Ambrose closes in on first championship crown
Stone Brothers Racing's Marcos Ambrose is one race finish away from winning his first V8 Supercar crown after a blistering performance in the opening race of the VIP Petfoods Main Event at Eastern Creek Raceway today.
Ambrose, who started from fourth on the grid, made a great start in the 150km race moving up to second by the first corner behind pole man Mark Skaife in the last round of the season.
His position was improved a couple of laps later when Skaife was given a drive through penalty for jumping the start.
Then the other championship contender Greg Murphy made contact and spun Glenn Seton and was also given a black flag.
Ambrose dominated the rest of the 39-lap race staying clear of trouble in a near faultless display by both driver and SBR Racing pit crew.
In the worst case scenario of Skaife or Murphy winning tomorrow's race, Ambrose just needs to finish a minimum of 31st in the 32-car field to claim his first title.
Ambrose took the checkered flag by close to 15 seconds from Jason Bright and Todd Kelly.
Ambrose's SBR teammate Russell Ingall finished a strong fourth in the Caltex Havoline Falcon, with Skaife making headway after his penalty to place eighth and Murphy 24th.
Ingall qualified 14th in the all-field shootout earlier in the day and produced a drive which will put him in a strong position to help Ambrose at the start of tomorrow's 64-lap (250km) final.
Despite his solid result today, Ambrose knows he still has a day of work to complete.
"It's not over yet," said Ambrose. "It has been a great day and it has come despite a lot of pressure.
"This has gone a long way to reaching our goal of winning the championship and it would be great to finish the season by claiming the 'double' tomorrow.
"I thought we had a car good enough to take pole and win the race, but I don't think the track conditions were near their best when I went out to do my time in the shootout.
"Both the other guys fighting for the championship (Murphy and Skaife) had tough races today and that has eased the pressure.
"I had one of my best starts for the year and that set me up for a good result.
"I struggled with my starts last year and it is something I have really worked on this season.
"I had a solid pit stop and once that was over I settled into a rhythm. I think I had a little bit in reserve."
Ingall, who sits fourth in the championship, enjoyed his charge through the field.
"The conditions were not that great when I went out early in the shootout, so to start 14th was a little disappointing considering our car speed," said Ingall.
"I think we proved how good our race set-up was.
"It was great to be out there without any pressure and just racing.
"It is great that I can start towards the front tomorrow and be in a position to help Marcos out if needed.
"It was the team's goal to win the championship this season and we need to make sure we take the last step."