Round 13 SandownV8 Ultimate, VIC 30 November 2 December, 2001
Race one report
Celebration Of Skaife At Sandown
Saturday, 5pm: Mark Skaife wasn¹t going to let anyone spoil the first day of his Sandown celebration, storming his way into pole before exerting his champion¹s status on the field to take a convincing victory in the first of three 150km races in this the final Shell Championship Series round of 2001.
Having won the title at the last round in New Zealand, Skaife promised he would be going for broke this weekend and, true to his word, he took the win by 5.4 seconds from his long time rival, Craig Lowndes.
Lowndes made great ground in the Gibson Falcon from 14th on the grid, while Todd Kelly was third in the Kmart Holden.
Skaife overcame a wobbly start to storm to the lead in before the tyres were warm, a position he held after the pitstop merry-go-round to the finish, except for a brief episode with his teammate, Jason Bright, who Skaife had said he would try to help this weekend as he fights for second place in the championship.
Bright tried to pass around the outside of turn one after on the restart after a safety car period and Skaife used all the car¹s muscle to stay on the racing line, leaving Bright to gather up his car in the grass.
"The reality is you have to help yourself and my idea of passing the leader is not around the outside on turn one," said Skaife. "My plan would have been for Jason and I to try get a bit of a lead on the rest and then see what I could do to help, but he shouldn¹t be trying that move on anyone. Two cars were never going to get around there. Don¹t get me wrong, I would really like for the team to finish the year 1-2.
"The only time in the race I did struggle was wen Jason and I had a bit of a rub. Apart from that, it was the most relaxed I have ever felt in a race. We had a great pit stop, probably the best for the year and that helped a lot."
Lowndes¹ progress was more in keeping with his provisional qualifying effort which had him second before a disastrous shootout saw him plummet to 14th on the grid.
A brilliant pitstop gained him track position and then some classic Lowndes passing manoeuvres saw him slide into second place, setting up a great battle with Skaife off the front row for tomorrow¹s races.
"Apart from the shootout the car has been very consistent here," said Lowndes. "We made a change to our strategy and we got a fantastic pitstop that got us out in front of Russell (Ingall) and that was the spark that got us going for the rest of the race. I am looking forward to going one better if we can tomorrow."
Kelly¹s strong showing was indicative of his Kmart Holden Team¹s form of late and he was even able to battle through damage sustained after contact with Bright.
"The first half of the race was quite good, I was very comfortable with the race pace," he said. "Jason tried to make his move then when he got back onto the track he drove into my right rear and I was struggling with a weak sidewall for the rest of the race.
Russell Ingall kept his nose clean to finish fourth in the Castrol Holden, just in front of the man who is looking to knock him out of second place in the championship, Bright.
Marcos Ambrose fought with the leaders early in the race, but his Pirtek Falcon drifted off the pace as the race wore on and he finished in sixth ahead of Glenn Seton in the Tickford Racing Ford.
Greg Murphy was the closest challenger to Skaife until officials served him a stop go penalty for excessive kerb hopping on lap 45 of 48, sending him from second to eighth.
Cameron McConville¹s race was very short lived after he found his Lansvale Commodore flipping over after a lap one clash when Dugal McDougall, Paul Romano, Mark Larkham and he found themselves in a four way squeeze through the first turn of the race.
McConville walked away from the spectacular crash with little apart from a headache and his crew will have a mountain of work to do overnight if he is to take his place on the grid tomorrow.
Larkham was also forced to retire after the damage to his Ford from that incident was accentuated when he clashed with Jason Bargwanna.
Paul Radisich had put himself amongst the contenders early, before a sticking throttle in his Shell Helix Falcon left him to eventually trailing home in 20th.
Rick Kelly¹s debut in the Young Lions Holden didn¹t go as smoothly as he liked. Todd¹s 18 year old brother had only eight race laps before his engine gave way and he was left parked on the side of the road
The first of tomorrow¹s races will see Skaife line up on the front row together for a mouth watering clash with Lowndes, a looming clash that even had Skaife voice his eagerness.
"What a great way for our sport to finish the season with a Ford and a Holden on the front row to start the last day of racing for the year. I am looking forward to another great battle with Craig," he said. <pre>
Race 1 Top Ten Pos. Driver Team Car 1. MARK SKAIFE Holden Racing Team Holden VX 2. CRAIG LOWNDES Gibson Motorsport Ford AU 3. TODD KELLY Kmart Racing Holden VX 4. RUSSELL INGALL Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 5. JASON BRIGHT Holden Racing Team Holden VX 6. MARCOS AMBROSE Pirtek Racing Ford AU11 7. GLENN SETON Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 8. GREG MURPHY Kmart Racing Holden VX 9. JASON BARGWANNA Valvoline Cummins Race Team Holden VX 10. BRAD JONES OzEmail Internet Racing Ford AU
Shell Series Points Overall as after Race 1, Rd 13:
1)Skaife - 3398, 2)Ingall 2797, 3)Bright - 2709, 4)Murphy - 2628, 5)Johnson - 2448, 6)Kelly 2317, 7)Radisich - 2041, 8)Tander 2011, 9)Ellery - 1989, 10)Ambrose 1944, 11) S.Richards 1842, 12) T.Longhurst 1839, 13)Lowndes 1829, 14) Perkins 1800, 15)Seton - 1760