LOWNDES AND COURTNEY LEAD THE CALTEX CHARGE AT EASTERN CREEK Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes and rising V8 star James Courtney have led the charge for the Caltex-backed drivers during practice for this weekend's fifth round of the V8 Supercar...
LOWNDES AND COURTNEY LEAD THE CALTEX CHARGE AT EASTERN CREEK
Caltex Ambassador Craig Lowndes and rising V8 star James Courtney have led the charge for the Caltex-backed drivers during practice for this weekend's fifth round of the V8 Supercar Championship at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway today.
Lowndes, who won the corresponding round when the championship last raced at the circuit in 2005, set the fastest lap in the continually changing conditions aboard his Caltex-backed TeamVodafone Falcon.
Earlier in the day the 3.93km circuit was undriveable due to the inclement Sydney weather which caused a significant delay to the on-track activity. Practice for the V8 Supercars started 90 minutes later than scheduled and all but one support race was cancelled throughout the day.
Lowndes' time was almost a full second faster than the second fastest driver, Garth Tander who was closely followed by Courtney in third.
Despite growing up in the nearby suburb of Penrith Courtney is making his debut aboard a V8 Supercar at Eastern Creek this weekend. The 1997 World Karting Champion adapted well to the circuit in the trying conditions to post the third fastest time.
Last round winner, Jamie Whincup, was the next best of the Caltex-backed drivers by finishing just outside the top ten with the 11th fastest time.
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall had a mixed day behind the wheel to finish 13th fastest. The former Series Champion was pleased with the pace he showed in the wet conditions but missed the 'window' when the track dried momentarily and drivers who had slick (dry) tyres fitted posted their fastest times.
Tomorrow's action will run as scheduled with qualifying at 11:00am followed by the opening 31-lap race early in the afternoon. The round will be completed with a further two 31-lap races on holiday Monday.
Russell Ingall - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon "We are pretty happy with the car on wet tyres; we were up the pointy end most of the time on wets," said Ingall.
"We haven't been stunningly fast in the wet here before so it looks like we are in good shape if it continues to rain.
"There was probably only one lap towards the end of the first session where the track was dry enough to put in a good time. We were a bit late changing to slicks; we were probably two laps away from that good lap and couldn't take advantage of it.
"Tomorrow is very much an unknown; it could go either way with the conditions so changeable. Only time will tell."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "I was delighted with the car setup from the beginning," said Lowndes.
"It was very good in both wet and dry conditions."
"The conditions were constantly changing today which required a little bit of patience, but we did manage to get the best out of the car in the varying conditions."
"I am confident with the car in both wet and dry. Let's see what tomorrow brings."
Jamie Whincup - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon
"It was actually good fun out there today," said Whincup.
"Flying from a wet track to a dry track made it very interesting. "A fast time today was all about being on the track at the right time, which didn't quite happen for me.
"Our time certainly doesn't justify our speed, we will make sure we perform when it counts tomorrow."
James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "For me, I like to learn a circuit when it's wet. It brings you into it slowly and you learn where the grip is and isn't. You don't have to go to hard straight away," said Courtney.
"The car was running pretty well all day, we didn't make too many changes as the track was changing so much throughout the day. You can just confuse yourself if you change too much.
"I just circulated and when the track was drying we had good speed in the car.
"I'm very happy with my first run here. We had a ride day in December last year in the wet so I had a bit of a practice then.
"These cars are nice to drive in the wet, I'm enjoying it and the car is getting better and better. We just need to work on consistency and reliability and we will be up there.
"I think it is about time we got a good clean weekend and a good result. We are still fifth in the championship which is not a bad position to be in; it's a lot better position than this time last year. We're on the way up and we are gelling as a team and I've got a good little group around me."