Controversy, rather than the hard fought wins by both Mark Skaife in the Holden Racing Team and Marcos Ambrose in Pirtek Ford was the headline following round 8 of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship at Oran Park, west of Sydney ...
Controversy, rather than the hard fought wins by both Mark Skaife in the Holden Racing Team and Marcos Ambrose in Pirtek Ford was the headline following round 8 of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship at Oran Park, west of Sydney yesterday.
Claims by Kees Weel, team owner for series leader Jason Bright suggested that sabotage to the Paul Weel Racing Holden Commodore sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning not only destroyed their motor but could have placed Bright in a dangerous situation should he have been on another part of the track, when the accelerator jammed open.
A thorough examination of the motor after Bright was towed to the garage astonishingly revealed a plastic bag and a number of nuts and bolts in the air intake, which are not used in the engine construction. Weel was quick to point out that he did not believe any person/s associated with the premier motorsport category would commit such an act, as the PWR team have not given anyone cause to retaliate to any of their on field performances. Having said that, he also indicated that he found it hard to believe that a member of the public could have been responsible, despite the team cars being parked in the Oran Park garage overnight.
A concerned Bright was adamant that the PWR mechanics check and double check every part of the engine before assembling it. He also cited the reason for this was that a number of years ago a similar incident occurred when Holden mechanics accidently left a cloth inside an engine at their Melbourne power plant.
Asked whether consideration should have been given to calling the Police in, given that it could have been 'life threatening', Weel elected not to, believing that there would be little likelihood of identifying the culprit/s. Coincidently, Weel admitted that the cars were not locked down as normal and that the team's security measures had failed on this occasion. He continual stated that the reason for holding the press conference was that he wanted to bring it to the attention of every other team after 'whispers' had circulated along pit lane.
As one reporter suggested, perhaps the Police should have been called in to investigate the incident, as there is every possibility that they may have solved the riddle.
Despite the incident, Bright was able to focus on retaining his lead in the championship, starting with his 4th place during qualifying on Saturday, although he dropped back to 6th on the grid after the Top Ten shoot out that afternoon. This time last year he was leading the series only to lose it at the same circuit, however, his fortunes changed yesterday and he finished third on the podium and holds a slender lead over round winner Ambrose, who got the jump on Skaife at the start of the second race and didn't look back after a blistering pit stop put him back out in front after Skaife pitted. The Holden driver was full of praise for the 'Devil Racer', and admitted a 'few hiccups', including not getting off the line at the start and not pitting at the same time more than likely cost him any chance of the round win when he failed to catch the Ford driver after getting caught up in traffic.
Skaife not only had to deal with Ambrose off the start in race two, but also team mate Todd Kelly during race one when the 'young gun' got past him with ease. Although the number one HRT driver grabbed pole position, he admitted later that getting to the front at the start and building a lead was the ideal option until the opening of the pit window, which was part of discussions after race two. Both Skaife and Bright agreed that the formula needed changes, as it was 'creating a traffic jam in the pits', whilst Ambrose remained diplomatic saying, 'I'm there to concentrate on driving well for Stone Bros, those issues remain with the team'.
The championship next heads to Sandown in Victoria for the first of the endurance races leaving teams in a quandary as to driver pairing. At this stage Skaife will partner Todd Kelly while it's rumored that Ambrose and team mate Russell Ingall will run separate cars after last year's incident where Ingall went off and Ambrose thought his title went out the window.