Pukekohe: Caltex Racing preview

CALTEX DRIVERS FOCUSED ON FINAL SHOOTOUT AT PUKEKOHE Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall has more than enough incentive to try and win round three of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series at New Zealand's Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend. The...

CALTEX DRIVERS FOCUSED ON FINAL SHOOTOUT AT PUKEKOHE

Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall has more than enough incentive to try and win round three of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series at New Zealand's Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend.

The 2005 V8 Supercar Champion has finished on the podium for the past two years at New Zealand's most unique motorsport facility, but he has never won a race at the fast, flowing circuit. Neither has his famous Kiwi team owners Ross and Jimmy Stone.

The Stones grew up in a small town called Onewhero which is just 20kms from the Pukekohe circuit.

Ironically, the first motor race Ross ever went to was when Pukekohe hosted the New Zealand Grand Prix for the first time on January 5 1963.

With this weekend's round being the final sojourn at the Pukekohe venue for the V8 Championship, as it moves to a new home in New Zealand at a street circuit in Hamilton from 2008, Ingall and team-mate James Courtney are aiming to provide their team owners with the ultimate send off.

Courtney has had a mixed start to his 2007 campaign. He qualified on pole position for the opening round in Adelaide before finishing the round in third place. Unfortunately his luck deserted him in the second round when he endured two major shunts and an engine failure during the second round at Barbagallo Raceway in Perth

The ex-Formula One test driver enters this weekend sixth in the championship standings with Ingall 11th.

Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes, who qualified on pole position in 2005 at Pukekohe, enters this weekend equal ninth in the championship. The three-time Series Champion finished second in the final race of the corresponding round last year to secure fourth overall, his best result since the venue made its debut on the V8 calendar in 2001.

Following the opening two rounds Lowndes' team-mate Jamie Whincup is sixth in the championship standings. This weekend's round will be Whincup's fourth visit to New Zealand and he is aiming to improve on his best finish of 14th place overall when he climbs aboard his Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcon this weekend.

Practice begins on Friday afternoon followed by qualifying on Saturday morning. The opening of three 43-lap races will be held on Saturday afternoon with two feature events on Sunday.

Courtesy of his consistency throughout the opening two rounds Rick Kelly leads the championship on 115 points. He is 13 points clear of Garth Tander in second place who is followed by Todd Kelly, Mark Skaife and Steven Johnson.

CALTEX QUOTEBOARD

Russell Ingall - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon "Everyone knows that Ross and Jimmy really want to win this one but we go to each round to win regardless so the pressure is the same as any round. The preparation is the same," said Ingall.

"The pressure is spread across the whole team; we need the equipment to win races and I have to drive well to win races.

"I've got full confidence that I can do what's required. With a good car we can win it. It's as simple as that.

"We have gone close a couple of times before at Pukekohe. Last year we were third but we probably didn't have the race pace to win.

"Pukekohe is a good little circuit but looking forward, going to Hamilton for a new street race will be really exciting. As a spectacle, street races are the way of the sport.

"Hopefully we can get the local boys Ross and Jimmy up there on the top step of the podium and give Pukekohe a fitting send off in its final year."

Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We ran a variety of setups trying new suspension components and combinations during a test day last week," said Lowndes.

"We covered as much ground as we could with both cars, going as far as Jamie and I swapping and comparing the cars throughout the day.

"We had a good car at Pukekohe last year but it was the drive through penalty that cost us a podium spot, I must admit it would be nice to finish on the podium before we say goodbye to one of the last of the bumpy tracks."

Jamie Whincup - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We had a very good productive test day recently and found a nice balance in the car, understanding the setup issues we had in Perth and working towards a solution," said Whincup.

"I think you will see a big improvement in our performance in New Zealand, we changed a lot of things across the course of yesterday and now understand the car a lot better.

"Like Perth, it will be extremely tough to get into the qualifying top ten at Pukekohe due to the very close times, my focus will be on qualifying well and if the test day is any indication we should have excellent car balance.

"We are quietly confident but like always we won't know until we get there."

James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "We've had some special instructions from Ross and Jimmy for this round; win or don't come back from New Zealand!" said Courtney.

"It's not like that at all but it is a race they haven't won and with them growing up just around the corner from the circuit it's one they really want and this year is the last chance.

"There's a bit of pressure on myself and Russell to deliver this weekend and with the cars getting better and better we've got a good shot.

"The JELD-WEN Motorsport Falcon has recovered after Barbagallo. It has a new front and new side and it is ready to roll.

"Even though it was repaired for Saturday's qualifying at Barbagallo, there were a few things not right and we lost a bit of pace for the rest of the weekend.

"The guys spent a lot of time getting things right back at the workshop and made a few improvements along the way. We think we have made some more leaps forward and everyone is pretty excited about getting out there.

"We had a good round at Pukekohe last year; we came forward each race and we had quite good speed. The track is fast and flowing and hopefully we will have good engine power this weekend so we can mix it with the front runners."

-credit: cr

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Steven Johnson , James Courtney , Garth Tander , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Jamie Whincup , Todd Kelly