Six-time V8 Supercar Championship series winner Mark Skaife may have scored his first race win of 2004 but the Australian motor racing great still found himself in a degree of controversy at Barbagallo Raceway in Perth today. Skaife and his...
Six-time V8 Supercar Championship series winner Mark Skaife may have scored his first race win of 2004 but the Australian motor racing great still found himself in a degree of controversy at Barbagallo Raceway in Perth today.
Skaife and his Holden Racing team followed the lead of his team-mate Todd Kelly who won the last event in Darwin by bringing up a fantastic victory despite an incident that left former series leader Steven Richards out of the race.
Perhaps a greater highlight was the drive of reigning champion Marcos Ambrose who worked his way from 21st on the grid into third - arguably the performance of the year by any driver to date.
With Richards failing to finish Ambrose regained the series lead by finishing third.
But Skaife was the winner, holding out a desperate charge in the closing laps by Jason Bright who erred on the side of caution instead of trying to get around his fellow Holden.
Skaife apologised to Richards in pit lane following the race.
Richards appeared to be in position to finish an overtaking move when the back of Skaife's car made contact, sending the series leader into the wall, the sand and out of the race.
"There was no malice in it at all," Skaife said.
"We were almost touching right down the hill, it was certainly on for young and old, but at no stage did I intend to make contact. I just told Steve that I didn't mean to make any contact."
The incident came after Richards had won his first pole position of his career. The team went from backslapping to disbelief when their main man was left sitting in his machine, stuck in the dirt, no doubt furious his chances were gone.
"Skaifey went to the inside which left (Jason) Bright on the outside and me in the middle," Richards reflected.
"Then Skaife moved out, I don't know why ... he must have changed his mind or something. That was about it."
It also meant he forfeited his championship lead. Whilst there are two races tomorrow, all holding equal points, Richards will have to make up a lot of ground now that he has had a bad luck race, his first of the season.
"I guess if you look at it these races are not worth too many points so we can make some of it up tomorrow," he said. "The damage doesn't look too bad so we should be fine for tomorrow."
From there Skaife ultimately assumed the lead but the action behind him was scintillating. Ambrose was cutting through the field like a knife having started way back in 21st place on the grid.
"There's no way I thought I would be up in the top three today," Ambrose said.
"We really goofed it up until now. We knew we had to do something and we did. I thought of it as a points salvaging situation but we had a great race, passed a lot of cars and had a very fast car.
"I can't wait until tomorrow now."
Today was the first of three races in Perth. Two 100km races are scheduled for tomorrow.