Marcos Ambrose has dominated the opening round of the 2004 V8 Supercars Championship Series, kicking off his Championship defence with a perfect two wins from two races while some of his main rivals have started on the back foot. Again Ambrose...
Marcos Ambrose has dominated the opening round of the 2004 V8 Supercars Championship Series, kicking off his Championship defence with a perfect two wins from two races while some of his main rivals have started on the back foot.
Again Ambrose was the lone Ford among a brace of Holdens, Steven Richards and Jason Bright joining him on the podium with John Bowe the next Falcon way down in ninth spot.
The HRT team had another troubled day with Mark Skaife limping over the line with a damaged Commodore and Todd Kelly fighting hard to 10th in the final race after he failed to finish.
A huge crash near the end of the race took out four cars in the top 10, and nearly blocked the track. Earlier incidents depleted the field, and only 17 cars finished the race.
For Ambrose all the news was positive, a troubled start for two of his main - Skaife and Greg Murphy - and a perfect score to start the year.
"My tyres were pretty much shot, we had a slight problem earlier in the race which made the throttle like a light switch - it was either on or off, so I fried the tyres early," Ambrose said.
"When we had a gap, we were able to wait until it was straight before we put the power down which meant they survived a little better.
"If you finish well here it takes a little bit of pressure off, and there were a couple of cars I thought would be quicker - Mark Skaife and Greg Murphy to name - who I expected to finish better.
"It feels pretty special to win the Clipsal 500, we haven't won a Bathurst or Sandown yet, and this is clearly one of the top three races so this is absolutely fantastic. It is one of the ones you really want, and we have well and truly broken the HRT here.
"We have the #1 on the side of the car, we've put a lot of work in and we don't intend to give it up easily."
Steve Richards was strong all weekend after narrowly missing the shootout on Friday, and claiming second in both races.
"We changed the car a little to try and improve car speed, and it definitely used the rear tyres more," Richards said.
"To come out and do that first race of the season after building two news cars over the summer is great."
Jason Bright was third today after a great dice with Richards after a Safety Car on lap 61 of 78and fifth overall in a race meeting that promised more than it delivered.
"This is one of the toughest races we do all year, so to get on the podium is great," Bright said.
"We were certainly having a go at the end, all weekend we had struggled in the first sector, but that didn't set us up very well to have a go at Richo in the hairpin. I was pretty surprised we could do a 24.1 on the second last lap, but it just wasn't enough.
"This weekend could have easily been ours, I probably learnt something from that incident yesterday that will be good for me. I think there are some tracks coming up that will suit us more too, to it is all looking good."
Paul Weel was fourth in today's race and third overall for to the weekend for the second year in a row, but again missed the chance to stand on the podium, this year because the final Clipsal 500 results are declared on the final race.
The damage bill mounted early today, with both Bright and Garth Tander crashing in the warm-up, Tander's so bad it put him out of the main race. On the second lap of the race, Steve Ellery hit the wall at the infamous Turn 8, retiring after he limped back to the pits.
Mark Skaife and David Besnard crashed on lap 60, both cars ending in the tyre wall and Skaife's damaged the most. Skaife's steering was bent and he limped home in last place, Besnard continued for 14th spot after running as high as third.
The biggest incident in the race was on lap 66 when a fierce battle at the lower end of the top 10 that left four cars severely damaged. Paul Dumbrell and Cam McConville touched going into Turn 8, McConville spinning sideways to rammed at more than 200km/h by both Brad Jones and Steven Johnson, Mark Winterbottom hitting the wall head first after trying to miss the high-speed ballet.
The damage bill will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some teams will face a tough battle to get on the track for the second round of the series in two weeks time at Eastern Creek.
Clipsal 500 - Race 2
1. Marcos Ambrose - Pirtek Falcon
2. Steven Richards - Castrol Perkins Commodore
3. Jason Bright - PWR Commodore
4. Paul Weel - PWR Commodore
5. Jason Bargwanna - Orrcon Steel Falcon
6. Rick Kelly - Kmart Commodore
7. Paul Radisich - Betta Electrical Triple 8 Falcon
8. Jason Richards - Tasman Motorsport Commodore
9. Greg Murphy - Kmart Commodore
10. Todd Kelly - HRT Commodore
2004 V8 Supercars Championship Series Standings (After Round 1)
1. Marcos Ambrose - 192
2. Steven Richards - 186
3. Paul Weel - 171
4. Greg Murphy - 159
5. Jason Bright - 147
6. Rick Kelly - 144
7. Paul Dumbrell - 141
8. Paul Morris - 132
9. John Bowe - 126
10. Mark Skaife - 126