INGALL CLAIMS SECOND IN NZ OPENER Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall has boosted his championship tally with a hard-earned second place in the opening race of round two of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Pukekohe Raceway in New Zealand. In...
INGALL CLAIMS SECOND IN NZ OPENER
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall has boosted his championship tally with a hard-earned second place in the opening race of round two of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Pukekohe Raceway in New Zealand.
In an action-packed race, Ingall maintained his cool from a starting place of fourth on the 31-car grid and eventually only had Mark Skaife between him and the chequered flag after 36 laps.
There was a safety car period from laps one to five after an opening corner incident which resulted in local hero Greg Murphy in a bent car on the side of the track.
Ingall was seventh after the morning qualifying and then managed to jump three spots in the top 10 shootout. Pole sitter Garth Tander was given a drive through penalty for jumping the start and eventually finished 20th.
Skaife led Ingall by more than four seconds in the later stages of the race, but he managed to peg that lead back to just 1.4 seconds, despite having to fight his way through lapped traffic.
Craig Lowndes was quickest in qualifying in his Caltex-backed Team Betta Electrical Falcon, but dropped three places in the top 10 shootout.
He finished a solid fifth in the race, despite and slow start and a slow pit stop.
Lowndes' championship-leading teammate Jamie Whincup was fourth in qualifying and dropped to seventh after the shootout. He ran wide at the hairpin on lap eight and he dropped to the rear of the field. After getting into a rhythm he eventually finished 15th.
Ingall's Stone Brothers Racing teammate James Courtney scored his first points of the season when he finished a more than credible eighth in his Caltex-backed Jeld-Wen Falcon.
Courtney qualified 15th for the race, but kept his cool and methodically worked his way up the leaderboard after narrowly avoiding the opening-lap accident.
There will be a lot more passing tomorrow with the category trialing a new reverse-grid format.
The only cars behind Skaife and Ingall on the grid will be the cars of Fabian Coulthard, Todd Kelly and Murphy who all failed to finish the race.
Jason Richards will start from pole for tomorrow's race alongside Andrew Jones after the pair finished 28th and 27th respectively today.
A combination of results from today's race and tomorrow's opening 50-lap reverse grid event will determine the starting line-up for tomorrow's afternoon's final race.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
RUSSELL INGALL -- CALTEX RACING
"It was good to get through that one today with a good result. I will be a lot happier to be able to say that tomorrow after the reverse grid race," said Ingall.
"I actually flat-spotted a tyre pretty early in the race so I had to take it easy through the hairpin and that really stopped me from having a big go at Skaife.
"Despite that, we really had good pace, which is a terrific sign after our problems in the opening round and at the AGP.
"We had a good start, good pit stops and the strategy was great.
"I still think there is plenty left in the car, but it will be a matter of making the right moves because the track conditions are continually changing.
"Tomorrow's reverse grid race is going to be a real lottery.
"You cannot predict anything. It is going to be a real 'suck it and see' situation.
"There is going to be so much input from the driver, the team and anyone else with an opinion.
"The important thing will be to keep the car in one piece and make sure you are around for the final race of the weekend."
JAMES COURTNEY -- JELD-WEN RACING
"It was great to finally score some points," said Courtney.
"We lost about four places at the start because I had to stop to avoid (Greg) Murphy and then (Cameron) McConville came spinning back at me the other way.
"When I saw all that happening, I just thought 'here we go again'.
"Once we got going there was no one in my group that was really quicker than me and we managed to drive through to eighth.
"There were some pretty happy people back in the pits. Probably the happiest I have seen a crew after finishing eighth in a race.
"We just need to build on that from here."
CRAIG LOWNDES -- TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL
"I got quite a bit of wheel spin off the start and dropped a spot early but the car was feeling great," said Lowndes.
"The pit stop didn't go exactly to plan, with an air gun issue and the car stalling as I went to pull out, and this forced me back outside the top ten with a lot of traffic to contend with.
"The nature of the track meant I was regularly catching up to slower cars but losing momentum as they pulled into the pits, it was quite hard to make up the ground to challenge the leaders.
"Overall I'm reasonably happy with the result, but tomorrow will be interesting as rear tyres start to become a factor."
JAMIE WHINCUP -- TEAM BETTA ELECTRICAL
"After we finally got going I found I had probably set the brake bias incorrectly for the amount of fuel the car was carrying, and I was struggling to pull it up while defending the cars behind," said Whincup.
"I came in for a pit stop after coming off the track at turn five and really had my work cut out for me having to come from close to the back of the pack.
"The car had some really good pace as the race went on and I managed to pick off quite a few places mid-pack, though time got the better of me in the end.
"It was a tough race and I'll need to hedge my bets in the reverse grid race tomorrow."