CALTEX DRIVERS IN TOP TEN AT BATHURST OPENING PRACTICE All four of the Caltex-backed driver combinations competing in this weekend's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, round ten of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series, at Mount Panorama circuit...
CALTEX DRIVERS IN TOP TEN AT BATHURST OPENING PRACTICE
All four of the Caltex-backed driver combinations competing in this weekend's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, round ten of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship Series, at Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst, NSW, have recorded times inside the top ten during today's first practice session.
James Courtney led the Caltex contingent; setting the fourth fastest time of the session and showing he and co-driver David Besnard still have the speed exhibited at last month's Sandown 500, in which they qualified on the front row.
Next on the time sheets for Caltex was reigning Bathurst champion Craig Lowndes at seventh, with the new chassis debuted by he and co-driver Jamie Whincup showing much promise after a pleasing test day last week.
The Caltex-backed Team Vodafone duo topped the time sheets for much of the 2 1/2 hour-limited lap practice session before slipping back through the order to seventh in the closing stages after most teams changed to better tyres, while they chose to stay on the one set of practice tyres to simulate race conditions.
Nipping at Lowndes' heels was Mount Panorama's most consistent competitor Russell Ingall aboard the #9 Caltex Racing Falcon, with he and co-driver Luke Youlden showing consistent speed and control over the session today to come in at eighth fastest behind Lowndes and Whincup.
Despite placing near the top of the time-sheets, Ingall and Youlden are focusing more towards fine-tuning their race setup to ensure the ride on used tyres is comfortable for the race come Sunday.
Happy to remain out of the limelight at this early stage of the weekend, Ingall decided to remain on used tyres throughout today's sessions rather than fitting new rubber in an effort to improve his time.
The #9 Caltex Racing Falcon pair were unfazed today by the decision of other teams to head out on new or near-new tyres, instead choosing to look towards producing important race pace for Sunday.
Closing off the top ten for Caltex was Richard Lyons aboard the #88 TeamVodafone entry, showing promise to place he and co-driver Allan Simonsen amongst drivers such as Mark Skaife, Mark Winterbottom and the rest of the Caltex stable in the top order.
Steven Johnson and Will Davison's #17 Falcon was the fastest car in practice today, ahead of Rick Kelly and Garth Tander's #16 Commodore and Winterbottom and Steven Richards' #6 Falcon.
The second practice session of the weekend will be held tomorrow before qualifying for the 2007 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is staged in the afternoon.
Russell Ingall - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon "The car was reasonable out of the gate, we had a bit of tuning up to do on it which we are still proceeding with," said Ingall.
"We're not aiming to get into the limelight too early; instead we are just working away at getting the car setup so it is comfortable to drive on used tyres.
"You could probably say we are following around the same strategy as Triple Eight have over the past half a season, where we are not necessarily worried about having the quickest car in qualifying and instead looking towards the race.
"It has paid off for them so far, so we are going to look at going down that path.
"We (Ingall/Youlden and Lowndes/Whincup) were probably the only two out there today that didn't go out on new tyres, no matter what was said in the press conference all of them were out there on new, or near to new tyres.
"Going on that, you can pick up a lot of time at Bathurst on new rubber due to the length of the track, with the circuit being double the length of some of the others we visit.
"All in all we are pretty happy, we will worry about tyres when we get to the race, but at the moment we are just so conscious of race setup and getting things right in that area.
"We want to look at leading the last lap on Sunday from the first lap, so will be working to get things right for that."
Luke Youlden - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon "I had a run in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar practice this morning in one of the very first sessions," said Youlden.
"It helped to get my eye in so when I got into the Caltex Falcon I had those preliminary laps out of the way and I could hit the ground running.
"Getting a clear lap today was a bit of an issue, it was pretty busy out there.
"I feel very comfortable in the Caltex car; I was only a tenth or two slower than Russell so we are pretty equal on pace.
"We are both pretty happy with how the car is going. We need to fine tune it a bit but we are confident it will be a good race car."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "The car was fantastic," said Lowndes.
"It responded very well to the changes we made and improved every time we went out on track.
"We only used one set of tyres as we wanted to see what the car would be like in race simulation when the tyres started to go off and I have to say the results were very positive."
Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "If there was ever any doubt about this car it was eliminated after the first lap," said Whincup.
"I probably got a little too confident out there during my run and had a very close encounter with the wall at McPhillamy where I scraped the rims and the driver's side mirror.
"Both Craig and I have a lot of confidence ahead of tomorrow's qualifying, we were only beaten today by cars on better tyres."
James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "We had a few things to iron out with the Jeld-Wen car today during practice," said Courtney.
"The car had good speed and it is definitely better than last year, when we finished on the podium, so we feel pretty confident after the first session.
"David (Besnard) continued to do a great job setting fast and consistent laps.
"We did put new tyres on but we didn't get a chance to use them when I got held up by (Mark) Winterbottom when he ran out fuel up on Skyline.
"The car is very comfortable to drive and there is a lot more time left in me so we expect a good show tomorrow."
David Besnard - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "I guess I am one of the few part-time drivers running around at the pointy end," said Besnard.
"I definitely feel that this is where I should be and that I can mix it with the guys at the front.
"It is great to be back in a competitive car; we've got good speed and I was able to hang on to the front runners pretty easily at Sandown.
"Being paired with James is great; he's super quick and I have the easy job of cruising around at nine-and-a-half tenths and keeping it up there for him.
"The Jeld-Wen car feels strong; I think you would be made to say that we are not in with a chance this weekend."
Richard Lyons - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We had a great session," said Lyons.
"Both Allan and I got plenty of laps which is very important at this track.
"I am finding things a lot easier this year and I am also more confident to push the car."
Alan Simonsen - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We had a very productive session where we kept making good steps in terms of setup," said Simonsen.
"The car speed is very good and we will keep moving in the direction we are going with setup."