Sandown: Friday practice report

Ambrose gets a little help from his friends Reigning V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose has been asking all year for support from his fellow Ford drivers. His request was granted at practice for the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 today but he...

Ambrose gets a little help from his friends

Reigning V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose has been asking all year for support from his fellow Ford drivers. His request was granted at practice for the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 today but he still warned the Red Lion of Holden would fight back tomorrow.

Fords covered the first five fastest cars in practice for Sunday's first endurance race of the season and Holden the second five as co-drivers stepped into the cars for the first time in 2004 in the major leadup to the Bathurst 1000.

Ambrose lapped the track faster than his own practice record of two years ago, and then sat back and watched his co-driver Greg Ritter settle into the top three in the final co-driver's only session.

There were five Fords at the top of the times, the fastest Commodore being that of former Champion Mark Skaife as team-mate Peter Brock's return to the V8 Series was over shadowed by a trip into a sand trap just a few laps into his first spell.

The 59-year-old was still faster than his co-driver Jason Plato and a host of full-time V8 Supercar Championship Series drivers -- proving he still has the talent that won Bathurst nine times.

Ambrose headed the times from team-mate Russell Ingall and former team-mate David Besnard, now driving a WPS Falcon, with Steve Ellery and John Bowe rounding out a bright day for the blue oval in trying conditions.

"It is great, as far as this year is concerned it is the best we've had it rolling out of the truck this year," Ambrose said.

"Greg (Ritter) did a great job in session two, and the team has come a long way since last year. There is no reason why we can't win this race. Practice one looks pretty good, but let's wait until qualifying and the race to see what the speed is really like."

Last year, Ambrose chances of winning the race disappeared when Ingall spun the car out of the lead on the first lap of his spell, starting a run of outs that nearly cost him his first Championship.

"It is a lot of pressure driving with Marcos, but the car is a lot better too," Ritter said after the session, comparing the BA Falcon with the AU Falcon in which he won the final round of the Konica Minolta Series.

"We could have gone a bit quicker but I had a bit of an oops and filled the brake ducts with rocks, so all I've got to do is drive fast and keep it off the walls."

Ingall said he had no flashbacks to last year's disaster and that he was fully focussed on winning this year's race, and would work tomorrow to find the extra time he believes is in his Falcon.

"There's still time in it, that's for sure," Ingall said. "If we can just get it right we'll have a pretty good toy."

Ingall will share his car for this race and Bathurst with Cameron McLean.

David Besnard was quick in his black WPS Falcon, the Queensland driver arriving back in Australia this morning after testing a Champ Car in the US with a view to racing one on the Gold Coast later this year.

"I am fully focussed on this weekend," the jet-lagged driver said. "We pulled it out of the trailer and it was just awesome. Everyone knows this is out first year, and this is the first time we've had all the bits in it that we've wanted."

Besnard is driving with Neil McFadyen who drove with Team Dynamik last year.

Steve Ellery and Luke Youlden finished on the podium here last year, and Ellery says that form is still evident.

"It is not going to be easy, but unlike the other here we had to work hard for our speed today," Ellery said. "But we do have form coming here after last year, and we do have more work to do to make it a nicer thing. But this is a great start."

John Bowe and Brad Jones rounded out the top five in OzEmail Falcon, Bowe coming fifth in the faster dry session and Jones second in the later wet session.

Both PWR Racing cars scored damaged after being crashed in the co-driver's session, Malcolm Marshall crashing onto the main straight at the start of the session and Paul Weel bouncing off the track in Championship leader Jason Bright's car later in the session.

Neither car suffered much damage, although Weel's ego took a hit.

"It went in hard enough, it was just a stupid mistake" he said. "I hit bounced it off the kerb and I just didn't expect it to flick me that hard. It'll be right tomorrow."

Tomorrow's action sees one practice session before qualifying and a Shootout.

-avesco-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers David Besnard , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Russell Ingall , Jason Plato , Brad Jones , Mark Skaife , Paul Weel , John Bowe , Luke Youlden , Cameron McLean , Greg Ritter , Neil McFadyen