Ford team accuses title winner of race fixing
Craig Lowndes, whose title-winning teammate Jamie Whincup pulled over in the pit lane and let him past for the final pit stop.
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' 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.
Ford Performance Racing maintains that the switch, gifting Lowndes a victory that allowed him to narrowly overtake its 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.
It 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 recommended 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 Wollerman, would penalise Lowndes, Ford Performance Racing didn't lodge a protest within half an hour of the race, meaning the decision not to charge Triple Eight could not be challenged.
Outraged by the lack of action, Ford Performance Racing team principal Tim Edwards hit out at Triple Eight, declaring that the orchestrated positional change was the equivalent of rigging a race.
''In horse racing, that would be viewed as race fixing and the rider and trainer would be out for a long time,'' he fumed.
''The rule [D25] 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, 'Pull over and let him [Lowndes] past' on their team radio. To say there's no breach of the rules is astounding.
''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.''
FPR has been Triple Eight's only rival in the V8 championship this year, outpacing its 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 1-2 in the championship by finishing second in Sunday's final leg of the Sydney 500.
Winterbottom was put out of contention by being pushed into a tyre barrier at the first turn soon after the start, eventually finishing second in his partially crippled FPR Falcon.