LOWNDES STORMS FROM A LAP DOWN TO PUT CALTEX ON THE PODIUM
Caltex ambassador Craig Lowndes has performed one of the drives of the season to come from a lap down to finish third with Jamie Whincup in the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 in Melbourne today.
The Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon led away from the start with Whincup behind the wheel, leading the opening laps of the race.
The team's first pit stop became a major setback when a sticking front brake pad delayed the car substantially, eventually resulting in Lowndes and Whincup losing a lap.
A combination of superb driving and slick pit strategy saw Lowndes rocket back up the order. Out of the top 15 and a lap down for much of the middle stages of the race, Lowndes passed Steven Johnson for fourth on lap 136 and grabbed a podium spot from Brad Jones four laps later.
Lowndes continues to lead the V8 Supercar Championship, with Whincup now fifth in the series standings.
Brake problems robbed Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall of any chance of a strong result in today's race. Ingall started well, but problems soon surfaced with the car's brakes. Ingall worked overtime in the cockpit to stay on track, pumping the brake pedal into corners.
The Caltex Racing team changed the front brake pads at the first pit stop, where Luke Youlden assumed driving duties, but the problem persisted, resulting in Youlden spinning soon after leaving the pits.
After some time spent stuck in the mud Youlden returned to the circuit and pitted for repairs. The car was in the pit garage for an extended period of time as the team chased the cause of the problem, eventually rejoining some 20 laps down.
The Ingall/Youlden entry returned to the track and finished the race in 27th position, dropping Ingall one spot to seventh in the championship. Ingall and his team will now regroup and work to cure the brake problems for the biggest race of the year, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on October 5-8.
The international pairing of Richard Lyons and Allan Simonsen did a commendable job in the second Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon. The only non-Australasian driver pairing in this year's endurance events finished in 17th position, a solid job for the entry, especially Lyons, who impressed on his V8 Supercar debut today.
The Jeld Wen Motorsport Falcon of James Courtney and Glenn Seton was ninth at Sandown today. Courtney again showed his talents, finishing solidly to jump two places in the championship standings.
Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom won today's endurance race, finishing just 0.158 seconds ahead of Rick and Todd Kelly, with Lowndes and Whincup third.
Russell Ingall - #1 Caltex Racing Falcon
"It was a pretty ordinary day, there is not much else you can say," said Ingall.
"I made some good ground on the first lap but the brakes started to go pretty soon after that. It got to a point where I was pumping the pedal seven or eight times before every corner and I had a few hairy moments. I was left-foot braking for the first time in my life.
"We changed the front pads in the first stop, which obviously didn't help because Luke got caught out immediately into his stint. That was really unfortunate for Luke, considering all the hard work and effort he has put in.
"We now have to seriously go back to the drawing board before Bathurst, or a similar problem could not only cost us in the race, but it could cost us a car."
Luke Youlden - #1 Caltex Racing Falcon
"We knew something was wrong with the brakes," said Youlden.
"It was pretty good on the out lap when I got in the car but it just started to get really bad and then just went like that. We came in and the boys were changing things but we lost plenty of time.
"The last bit of my stint was actually pretty good, it was pretty spot on for about 10 or 15 laps, then it just faded back to about half a brake pedal again.
"You lose your confidence for bit and then you learn how to drive it but it seemed to go in stages and made things pretty difficult."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon
"It's really pleasing to finish on the podium today considering the situation we were in after the first pit stop, we went down a lap and the boys told me to just push on to try to work on the gap," said Lowndes.
"The car had good pace and was well balanced in the middle stage which allowed me to make up quite a bit of ground, and a safety car period, which had worked against us at the start of the race, then worked back in our favour.
"It became quite hard to pass on the lead lap, the top car were separated by a number of backmarkers and I was becoming quite frustrated in my attempts to pass some of them.
"We pushed hard but in the end there were still around 6 or 7 cars to Rick (Kelly) and it was then a matter of recording a strong bag of championship points and maintaining third place on the podium.
"Jamie did a fantastic job to start the race and really held his own out there, I'm pleased to be going into Bathurst with a such a strong team-mate sharing the driving duties."
Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon
"It was a good view from the start line and I was determined to make a good start, the car got away well and I was able to hold the lead for around 15 laps which was indicative of how good the car was to drive," said Whincup.
"I had to be conservative in the early stages as I know I'm playing a big role in keeping Craig's strong championship lead, so it was disappointing to lose out when the first round of pit stops came around.
"I'm both surprised and very pleased to be up on the podium today, once again it is an indication that we have a very fast race car which is capable of pulling off the necessary passing moves -- without this we would have probably finished mid-pack.
"I was particularly encouraged to find out I had climbed back into the championship top 5, it has been a strong couple of rounds for us and hopefully this momentum will continue over to Bathurst."
James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"Today wasn't really satisfactory given the start we had," said Courtney.
"It was really good but we went a lap down with the safety car on our first stop and were a bit confused as to how it ended up happening.
"It could have been a lot better. Going a lap down on the first stop put us in about 19th.
"But Glenn put in a really good stint and I got back in and dragged it home for ninth but it could have been a lot better.
"We had a few brake problems, the pedal was long and we had to pump it in each corner, it was just very frustrating. So we need to get that right, we are not used to having those problems and we'll get that fixed.
"But the car is coming on well and I'm beginning to gel with the team so it's all coming on nicely.
"It will be great to get to Bathurst. We would love to win it for Glenn. SBR certainly had the pace last year and Glenn has the experience so we will go in there with a pretty level playing field."
Glenn Seton - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"No doubt you always want to be further up the list but I think the team has learnt a fair bit more this weekend,"
"Russell's brake issue we will need to get on top of and we had a bit of an issue with brakes too, although not as extreme as the Caltex car.
"It was good to get out there and do some miles and get in to a race rhythm and push on.
"I'm looking forward to getting to Bathurst; I suppose I would nearly call it my home. It's an event that gets everybody excited to get there and drive and I'm looking forward to going there with SBR, teaming up with James again and trying to win that elusive Bathurst."