Lowndes Consolidates Ford's Championship Charge

Team Betta Electrical's Craig Lowndes has claimed victory in the opening race of the final round of the 2005 V8 Supercar Championship Series at Victoria's Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit today.

Lowndes qualified third quickest, then went on to take pole position in the top ten shootout with a time of 1.33.2826 only five thousandths of a second ahead of fellow Ford driver Marcos Ambrose.

After bogging down on the start, Lowndes managed to hold station in second place behind race leader Garth Tander with Ambrose close behind in third place.

The Team Betta Electrical driver drove defensively to fend off a challenge from Ambrose whilst entering pit lane but subsequently lost time after stalling his Triple Eight Race Engineering prepared Falcon as he attempted to exit his pit bay and re-entered the race in second place between Ambrose and Tander.

Lowndes focused on hunting down Ambrose and after several brave attempts passed the SBR driver coming into MG Corner.

With the 888 Falcon clearly quicker Lowndes pulled out a near four second lead in the ensuing laps.

While Lowndes won the race, series leader Russell Ingall finished fifth and the gap between the two Ford drivers narrowed to 41 points.

Lowndes, determined to fight to the end is confident of good results tomorrow.

"The car has been reasonably good all weekend and really looked after its tyres today," Lowndes said.

"I didn't get a great start and there was less grip than I thought which saw both Marcos and I with wheelspin.

"I was too anxious to get the car back out on track," Lowndes joked "And stalled the car in pitstop.

"With the longer races tomorrow we will need to take care of our tyres and especially work on our cold tyre pace.

After qualifying seventeenth Lowndes team mate Steve Ellery impressively drove his Team Betta Electrical #88 Falcon to eighth place.

Ellery, who made up ground in the pit stop and on track, said he was happy to finish where he had hoped to qualify.

"I had a steady race today and it gives us a good starting spot for tomorrow race," Ellery said.

"I enjoyed working my way through the field it was great to pass all those guys on track.

"The car has got a lot of speed so hopefully I will be able to mix it with the leaders tomorrow," Ellery added.

The 2005 V8 Supercar Championship Series will be decided tomorrow with two 140km races at the BigPond Grand Finale.