Albert Park - Hot Wheels qualifying report

<pre> Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown 2001 Qantas Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, March 1-4 </pre> Thursday, 1 March: Marcus Ambrose upstaged the cream of Australian racing today in his V8 Supercar debut, snatching pole...

<pre> Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown 2001 Qantas Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, March 1-4

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Thursday, 1 March: Marcus Ambrose upstaged the cream of Australian racing today in his V8 Supercar debut, snatching pole position in the dying stages of qualifying for the Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown at the Qantas Australian Grand Prix.

In the first hitout for the V8 Supercar field for 2001, the 24-year-old rookie took the top spot despite boasting the mere total of a day and a half's testing experience in his new drive, the Stone Brothers' prepared Pirtek Falcon.

He will start in front of the Holden Racing Team's reigning Shell Series champion, Mark Skaife, experienced Ford Tickford Racing pilot, Glenn Seton, and Valvoline Cummins Holden's 2000 Bathurst winner, Garth Tander.

While the pole time was almost a second slower than the 2000 Hot Wheels mark, the fierceness of the competition was hotter, with less than seven tenths of a second separating the top ten.

"When the lap time came up, and I saw I was on pole, I was pretty surprised," said Ambrose. "This is all brand new for me and I just committed myself and went for it."

Ambrose was runner-up to Tander in the 1997 Australian Formula Ford Championship, before heading to the English Formula Ford Championships in 1998 where he finished second to Britain's Formula 1 whiz kid, Jenson Button. He won the winter competition, the Formula Ford Euro Cup and has decided to return to Australia following a disappointing year in an uncompetitive car in the French Formula 3 Championship.

"I've come straight from a pretty tough game in Europe, and to come back and put it into practice in my first day out there is just great," he said. "But it's just the beginning, let's not get too excited. I've still got to learn how to start in a V8 race. I haven't done one yet, so I will have to learn a lot. Let's just hope that my mistakes are not too big."

Skaife had looked likely to take the pole spot before Ambrose's last lap dash snuck under his guard.

"All credit to Marcus, he has done a great job in his first V8 drive. In the off season, Ford have made a concerted effort, and Holden will have to do the job if we want to stay on top," said Skaife.

Seton was pleased to get the year underway with a strong qualifying performance, having had a miserable time at the 2000 Hot Wheels races.

"I was a bit unsure about this weekend, so it is a great relief to do well," he said. "This is the biggest crowd we race in front of, so it is pretty important for us to impress here."

After Tander is Russell Ingall in fifth, with Jason Bright qualifying sixth in his first competitive drive for HRT. New Ford driver, Craig Lowndes, qualified a creditable 11th in his new Gibson Motorsport Falcon while the fastest man in morning practice, Paul Radisich, could only manage 12th after a qualifying spin.

The first of three Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown races will kick off at 4.10pm tomorrow, with race two at 2.20pm on Saturday, and the third at 10.35am on Sunday.

<pre> Qualifying Top Ten

Pos. Driver             Team                        Car         Time
4.   MARCUS ANBROSE     Pirtek Racing               Ford AU11   1.58.941
1.   MARK SKAIFE        Holden Racing Team          Holden VX   1.58.985
5.   GLENN SETON        Ford Tickford Racing        Ford AU     1.59.074
34.  GARTH TANDER       Valvoline Cummins Race Team Holden VX   1.59.101
8.   RUSSELL INGALL     Castrol Perkins Racing      Holden VX   1.59.147
2.   JASON BRIGHT       Holden Racing Team          Holden VX   1.59.389
17.  STEVEN JOHNSON     Shell Helix Racing          Ford AU     1.59.528
60.  JOHN BOWE          CAT Racing                  Ford AU     1.59.632
11.  LARRY PERKINS      Castrol Perkins Racing      Holden VX   1.59.632
10.  MARK LARKHAM       Larkham Motorsport          Ford AU     1.59.639

-Paul Scully

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Garth Tander , Jason Bright , Russell Ingall , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Paul Radisich , Glenn Seton
Teams Holden Racing Team , AT Racing