Bathurst Thursday practice report

SKAIFE STAMPS HIS MARK EARLY ON THE MOUNTAIN Thursday, 5pm: Mark Skaife has landed the first blow in the titanic championship struggle which looms at this weekend¹s V8 Supercar 1000 in Bathurst, setting the fastest time ever recorded in a ...

SKAIFE STAMPS HIS MARK EARLY ON THE MOUNTAIN

Thursday, 5pm: Mark Skaife has landed the first blow in the titanic championship struggle which looms at this weekend¹s V8 Supercar 1000 in Bathurst, setting the fastest time ever recorded in a Thursday practice session at Bathurst

While Skaife leads the Shell Championship Series, there are only 272 points covering himself, Jason Bright, Russell Ingall and Steven Johnson. With 540 points on offer to the winner this weekend and just two more rounds to follow, the results will be pivotal in deciding the 2001 champion.

"It¹s early days yet, but this is a good way for us to start," he said. "We always try to get on it straight away at a race meeting."

Skaife¹s co-driver, Tony Longhurst, is not concerning himself with the championship fight, preferring to focus on tasting victory on Sunday.

"There has been absolutely no pressure from anyone in the team in regards to the championship," he said. "The car is great, the team is great and I am here to win Bathurst."

Skaife¹s time of 2:10.30, set in the final stages of the 90 minute session on fresh tyres, was less then 0.8s outside Mark Larkham¹s 1999 qualifying record and suggests that the recent $1.3million resurfacing of the 6.2km track will see records tumble throughout the weekend.

"It all depends on how the track changes as more rubber gets put down on it. If the surface stays the same we will go a little faster tomorrow, but if the grip level gets better, we will find even more time," said Skaife.

Second quickest was Glenn Seton in his Tickford Racing Falcon. This is Seton¹s 18th visit to the mountain and he is still chasing an elusive victory. His co-driver this year, Steven Richards has won twice and been on the podium for the last five years.

"I guess I probably want this more than most of the Bathurst visitors this year," he said. "We are here with a new car that we have very high expectations for after testing, but I am a realist and I know it¹s the little things that can bring you undone. With Steven, we have a driver who has winning experience here and we will drive the ring off the car and hope we are there at 4.30 on Sunday afternoon."

John Bowe was consistently quick from the outset, finishing the day in third place on the timesheets. With Young gun Simon Wills sharing the driving duties with the veteran this weekend, they loom as a good value bet - but you won¹t hear that from Bowe.

"Thursday is Thursday," said Bowe. "You don¹t win anything today."

Endurance maestro¹s, Russell Ingall and Larry Perkins were fourth fastest, with Ingall firmly focussed on winning this event to put the squeeze on Skaife¹s title bid. Kmart Holden pair, Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly were fifth fastest, confirming the bookie odds that have them as a podium favourite.

The combination most are picking to win, Steven Johnson and Paul Radisich, were sixth fastest in their Shell Helix Ford, with last year¹s winners. Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna seventh in the Valvoline Cummins Holden entry.

Cameron McLean and Greg Ritter were eighth in the second Shell Ford, ahead of Ford¹s star rookie, Marcos Ambrose who is paired with Wayne Wakefield in the Pirtek Falcon. Bright ensured all four title hopefuls were near the top with he and co-driver, Tomas Mezera rounding out the top ten.

New Zealand Trans Am Racer, Ashley Stichbury, lasted just two laps in the Big Kev Holden before his Bathurst debut was marred by concrete. A problem with the rear suspension saw him slap the wall before he crested the hill and faced the long trip down to the pits to help his employer for the weekend, Paul Morris, repair the Commodore.

The 41 car field will take part in provisional qualifying tomorrow afternoon, with the top 15 driver combinations going in to the shootout for pole position on Saturday before they tackle the gruelling 161 lap race on Sunday.

Practice Top Ten <pre> Pos Drivers Team Car Time ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. M.SKAIFE/T.LONGHURST Holden Racing Team Holden VX 2:10.3067 2. G.SETON/S.RICHARDS Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 2:11.1819 3. J.BOWE/S.WILLS CAT Racing Ford AU 2:11.4916 4. R.INGALL/L.PERKINS Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 2:11.8208 5. T.KELLY/G.MURPHY Kmart Racing Holden VX 2:12.1918 6. S.JOHNSON/P.RADISICH Shell Helix Racing Ford AU 2:12.1969 7. G.TANDER/J.BARGWANNA Valvoline Cummins Holden VX 2:12.2960 8. C.McLEAN/G.RITTER Shell Helix Racing Ford AU 2:12.7282 9. M.AMBROSE/W.WAKEFIELD Pirtek Racing Ford AU11 2:12.7756 10. J.BRIGHT/T.MEZERA Holden Racing Team Holden VX 2:12.8164 {/TB}

Bathurst V8 Supercar Lap Records:
Qualifying: Mark Larkham, (Ford 1999) 2:09.5146
Race Lap: Larry Perkins (Holden 1997) 2:12.3398

Shell Series Points Overall after 10 rounds:
1)Skaife - 2498, 2)Bright 2371, 3)Ingall - 2281, 4)Johnson - 2217, 5)Murphy - 1842, 6)Radisich 1836, 7)Kelly - 1644, 8)Ambrose 1611, 9)Tander - 1479, 10)Ellery 1477, 11)S.Richards - 1454, 12)Lowndes 1432, 13)Morris 1341, 14)Perkins 1307, 15)Seton - 1300

Bathurst V8 Supercar action at a glance:
Friday: Provisional Qualifying 1.10-2.50pm
Saturday: Top 15 Shootout 10.45-11.50am
Sunday: 161 lap (1000km) race 10am-4.45pm

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Steven Johnson , Garth Tander , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Mark Skaife , Mark Larkham , Jason Bargwanna , Paul Morris , Paul Radisich , John Bowe , Glenn Seton , Todd Kelly , Simon Wills , Tony Longhurst , Cameron McLean , Larry Perkins , Greg Ritter , Wayne Wakefield , Steven Richards
Teams Holden Racing Team , AT Racing