CALTEX EIGHTH AND NINTH IN TASMANIA PRACTICE Craig Lowndes and James Courtney have led the charge for the Caltex-backed drivers by finishing eighth and ninth quickest respectively during this afternoon's practice for round 13 of the 2007 V8 ...
CALTEX EIGHTH AND NINTH IN TASMANIA PRACTICE
Craig Lowndes and James Courtney have led the charge for the Caltex-backed drivers by finishing eighth and ninth quickest respectively during this afternoon's practice for round 13 of the 2007 V8 Supercar Championship at Symmons Plains, Tasmania.
Lowndes' time of 52.3231 sees the #888 Team Vodafone pilot quietly confident ahead of tomorrow's qualifying session and opening 50 lap race as he looks to close the 20 point gap between himself and series leader Garth Tander.
With two round wins at Symmons Plains in 1996 and 1998, Lowndes certainly has the Symmons Plains pedigree, but with Tander the reigning round champion the stage is set for a title showdown over the weekend's three sprint races.
Close behind Lowndes and Courtney, after sitting higher in the highly competitive time sheets earlier in the piece, were Jamie Whincup and Russell Ingall in 14th and 16th respectively.
Like Lowndes, Ingall has also tasted victory at the Launceston stamping ground, taking the round win when the series returned to Tasmania in 2004 after a brief hiatus.
With the pilot of the #9 Caltex Racing Falcon showing good late season form, Ingall is looking towards qualifying to sort the men from the boys with a good starting position vital at this short 2.46 kilometre circuit.
After qualifying in the top ten in all of the past four rounds, including a season best third starting grid spot at the Bahrain International Circuit in the Middle East two weeks ago, Ingall is confident heading into tomorrow's session.
While 'The Enforcer' looks to regain victory in the Apple Isle, Whincup will be looking to regain his previously stellar form after a shocking Bahrain round saw him score no points and slip to fourth in the series standings after heading to the Middle East the championship leader.
With this in mind, Whincup and his second-placed team-mate Lowndes will be ones to watch with the championship chase set to come down to the wire.
Mark Winterbottom topped today's session with a new practice record of 51.6805, with previous record setter and championship leader Garth Tander setting the second-fastest time of the day.
Tomorrow's action will kick off with qualifying at 11.30am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time, followed by the opening race at 3.15pm. A pair of 50-lap races will be held on Sunday to complete the round, with the first set to begin at 11.45am.
Russell Ingall - Driver of the #9 Caltex Racing Falcon "We didn't have any good tyres today to get a good read of where we are," said Ingall.
"The second set that we threw on the Caltex Falcon was no better than the first.
"A lot of the other cars had some good rubber left over from Bathurst, we didn't have that luxury.
"We are not too concerned at this stage. One-tenth more and we move up eight spots so it is going to come down to putting together that one magic lap tomorrow."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "The car was quite reasonable when I first went out and we worked on car balance throughout the session," said Lowndes.
"We found a good balance before we went to our P2's and we went to what we believe was a good qualifying package but just didn't get the time gain that we had hoped for.
"Despite this I was still happy with the cars balance and I could position it anywhere on the track. We have a lot of useful data to go through tonight.
"I am very confident that on new tyres we will get a lot more out of the car."
Jamie Whincup - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "Unfortunately our tyre bank is a bit bare," said Whincup.
"We had low grip but consistent P1 tyres, then we rolled the dice and went with our P2's to try and give us some more grip for a couple of laps, but we actually ended up with less grip.
"I am looking forward to tomorrows' race and trying to get some points back."
James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "Practice today was a big session for us," said Courtney.
"The Jeld-Wen Falcon was not great out of the truck so a lot of work went into getting it up into the ten.
"In the end we put in quite a good time on the tyres available to us.
"You always have a few issues with brakes here just because of the nature of the circuit. It's up to me and the guys to manage that and to keep our nose clean tomorrow at the hairpin.
"We're confident that we are in the mix."