Holden Racing Team wheelman Mark Skaife overtook the late Peter Brock's record of 37 round wins in the Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercar Championships yesterday at Eastern Creek International Raceway, west of Sydney after finishing...
Holden Racing Team wheelman Mark Skaife overtook the late Peter Brock's record of 37 round wins in the Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercar Championships yesterday at Eastern Creek International Raceway, west of Sydney after finishing 3rd behind team mate Todd Kelly and his former partner Craig Lowndes in race three on the Queens Birthday long weekend.
After Sydney suffered one of it's worst downpours on record, there was the prospect that the event may have been cancelled. Such was the rain that northern parts of the State were declared disaster zones only 48 hours earlier. Perhaps the late Peter Brock had something to do with a change in fortune, as Skaife had been chasing his record for a number of years.
Saturday saw organisers tossing and turning as to whether the official practice would get underway, as water was still running across the main straight in sections. All competition had been cancelled up until this time, when a glimmer of sunshine broke through and organisers threw down the gauntlet to the V8 Ute series to test the waters. An hour later saw the garage doors roll up on pit lane and the engines started humming. By 2:30pm, the V8 Supercars were on the track, treading wearily as predicted for the first dozen laps. No driver was taking the chance of going flat out.
After two 60 minute sessions, the Team Vodafone Falcon with Lowndes behind the wheel topped the time sheets while Toll/HSV driver Garth Tander came in 2nd and Stone Bros. Racing's James Courtney finishing 3rd in the Jeldwen Ford. The likeable Lowndes was not talking up his result, as this was only practice and there was more racing to come, besides, the track hadn't dried out and therefore the real potential was unknown.
Blue skies greeted fans on Sunday morning and the program was re-scheduled to accommodate other series that missed out the day before. The only thing that didn't change was the main event, the V8 Supercars, who came out at 11:30am that morning for qualifying. It was soon evident that Skaife and his partner Todd Kelly were the men to beat after Skaife dialled in his red machines, putting him on pole for the first of three races around the 3.9 kilometre track.
Skaife, who holds the lap record at Eastern Creek, whizzed around for both the 31 laps events, not putting a foot wrong and was only slowed down by the safety car when his fellow drivers committed misdemeanours. After his second win, the former Central Coast resident wasn't being too optimistic with the final race left to run. After all, to take the title he had to win the round, and his team mate Todd Kelly was knocking on the door, so too was his brother, reigning champion and series leader, Rick Kelly.
Monday's weather was a repeat of the day before and by the time 3:40pm rolled around the skies looked ominous, with a sprinkling of rain before teams headed out to grid.
As the lights changed, Skaife was jumped by Rick Kelly and Lowndes and was under pressure from Jamie Whincup in the second Vodafone Ford but managed to hold onto 3rd going through the sweeper at Turn 1. From there the battle between the front runners raged for most of the race, with fans wondering whether Lowndes would repay Kelly for the incident that cost him the championship at Philip Island. That wasn't too be, as Lowndes doesn't resort to those tactics, taking a leaf out of the book of his mentor, Peter Brock.
Skaife was content to sit back and watch his younger adversaries go hammer and tongs and decided that to pit was the better option. He came out in 3rd and remained there for the rest of the race, taking his 38th ATCC/V8 Supercar title, eclipsing Holden racing legend 'Peter Perfect'.
When later asked why he didn't get on the bonnet and salute the crowd or do a burnout Skaife replied, "I'm not that sort of bloke, that doesn't interest me". You could say that he is a bit like 'Brocky', he wasn't the type of person or driver who made a song and dance about those things either. The obvious question now being asked is whether anyone will break Skaife's record. The answer is, probably not. Congratulations Mark on a stellar career.