Reigning V8 Supercar Champion Russell Ingall is adamant his Stone Brothers Racing outfit can still match the feats of his former team-mate Marcos Ambrose with back-to-back title crowns. And his boss Ross Stone agrees.
Ingall is chasing pack leader Craig Lowndes in a mean group that includes Toll HSVs Rick Kelly and Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom. Rest assured no quarter will be given or taken in the next six weeks with rounds in Tasmania this weekend, Bahrain and at Phillip Island.
Lowndes felt the brunt of those hot on his heels at the Gillette Challenge on the Gold Coast when his Ford rivals made it abundantly clear they would not step aside for the Team Betta Electrical star.
Ingall was one of those when he executed a strong pass on Lowndes in the final race on the Gold Coast. Lowndes cut the chicane and did not re-dress quickly enough forcing a drive through penalty.
Ingall lies 390 points behind the leader with 960 points still up for grabs.
"Russell is still in contention," says Stone.
"He is a racer, a tough competitor and I would not expect him to concede the defence of his title until the last lap of the last round or until it is mathematically impossible to win it. The team and I back him 100 percent.
"We hope that a Ford can win the Championship, if not one of our cars then Lowndes or Mark Winterbottom."
Ingall was criticised in some quarters for the pass on Lowndes but Stone made it absolutely clear it is every man for himself, as it has always been.
"SBR won the V8 Supercar Championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Each time, we won it without assistance from other teams," he said.
"Winning a Championship on merit is the only way we want to win and I am sure that is the case for every V8 Supercar team in pit lane. No favours are offered and no favours are asked for."
Stone said that SBR operate as a professional team and seek the best possible result by their drivers Ingall and James Courtney every time they step foot into the car.
"Russell executed a great pass on Craig Lowndes at Surfers Paradise," he said.
"The pass was done cleanly in the spirit of fair and competitive racing however Russell and SBR have received some criticism for the move.
"But we accept no responsibility for the penalty imposed on Lowndes for driving through the chicane at Surfers Paradise which is part of the V8 Supercar rules and it is the responsibility of each competitor to adhere to them."
Lowndes' main rival Rick Kelly is applying as much heat as he can to his Ford rival, making up some 70 points at the Gold Coast to push the blow torch that much closer.
"It's been good to close up that points gap," said Rick Kelly.
"We managed to pull it back to 70-odd points after he (Lowndes) had some bad luck and made a few mistakes. That's good for us and hopefully if the team gives me a good car we'll be able to pull a few more points away.
"In saying that Craig is still going to be strong in all those rounds."
The Tasmanian event starts with practice tomorrow, qualifying, the Top Ten Shootout and race one on Saturday with two races on Sunday.