Sandown: Caltex Racing preview

INGALL SAYS STRATEGY IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS AT SANDOWN Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall believes strategy is the key to success at the Just Insurance Sandown 500, round nine of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series, to be held in Melbourne at...

INGALL SAYS STRATEGY IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS AT SANDOWN

Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall believes strategy is the key to success at the Just Insurance Sandown 500, round nine of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series, to be held in Melbourne at the Sandown International Raceway this weekend.

The 500km event is the first endurance race of 2007 and after enjoying the fruits of victory in 1998, when he was paired alongside Larry Perkins, Ingall is hopeful that good car speed and a strong race strategy will assist him to finish on top of the podium in his 12th start at Sandown.

For the third year in succession, Ingall will drive the Caltex Racing Falcon with Luke Youlden. The duo finished runner-up in the corresponding event in 2004 and believe that outright speed is as important as being able to outsmart the opposition in the pits. With the short lap time and frequent safety car periods, Ingall says that it is essential to be on the ball to stay on the lead lap.

Ingall's team-mate James Courtney will team up with long-time friend and former Queensland 500 winner, David Besnard. The pair has known each other for almost 20 years with Courtney following Besnard's progression through the karting ranks in Australia and Europe.

This weekend marks 10 years since Courtney secured the biggest win of his motorsport career, the World Karting Championship. At age 17 he became the first, and only, Australian to win the Title in Salbris, Italy while driving for the illustrious Tony Kart team.

Regular team-mates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes will share the driving duties in the #888 Caltex-backed Ford Falcon BF which set to be a frontrunner from the outset of the 161-lap showdown that demands peak physical and mental strength.

Both Whincup and Lowndes have finished on the podium at Sandown for the last two years, and the drivers are extremely confident that the ever-improving Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcons will be quick once again.

The endurance events often require drivers to compromise on settings and seat position, but after a strong test session at Queensland Raceway recently both drivers found that they enjoyed close to an identical setup, a definite advantage in such a grueling race format.

Sharing the driving duties in the #88 Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcon will once again be the international pairing of Richard Lyons and Allan Simonsen, two drivers who are renowned for their versatility and ability to adapt to racecars in next to no time.

Both Simonsen and Lyons arrived in Australia earlier this week after competing in rounds of their respective European and Japanese sports car series.

Practice for the Just Car Insurance 500 will begin on Friday afternoon followed by qualifying on Saturday and the 161-lap race on Sunday afternoon.

CALTEX QUOTEBOARD

Russell Ingall - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon

"Heading into Sandown this year, it feels like there is no real pressure; it gives us a chance to wipe the slate clean of previous results this year and have a real go," said Ingall.

"SBR has never had the fastest cars at the endurance races but we are usually there at the end in the top half-a-dozen.

"In endurance races, you can overcome outright speed in the pits; you need to outsmart the competition.

"You just have to be very careful at Sandown as it is easy to go a lap down; strategy is very important. You need to make sure you run in the front pack and keep with them to be there at the end."

Luke Youlden - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon

"Russell (Ingall) and I are pushing pretty hard for this one; we are both desperate to win it," said Youlden.

"Unlike other years, the pressure is off with regard to the championship. I don't have that thought in the back of my mind that I have someone else's championship in my hands. We can really focus on winning races outright.

"This is the third time that Russell and I have driven together and we were pretty disappointed to miss the podium at Bathurst last year by such a small margin.

"Now is the time for results."

Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon

"We had a fantastic test at Queensland Raceway recently, Jamie and I were both running pretty much the same lap times and coming back to the team with similar feedback on the car," said Lowndes.

"Because we were both after the same thing in terms of car setup we were able to experiment a bit more.

"We are going to run with our strongest combination for each race - Jamie will qualify at Sandown as he has out-qualified me for most of this year."

Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon

"We had the test day we needed heading into our first dual-driver endurance race at Sandown," said Whincup.

"Both Craig and myself felt very comfortable in our compromised seat position. We extinguished any theories that our driving styles had changed from 2006.

"We both liked the same settings in the car which is one element that made us strong last year. All components that we will be using at Sandown were run in nicely, so once again we are very confident.

"We are both fit and prepared for battle and our car speed has been excellent, so on paper we are a strong combination.

"But like always, focus, and excellent team work over the 3 days of competition will be vital for a strong result, and reducing the championship points gap to the Toll cars."

James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon

"We are really positive about our pairing this weekend. I've got a great co-driver in David (Besnard), we've both got good speed," said Courtney.

"We need to make sure that we stay on the lead lap and we will have a good chance.

"With the Championship pretty much out of the window the whole team is very much focused on winning Sandown and Bathurst.

"Winning those events can make up for a lot; it's what we need."

David Besnard - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon

"It's just great to be back with a leading team with a serious shot at winning the race. It has been a while since I have been in that position," said Besnard.

"Teaming up with James (Courtney) is awesome too. I've known him since he was about seven years old through karting. We have always been good mates and as a bonus to that, we like similar things in the car.

"The Sandown track suits my driving style; you have to be brave to go fast there. The weather is always a factor at this event but I enjoy driving in the rain and so does James so either way that won't play too much of a part for us.

"There is always something special about the endurance races. I've won the Queensland 500 before and it's certainly something I'd like to do again."

Richard Lyons - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon

"Our test day recently was a very good and we got through everything we wanted to on the day," said Lyons.

"Because we had run the endurance races together last year we weren't starting from scratch.

"We found a race setup we were both comfortable with so once we get to Sandown we can really concentrate on familiarising ourselves with the track and working on a good qualifying run."

Alan Simonsen - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon

"It is fantastic to be coming back into the same team, with the same team mates. Having all worked together last year made the test day a lot easier and we really got a lot more out of it this year," said Simonsen.

"Our practice driver changes were a lot slicker during a recent test day, we did more laps in the car and found a good race car setup that suits both Richard and I quite easily."

-credit: cr

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