<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
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