Clipsal: The greatest battle of all

Teams and Drivers prepare for The Greatest Battle of All Defending V8 Supercar Championship Series Marcos Ambrose is looking over his shoulder while his team-mate Russell Ingall only wants to look forward in the lead up to what will be the ...

Teams and Drivers prepare for The Greatest Battle of All

Defending V8 Supercar Championship Series Marcos Ambrose is looking over his shoulder while his team-mate Russell Ingall only wants to look forward in the lead up to what will be the biggest and most hotly contested racing season on record.

Ambrose and five-time champion Mark Skaife headlined today's V8 Supercar Championship Series launch at Federation Square in Melbourne where AVESCO Chairman Tony Cochrane announced new sponsorships from WPS, Bartercard and KFC.

The V8 Supercar Championship Series starts with the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide from March 17-21.

WPS Financial Services are the official sponsors of the two Audi V8 Safety Cars, Bartercard will sponsor the Bartercard Grid Girls and The Miss V8 Supercar Girl while KFC also joins as sponsor. One of the two impressive Audi RS6 twin turbo V8 safety cars was officially unveiled at today's launch.

Tony Cochrane, AVESCO Chairman, said "There is no doubt that V8 Supercars have become a significant sport in this region of the world. The sponsor support for our category of motorsport has never been better.

'With our two blue chip companies in place as joint Naming Right sponsors, Carlton & United Breweries and Telstra BigPond, we now add even more to our family of sponsors with Bartercard, KFC and Wright Patton Shakespeare and we look forward to involving them in the V8 Supercar Championship Series."

Mr Cochrane said the V8 Supercar Championship still had its race in Shanghai in November on the calendar and was confident it will proceed.

"I am extremely confident that this race will go ahead as scheduled. Certainly we have contingencies in place if there are problems in getting the track ready and some operational matters finalised," he said.

"Should the race not proceed in November we will move the Shanghai event to the front end of the 2005 season. If this is the case we will still race on the same weekend in November at a circuit to be determined."

Ambrose broke the Mark Skaife-Holden domination of the previous three years when his Pirtek Falcon broke through in 2003 as just reward for the champions' skill and tenacity. As champion he will be trying to replicate Skaife's dominance in winning three straight titles prior to 2003.

"In a way the pressure is off having won the championship last year and I do really want to enjoy my racing in 2004," Ambrose said at today's season launch in Melbourne.

"Still, they say it is easier to chase a champion than to be the champion. I guess you can ask me about that at the end of the year.

"Be assured though I will be doing everything possible to win back to back titles for Ford and the Pirtek team. I also want to make sure I am a good champion for the sport, our fans and the sponsors.

"There will be plenty of teams that will lift their game this year and we will have a fair indication of who they will be after the first two or three rounds. The competition will come thick and fast from both sides of the fence."

Ingall has been constantly in the spotlight since the infamous swerve at Skaife at Eastern Creek last year. In some ways it may have taken the gloss away from Ambrose's breakthrough victory given the unheralded media and public attention that followed.

After more attention during pre-season, Ingall has decided to concentrate on his racing and not his personal or public relationship with Skaife.

"I'm just looking forward to getting the season underway," Ingall said.

"We spent the first year with a new team and a totally new car last season and we will all be better for having that time together."

Flying Kiwi Greg Murphy has been an early season performer at the Australian Grand Prix and will be a strong contender for his first V8 Supercar title having finished second to Ambrose in 2003.

"We have never been so well prepared for a season as we are this year; both Rick (Kelly) and my cars are new, the team is rested and refreshed and, after three months off, we're ready to go racing again," Murphy said.

"For the past two years we have finished second, so needless to say Kmart Racing is aiming high, the championship is our goal, as I'm sure it is for every other driver and team out there. It won't be easy; you've got to make the most of every opportunity and minimise the bad days.

"There are eight-12 drivers out there who are realistic chances to win the championship. Needless to say, Marcos wants to defend his title, while Skaife wants to win it back just as much and I'm hungry for my first."

Jason Bright, one of the Holden fliers in his PWR Commodore, set the early pace at the Australian Grand Prix at the weekend. He blitzed the field in Melbourne and believes his preparation is the best it has been in many years.

"We've had an excellent build-up to the start of the series after two wins and a second placing at the three Australian Grand Prix races, as well as two extremely productive test days at Winton," he said.

"Our speed at Albert Park was encouraging and the car seemed to look after its tyres better than most, so we feel that we're headed in the right direction. The boys have worked extremely hard and applied all of the lessons learned when things were pretty lean last year.

"The expectations of both (team-mate) Paul (Weel) and myself is to be in contention for a podium finish at every round. Last year demonstrated that we have the ability to challenge for the championship and this year we have the cars, the team and the ability to put it all together. We're definitely looking for a championship."

Popular Ford Performance Racing driver Craig Lowndes is looking at getting back to the top in 2004.

"Judging from the Grand Prix, there can be no doubt that this will be a fiercely competitive V8 Supercar season," said Lowndes.

"The developments that all of the teams have made will ensure that once again that mere hundredths and tenths will determine the pole positions. This can only mean close racing during the season between the arch rival Ford and Holden camps. I can't wait to get into it - the fans are in for a great spectacle at their local events and on Network Ten."

-avesco-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Tony Cochrane