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Conrod, Straight: Issue 2

1/12/2005 9:06 (Michael Shaw) - I have to start Issue 2 of ‘Conrod, Straight’ by congratulating Russell Ingall. After 10 years of hard work in V8 Supercars on top of his exploits overseas, he has finally achieved the pinnacle of Australian motorsport.

Russell put together a good set of races at Phillip Island by maintaining fifth position throughout, ensuring he was able to secure the championship with the minimum of fuss. There were a couple of close calls but he kept it together and was later handed a free pass when Craig Lowndes received his drive through penalty.

The officials should count themselves lucky that the Lowndes penalty did not make any difference to the championship outcome. The backlash they would have received would have been phenomenal. Lowndes’ supporters would have blamed AVESCO for handing the series to Ingall. It would not have been a pretty sight.

I do stand by the penalty, as per the rules. While the wheelnut was dropped before the car entered pit lane, it was dropped in preparation for the pitstop, and the team shouldn’t let any equipment into the fast lane at any stage during a race. It is harder at Phillip Island as it does have a reasonably narrow pit lane, but this shouldn’t be used as an excuse, as ideally the teams shouldn’t be dropping equipment at all. I know that there have been suggestions that the drive through shouldn’t have happened, as the incident wasn’t during the tyre change/pitstop, but then you need to differentiate very specifically what constitutes a pitstop; and it can get unnecessarily complex.

As an experiment after Phillip Island, I put together a spreadsheet that worked out the position of each driver round-per-round. It makes interesting reading, for some at least. You can see how drivers have moved about as the championship has moved on.

Taking Ingall, initially, he’s been able to stay in the top three for all bar the first round of the series in Adelaide. Cameron McConville is one of those that have moved about a lot in the series. If you follow his line, you can see how a bad Pukekohe put him on the back foot for the rest of the series. (See the graph if you really want to get the idea)

Rick Kelly’s progression really shows how far the HSV Dealer Team have come this year. From a low of 19th after Round 5, Rick managed to climb back up into the top 10 after a string of high finishes at the end of the year. Unfortunately for Rick, he was outperformed by his teammate, Garth Tander. Tander finished around 100 points ahead, though only 2 positions. When you then re-enter the dropped round, Garth pulls out a lead of almost 150 points.

At this point you may be thinking that Garth blew Rick into the weeds. While I won’t disagree, I will point out that there was over a 150-point gap from Ingall to Ambrose, almost 600 points from Steve Richards to Paul Dumbrell, over 400 from Lowndes to Steve Ellery but only 6 points from Todd Kelly to Mark Skaife.

If you want to feel sorry for anyone, then that person should probably be Greg Murphy. One of only 2 drivers in the top 20 that have had more than one zero point round (the other being Ellery), Murphy missed out on a top 10 finish in the series by a solitary point. Misfortune at both Sandown and Bathurst proved to be his downfall; just finishing in either race would have been enough.

I’m going to finish this week with another prediction. This time about the team which will improve the most in the off-season. I predict Brad Jones Racing will come out firing next year. There are a number of reasons, with Stone Brothers engines being at the very top of the list, but even without this significant improvement, BJR would be coming back up the field. After what can easily be described as a horror year, especially as they had been the consistent improvers in the field for the last few years, the entire team will knuckle down and find every tenth they can. BJR have never been happy to sit behind the bigger and better funded teams. Their smaller budget and limited resources have never been an excuse for not winning races and challenging to be the best.

Hope the graph keeps you amused for a few hours, and helps fill in some of that free time you have now the off-season has begun. Hopefully Conrod, Straight can keep you busy for at least as long as it takes Rodney Forbes to make a 3-point turn.

Release Date: 1/12/2005

2005 Round-by-Round standings