For the first time this season, the V8 Supercar series headed to the Sunshine State, a short drive from Ipswich, which boasts the fastest growing areas of South East Queensland. Willowbank Raceway is the home of motorsport up north and for the...
For the first time this season, the V8 Supercar series headed to the Sunshine State, a short drive from Ipswich, which boasts the fastest growing areas of South East Queensland. Willowbank Raceway is the home of motorsport up north and for the past four years has hosted the 500 kilometre endurance races. However, this year the format has changed to a single driver 300 kilometre event.
One of the outstanding features of the complex, which hosts all CAMS approved racing, is the circuit, where the 40,000 fans had an uninterrupted view of the entire track. Like the midweek State of Origin Rugby League series, this event was being billed similarly, as 'state against state', with the Queensland teams and drivers taking on their counterparts from Victoria, where many of the V8 Supercar teams are based.
If anything, the Queenslanders had home track advantage, and in the end it paid off with Stone Bros Racing taking the spoils after their drivers Russell Ingall and Marcos Ambrose took the quinella ahead of Holden Racing Team's Todd Kelly after team mate Mark Skaife blew an engine six laps from the end.
Fridays practice session saw Skaife clock a 1.11.22 ahead of Ambrose in his Pirtek Ford, while Paul Morris in the Sirromet Commodore grabbed 3rd after the 90 minute session. Morris no doubt surprised a few behind the pit wall, but it must be remembered that he was debuting his new Holden Motorsport engine. Over the years Morris has dominated other categories and it appears that the time has finally arrived for him to perform in this series.
The session was not a good one for Craig Lowndes and Glenn Seton with both ending putting their Ford Performance Racing cars into the gravel traps, although Lowndes was fortunate enough to drive out. Their team mate David Besnard in the third car could only manage 20th after debuting his new BA Falcon, but that changed during the thirty minute practice session on Saturday morning when he managed to grab 2nd ahead of Morris who was enjoying the new engine. Skaife was again on top while Ambrose moved back to 4th and Steven Johnson in the Shell Helix Racing Ford maintained his 5th spot. The afternoon session again saw Morris retain 3rd despite ending in the gravel at turn 6 while Paul Radisich in the Betta Electrical Ford moved into 2nd after being 23rd earlier.
Despite what is said, being consistent will not win you the championship. You may go close, but at the end of the day you will not be handed the trophy. It's the business end of the season and drivers either have to win or grab a minor placing to be considered a contender.
On Sunday morning all the attention was focused on the Top Ten shoot out and the sponsorship of the Big Pond 300. On Saturday afternoon AVESCO Chairman, Mr Tony Cochrane announced that the Australian telecommunications giant Telstra had come on board the series as a platform sponsor, and is injecting $6M over the next three and a half years.
This is the 10th anniversary of the series, and each year it keeps growing, much in the same way that NASCAR is doing in American motorsport. With the Championship heading to China in 2004, and already in New Zealand, it would be the ultimate opportunity to showcase the event in the U.S. down the track
Although Skaife dominated practice and qualifying, he stumbled during the shoot out when he ran wide at turn 4 which cost him valuable tenths and finally pole position, allowing Ambrose to collect the $5,000 prize.
Once the lights turned green Skaife got off the line ahead of Ambrose as they headed to turn 1. As Skaife moved to his right to claim the corner he collided with Ambrose who backed off and surrended the lead. Ingall got the jump on Morris and Greg Murphy in the K-Mart Racing Commodore passed Paul Radisich who now had to contend with Lowndes. Murphy caught Team Dynamik's Simon Wills and pushed him wide at turn 4 and Wills lost several places when he re-joined the filed.
After a handful of laps Max Wilson in the second Shell Helix Racing Ford joined the race after suffering engine problems on the grid and was circulating for points only. Not long after, a disappointed Seton was in the garage and he was soon joined by Steven Richards in the Castrol Perkins Racing who was suffering electrical problems. Brad Jones also pitted after oil was spewing from the rear of the OzEmail Ford and brother Kim decided to call it a day.
Meanwhile, out in front, Skaife was stretching his lead to 1.5 seconds over Ambrose with 'The Enforcer' Ingall sitting back in 3rd. At the back of the pack Mark Larkham in the Orrcon Ford scrapped with rookie Paul Dumbrell in the second Castrol car, who came off second best. Team owner Larry Perkins said that despite the incident, Dumbrell was learning and he was giving him an opportunity to find his feet.
By half distance many of the teams had pitted for their compulsory stops when Skaife headed in and was followed by Ambrose. Skaife took on fuel while Stone Bros opted for tyres, giving the 'Devil Racer' the advantage and the lead as he left the pits. Ten laps later Ambrose headed in for tyres and in his haste to re-join the race he stalled in pit lane. As he got started he pulled out of his pit bay and collided with Steven Ellery in the Super Cheap Auto Ford.
That incident cost him the race and an opportunity of surpassing Allan Moffat's five successive wins when he had to return for a stop-go penalty. If there was any consolation, it was that his team mate Ingall was out in front in the Havoline Ford.
Knowing that there was no chance of winning, Ambrose went about trying to reel in
Skaife and when he finally did and passed him with 6 laps to go the day was over for the five time champion when smoke poured from the rear of the number one Holden. While Skaife returned to the garage, Ambrose continued to push on, crossing the line 2 seconds behind Ingall who managed his first win since switching to Ford this season, ending a long drought since he last won at Winton in 2001.
Morris finished 4th, ahead of series leader Jason Bright in the Team Brock Commodore, who is yet to score a victory, while Lowndes, Bowe, Murphy and team mate Rick Kelly, along with Paul Weel in the second Team Brock car secured the minor placings.