regularly, I can't help but think what could have been in terms of the championship. Certainly I'll be keeping an eye on what my brother Rick is up to this weekend, but his championship aspirations won't change the way I approach my race weekend." th Jason Richards (#3 Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ 17 in points)
"Sometimes it feels like the last round is a dead rubber when you're not in the fight for a championship. Naturally enough, you still want the best result that is possible, but you don't really have to worry about losing points or playing it safe. So you can have a really big go at the round and not really worry about any other circumstances. You're also looking at the round from next year's point of view as well. While it may not have a bearing on 2006, you are still developing with an eye towards 2007."