Airborne … Ford's Will Davison gets his car on two wheels during the final race of the V8 Supercars series on the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit. Photo: Getty Images
FORD'S leading team has accused Holden's V8 Supercars championship- winning squad of ''race fixing'' at the season-ending Sydney 500.
According to factory-backed Ford Performance Racing, Triple Eight Holden flagrantly broke the rules by sanctioning a deal between its drivers that enabled Craig Lowndes to win Saturday's first 250 kilometre leg of the two-race event.
Lowndes's title-winning teammate Jamie Whincup pulled over in the pit lane and let him past for the final pit stop to help him secure second in the championship.
"They gave Whincup an instruction to pull over under the podium according to a premeditated plan. Lowndes won the race because of that" ... FPR team principal Tim Edwards. Photo: Getty Images
FPR maintain that the switch, giving Lowndes a victory that allowed him to narrowly overtake their driver Mark Winterbottom in the points race for title runner-up, was in breach of the rule that bans team orders that affect the outcome of a race.
They claimed that by deliberately sacrificing his pit stop priority, which he had because he was ahead of Lowndes on the track, Whincup flouted rule D25 of the V8 Supercars sporting regulations.
The rule bans ''team orders'' to artificially change the running order of a team's cars to improve one of its driver's position in the championship.
It defines a prohibited team order as ''an instruction to a driver or team member, either verbal or otherwise, the effect of which may interfere with a race result''. If upheld, the breach carries a minimum penalty of exclusion from the race and a fine of $10,000.
Race officials investigated the incident after the race and ruled that there had been no infringement, announcing the decision on Sunday morning.
Confident that the V8 Supercars investigating officer Peter Wallerman would penalise Lowndes, FPR didn't lodge a protest within half an hour of the race, meaning the decision not to charge Triple Eight could not be challenged.
FPR team principal Tim Edwards hit out at Triple Eight, declaring that the orchestrated position change was the equivalent of rigging a race.
''In horseracing, that would be viewed as race fixing and the rider and trainer would be out for a long time,'' Edwards said. ''The rule is so clear. It says any communication which affects the outcome of the race is a breach of the rules.
''Everyone heard Whincup being told to pull over and let him [Lowndes] past on their team radio. To say there's no breach of the rules is astounding. How can they determine there's been no breach of the rules?
''They gave Whincup an instruction to pull over under the podium according to a premeditated plan. Lowndes won the race because of that. Personally, I don't think that the rule should be in there, but while we have it, we need to abide by it. It can be a grey area, but in this case it is black and white, crystal clear. Nothing can be done now because the final results of the race have been published.''
FPR has been Triple Eight's only rival in the V8 championship this year, outpacing their nemesis in the first half of the season.
Lowndes, despite being docked 25 points for a driving infringement early in Saturday's race, secured Triple Eight's one-two in the championship by finishing second in Sunday's final leg of the Sydney 500.
Winterbottom was put out of contention after being pushed into a tyre barrier at the first turn shortly after the start, eventually finishing second in his partially crippled FPR Falcon.
Wallerman, who decides if an alleged breach is referred to the race stewards for a hearing of a charge, was adamant there was no breach of the ban on team orders.
''I investigated the alleged breach, and what was said and what was done did not satisfy the requirements of a breach of regulation D25,'' Wallerman said. ''In my view, if I had presented all the information provided, any charge would have been dismissed. Accordingly, I recommended that the matter not proceed.''
He added that the incident did not warrant a charge because Whincup and Lowndes had agreed to the pit stop position swap beforehand, and hadn't been instructed to do so by their team.
''It was a deal between Craig and Jamie, and that's not prevented by the rules,'' Wallerman said. ''The regulation as written doesn't specify an instruction from whom. The team just reminded Jamie to pull over under the podium.''