INGALL AND LOWNDES TO LEAD CALTEX CHARGE AT BATHURST Caltex Ambassadors Russell Ingall and Craig Lowndes will lead the charge of Ford drivers aiming to break the blue oval's seven year Bathurst drought at this weekend's Supercheap Auto Bathurst...
INGALL AND LOWNDES TO LEAD CALTEX CHARGE AT BATHURST
Caltex Ambassadors Russell Ingall and Craig Lowndes will lead the charge of Ford drivers aiming to break the blue oval's seven year Bathurst drought at this weekend's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in Bathurst, New South Wales.
Ingall and Lowndes are both former winners at Bathurst, the biggest race in Australian motorsport, and will be doing their best alongside young co-drivers Luke Youlden and Jamie Whincup to clinch Ford's first win at the classic Mount Panorama circuit since 1998.
This year's race will carry new significance, as the 2006 winners will be the first to be awarded the Peter Brock Trophy in memory of the nine-time Bathurst champion.
Ingall, a two-time Bathurst winner, will once again team with Youlden in the #1 Caltex Racing Falcon. The pair gained fifth place in last year's race, giving Ingall his 11th top 10 finish at Bathurst from 14 starts. After a forgettable weekend at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500, Ingall will be chasing the win rather than conserving for points in his 15th Bathurst start.
Lowndes was a major factor in last year's race, taking pole in his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon and leading the opening laps. But a touch with the wall across the top of the mountain resulted in extended repairs to the #888 Betta Falcon, putting the three-time V8 Supercar champion out of contention.
Whincup will be working for his fourth-straight endurance race podium. Whincup and Lowndes finished third at September's Betta Electrical Sandown 500 and the 2006 Clipsal 500 winner placed on the podium at both Sandown and Bathurst last year for Tasman Motorsport.
Ireland's Richard Lyons and Denmark's Allan Simonsen will form the only all-international driver pairing at this year's Bathurst race. The two Sportscar pilots will share the #88 Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon, this being Lyons's debut at Mount Panorama, with Simonsen making his fourth Bathurst start.
The #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon of James Courtney and Glenn Seton will be another to watch. Seton will be out to capture that elusive Bathurst victory after two V8 Supercar Championships and finishing runner-up at Mount Panorama three times from 22 starts. Courtney on the other hand will be making his second Bathurst start and his first as a full-time V8 Supercar driver.
Action at Mount Panorama, Bathurst will kick off on Thursday with opening practice, with qualifying to be held on Friday, the Top 10 Shootout on Saturday and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 starting at 10:00am on Sunday morning.
Russell Ingall -- #1 Caltex Racing Falcon
"We are sitting sixth in the Championship heading into Bathurst so it will be a different approach to the race compared to last year," said Ingall.
"The main aim last year, especially in the last stint, when Marcos (Ambrose) went out and (Craig) Lowndes had gone out early, no matter what it took, we had to finish the race. And we did finish fifth which was remarkable considering we got caught up in the Ambrose-Murphy incident and we had bits hanging off the car everywhere. That fifth ultimately won us the championship.
"This year we are behind the eight ball, so it's a little different. I'm not really viewing it as part of the Championship, but looking at it as an individual event and if we can win that then that's going to help with the Championship. Thinking about it this way definitely means I will be in there with a 'go for it' attitude.
"Bathurst is one of my favourite events; it's not fun during the day because physically it's hard and it's just killing you every lap. But if you win the thing the rewards are pretty high and that's where you get the enjoyment, when you park it."
Luke Youlden -- #1 Caltex Racing Falcon
"Sandown was pretty unkind to Russell and I but it doesn't affect my driving confidence at all," said Youlden.
"It was one of those things and knowing that the guys had a really good test the other day, I have no doubt they will engineer a great car for Bathurst. SBR is one of the best teams in the country and I have the utmost faith that the car will be on the money up there.
"Mount Panorama is a track that I love. It's just awesome and one of the most challenging places that we go. I've had some great success there, on the podium in 2003 and fifth last year. I've also won development series and Formula Ford races so there must be some sort of empathy between the track and I.
"Last year there was a fair bit or pressure with Russell having the title in his sights. You are always mindful if something goes wrong you will affect the Championship leader.
"The pressure is off a little in that respect, but it's still on for me; I want to do well for the team and for myself. And knowing that Russell is going to be pushing hard to keep in the Championship race, I'm really looking forward to going for it."
Craig Lowndes -- #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon
"It has been 10 years since I won at Bathurst and personally I have never felt better prepared for this event," said Lowndes.
"Without a doubt this is the best driver pairing of my career, Jamie is doing a tremendous job this year and knows what is required to get on the podium at Bathurst having finished second there last year.
"The whole team is really looking forward to getting to Bathurst after the five week break and we are all a lot more confident going into this year's event.
"We had a successful shakedown last week and given the car speed we had at Mt Panorama last year we will run a very similar set-up.
"Last year we had nothing to lose, this year we are in a totally different position and will need to race smart and be mindful of the championship.
"Once again weather will play a big role in the outcome of this event and tyre choice on the circuit can also be critical. It is a long lap around Mount Panorama -- it can literally be raining on one side and sunny on the other.
"Last year's result was pretty disappointing, we were the quickest around Mt Panorama and had a reliable car but it just wasn't to be, hopefully all our hard work and preparation will pay off and this will be our year."
Jamie Whincup -- #888 Team Betta Electrical Falcon
"This has been our biggest break of the year with a five week gap from Sandown to Bathurst," said Whincup.
"The break has been excellent for me personally, I have really done a lot of training and while the team has worked on car development I have worked on my own driver development for the important run home to the end of the season.
"I am very excited to be driving with Craig at Bathurst, it's been 10 years since he last won there and I would love to be the one to help him to secure his next win at 'The Mountain'.
"I know what's required of me as a co-driver and I'm determined to get in and give it my all.
"Bathurst is my favourite event so no matter what I am just looking forward to getting up there and driving around the track."
James Courtney -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"A lot of people have been asking me if there is extra pressure because everyone wants Glenn to get a Bathurst win but it doesn't really affect me at all," said Courtney.
"With this race, and any race, I really want to win for me and for the team. It's a bonus that Glenn is driving with me and it would obviously be great to win it with him, but it's not something that I think about too much.
"Mount Panorama is a great circuit to drive on; it's up there with the best. You have a lot of variety; fast and slow sections, tight corners, quick corners, heavy braking, it has a bit of everything.
"I was fine with the track last year, it was just a bit of driver error, but I'm super-excited and can't wait to get out there and give it a proper go.
"I think we are in for a good shot after the test and I'm sure Glenn's experience on the mountain will pay dividends for us."
Glenn Seton -- #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Falcon
"I'm not feeling any extra pressure going into Bathurst," said Seton.
"At the end of the day, it's my 23rd start so I know what the race entails and I've been second three times. I'm going there to do a job, that is to support James, and if that leads to victory then that's great. That's certainly what we will be striving for and hopefully we can achieve that.
"The race at Sandown was difficult with the brake issues that we had but regardless, the more miles you do the more comfortable you get in the car. I felt comfortable at Sandown and Bathurst will be very similar. I've got plenty of experience there and I still know my way around the circuit so it will be fine.
"I have some great memories of Bathurst, being on the podium in 2003 and 2004 with Craig (Lowndes)was fantastic. Ultimately, you also have some pretty bad memories too, like in '95 when I was leading the race with nine laps to go and the engine blew.
"I've had some great results in all the years I've competed at Bathurst so I can't complain but a win there would be icing on the cake."