Round 13 Sandown V8 Ultimate, VIC
Top 15 Shootout Report
Saturday, 11.15am: Mark Skaife squeezed the life out of his HRT Commodore to record the fastest lap in the top fifteen shootout at Victoria's Sandown Raceway, scoring his fourth pole position of the Shell Championship Series in the final round of the year.
Skaife now adds the unofficial title of 2001 qualifying king to the championship title he sealed at the last round in New Zealand, having broken the 3-3 deadlock with Ford's Marcos Ambrose.
It also ensures another Holden dominated season, with the badge claiming overall qualifying honours from their Ford rivals by seven poles to six.
Skaife's lap in the shootout for pole might have looked a bit untidy, with a brake lock on pit straight, but it was typically fast from the man who has a reputation for producing in shootout situations.
"I got away with a bit of a lock up today. I was going for a ten out of ten lap today because I can afford to be a bit of a risk taker given the championship is already sealed," he said.
"It's still going to be a pretty tough weekend, as we saw with about 20 cars within about a second of each other in qualifying."
Greg Murphy's strong New Zealand form continues, as he joins Skaife on the front row for this afternoon's first of three 150km races with his Kmart Holden teammate, Todd Kelly finishing third in the shootout after holding provisional pole.
Ambrose leapt from tenth to fourth in his Pirtek Falcon to be the only Ford driver in the top six.
Ford's brightest hope from provisional qualifying, Craig Lowndes, got out of shape and slightly off track on his flier and slipped from second to 15th.
Skaife's HRT teammate, Jason Bright will start from fifth, setting up a tantalising battle with Russell Ingall in the Castrol Commodore who qualified sixth fastest.
The two combatants are locked in a battle for second place in the championship, with Murphy also in a position to climb past them if they slip up.
Paul Radisich seems to have overcome electrical problems he experience in his Shell Helix Falcon during practice yesterday, qualifying seventh and giving himself a chance of repeating his Sandown victory in 2000.
Fellow Ford drivers, Steve Ellery (Super Cheap Ford) and Glenn Seton (FTR) were able to climb up to eighth and ninth respectively after scraping in to the top 15 yesterday, and veteran Larry Perkins rounded out the top ten in the second Castrol Holden.
Steven Richards was 11th in his last drive with Seton's Tickford Racing team, ahead of David Besnard in the Caltex Ford. Paul Morris made no advance in the Big Kev Holden, holding station in 13th.
Simon Wills was 15th in the CAT Falcon he took over from John Bowe two rounds ago.
The full 32-car field will take to the track at 2pm this afternoon for race one, with race two at 11am tomorrow and race three at 3.20pm.
<pre> Top Fifteen Shootout Results: (** NB: Provisional qualifying position shown in brackets)
1. (4) MARK SKAIFE Holden Racing Team Holden VX 1:11.2564 2. (3) GREG MURPHY Kmart Racing Holden VX 1:11.3574 3. (1) TODD KELLY Kmart Racing Holden VX 1:11.4480 4. (10) MARCOS AMBROSE Pirtek Racing Ford AU11 1:11.4927 5. (5) JASON BRIGHT Holden Racing Team Holden VX 1:11.7981 6. (8) RUSSELL INGALL Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 1:11.7299 7. (6) PAUL RADISICH Shell Helix Racing Ford AU 1:11.7426 8. (14) STEVE ELLERY Supercheap Auto Racing Racing Ford AU 1:11.7790 9. (15) GLENN SETON Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 1:11.9256 10. (7) LARRY PERKINS Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 1:12.0316 11. (9) STEVEN RICHARDS Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 1:12.2845 12. (11) DAVID BESNARD Caltex Havoline Racing Ford AU11 1:12.2946 13. (13) PAUL MORRIS Big Kev Racing Holden VT 1:12.3404 14. (2) CRAIG LOWNDES Gibson Motorsport Ford AU 1:12.3617 15. (12) SIMON WILLS CAT Racing Ford AU 1:12.8046