Perth: Caltex Racing preview

PERTH IS VITAL SAYS INGALL Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall believes this weekend's third round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Barbagallo Raceway near Perth will be vital to his chances of clinching back-to-back titles in...

PERTH IS VITAL SAYS INGALL

Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall believes this weekend's third round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Barbagallo Raceway near Perth will be vital to his chances of clinching back-to-back titles in 2006.

Ingall says you only have to look at the top of the leader board to see how competitive the V8 Supercar series is and that a single moment of lapsed concentration could see a potential contender steamrolled by four or five others.

Ingall currently leads the championship on 540 points from Rick Kelly (539), Garth Tander (502), Steve Richards (482) and Steve Johnson (475) after two of 13 rounds.

Ingall has a reasonable record at Barbagallo, but ironically, only won his first race at the famous West Australian circuit last year.

Ingall has won a race or round at every V8 Supercar venue on the 2006 calendar, except Bahrain which is obviously new to the series this year.

Ingall finished sixth outright in the opening round in Adelaide and was second overall in round two at Pukekohe in New Zealand.

Ingall's Stone Brothers Racing teammate James Courtney also had an improved result in New Zealand after a baptism of fire in Adelaide where he damaged his Caltex-backed Jeld-Wen Falcon in both races.

Courtney had a solid "rookie" test day at Queensland Raceway last week and is looking forward to putting some of his newly-developed speed into practice in WA.

The Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Ford outfit is aiming for an error-free run to the flag at Barbagallo.

Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup are looking to capitalise on the tremendous pace the team had at the track in 2005 from the outset of the weekend, and will face a challenging test of race and pit strategy across the three sprints, including the second reverse grid showdown for the year.

Lowndes claimed pole at the circuit last season and will look to emanate his Top Ten Shootout performance in his second year piloting a Triple Eight Race Engineered Ford Falcon.

The 31-year-old boasts the best round win record of the V8 Supercar era at the sandy 2.415km track and would like nothing more than to take his tally to five overall victories, but is pre-empting a race where clean and measured driving will be on equal par with outright speed.

23-year-old Jamie Whincup's series campaign faltered slightly at New Zealand after a flawless performance at Adelaide, but he is still handily placed in the overall standings in 6th.

Whincup experienced first-hand the result of an awkward incident between reverse grid race leaders, and limped away from the opening lap chaos with a battle-scarred Team Betta Electrical Falcon.

Eager to erase the points deficit to the top five, Whincup (placed in 6th) is adopting a similar mindset to team mate Lowndes when it comes to the weekend, putting emphasis on error-free racing from start to finish.

The V8 Supercar action gets underway at Barbagallo on Friday, with drivers able to complete up to 50 laps in free practice. Saturday involves qualifying, a Top Ten Shootout and race 1 (120kms).

Sunday will start with an opening reverse grid race (140kms), where starting positions are determined by reversing the finishing order from the opening race - half points are on offer in this race.

The grid for race three will be determined by combining the results of the opening two races and full points will be awarded.

WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY--..

RUSSELL INGALL -- CALTEX RACING

"You almost have to treat every round as an individual championship. Each round is that important," said Ingall.

"SBR has a pretty good record at Barbagallo and there is no reason why that should not continue with the Caltex Falcon this weekend.

"Qualifying will be the key as always and the reverse grid will again just be a lottery.

"It was great to finally get a race win last year, but unfortunately we could not hold out Richo (Steve Richards) for the round win. There is no reason why we cannot go one better this year.

"I qualified 12th last year, which was not great, but that proves what you can achieve at Barbagallo if you are patient and have a reasonable strategy.

"It is the type of place that will throw in something from left field and you have to be prepared to work anything to you advantage."

"It is no secret that we made an ordinary start to the season, but we have certainly got things back on track and I am sure there is plenty left in the Caltex Ford.

"The guys at SBR have been working around the clock and I am looking forward to putting some theories into practice this weekend."

JAMES COURTNEY -- JELD-WEN RACING

"I am just looking forward to learning a new track and trying to break my way into the top 10 of the championship," said Courtney.

"All I know about Barbagallo is that there is a lot of sand all around the place.

"It is going to be important to make no mistakes and keep it on the black stuff.

"We had a very productive rookie test last week and I am sure some of the stuff we learnt will be put to good use this weekend."

CRAIG LOWNDES -- TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL

"There's no questioning the pace of the Triple Eight Falcons at Barbagallo with our pole here last year, but it will come down to keeping a straight car and avoiding incidents that will ultimately decide the winner," said Lowndes.

"The reverse grid race adds a real element of uncertainty into the round so it's very important to finish well in the first race and obviously follow this up in the final.

"It was great to come away from New Zealand and climb into the top ten, now it's just a case of building on the points tally and working towards the lead guys.

"It's a great track and always produces some spectacular racing, and there's a fine line between racing right on the edge and spearing off into the sand.

"With a bit of luck we'll come away with a top result."

JAMIE WHINCUP -- TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL

"There are realistically 10-12 drivers out there who are capable of winning the round, and it will come down to those who get a clean run and can survive the reverse grid race with maximum points intact," said Whincup.

"The car is lightning fast and the team have a proven handle on the race setup at Barbagallo, so we are pretty well prepared.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and racing with the leaders again, I've had a good taste of how it feels to come home first and I could really get used to it.

"Next weekend will be about chipping back at the top five and using the speed of the car to best manage my starting position for the all important final race."

-cr-

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Series Supercars
Drivers James Courtney , Garth Tander , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Craig Lowndes , Jamie Whincup , Steve Johnson , Steve Richards