The classic Ford verses Holden battle which has dominated Australian race tracks for so many years will continue stronger than ever at this weekend's VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 at Queensland Raceway, near Ipswich. After eight rounds of the ...
The classic Ford verses Holden battle which has dominated Australian race tracks for so many years will continue stronger than ever at this weekend's VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 at Queensland Raceway, near Ipswich.
After eight rounds of the 13-round Shell Series the championship's top 10 is split by five Fords and five Holdens apiece, but the first two positions are filled by the cars of Holden Racing Team drivers Mark Skaife and Jason Bright.
HRT is hoping to lengthen its gap on the remainder of the field and has put Skaife and Bright in the same car for this weekend's race, which offers double points to both drivers.
Many critics thought that HRT would "hedge" its bets by splitting-up the pair with endurance specialists Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera who have been hired for the VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 and the V8 1000 at Bathurst on October 4-7.
Mezera and Longhurst will now partner each other in the second HRT Commodore and will be looking to repeat their efforts of Bathurst in 1988 when they won in a Benson and Hedges Ford Sierra.
Having won both previous 500km races held at Queensland Raceway, Holden is looking for one of its teams to maintain the Lion's perfect record.
In fact, despite the track being used as a regular test venue by many local Ford teams, Queensland Raceway has proved to be the perfect hunting ground for Holden since its 1999 opening, with Commodores also winning every one of the six sprint races run there during the venue's two SCS sprint rounds, giving the Lion an 8-0 record.
While Skaife and Bright will lead the Holden charge, it is expected that inaugural race winners Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall won't be that far away in their Castrol-backed Commodore.
Ingall currently sits fourth in the championship and needs a big result on Sunday to maintain his chances of collecting his first V8 Supercar crown. Ingall is hoping some reliability problems with new cars might affect the chances of the drivers currently ahead of him in the title chase.
"Everyone seems to be debuting new cars in this event, including the three guys ahead of me in the championship - Skaife, Bright and Steve Johnson," said Ingall. "We took a slightly different tack with our new car, running it for the first time at Calder Park two rounds ago in the interest of learning as much as we can about it before we got to Queensland. "The car finished on the podium at its first race and I'm pleased with the progress we've made since. The VIP Pet Foods Queensland 500 is worth double championship points and you can't go there with a car that is not fully sorted - the championship just means too much for me to do that. Everything has to be perfect if you're to win this race."
The other major Holden threats in the race are expected to be the Kmart Commodore of Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly, the Valvoline Commodore of defending Bathurst champions Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna and the Big Kev entry of Paul Morris and Matt Neal.
"We've had a terrific package all year - good car speed, great pit stops - everything has been right, although we haven't had much luck come our way," said Murphy, who became a father for the first time last week and who celebrates his 29th birthday on Thursday.
"Both Todd and I have performed well there in the past and we'll be doing our best to make sure Holden retains its perfect winning record at Queensland Raceway."
While Holden may have dominated proceedings at Queensland Raceway in the past, there is no doubt that Ford has lifted its game tremendously this season and heads into the VIP Petfoods event with possibly its best chance for some time of breaking the drought.
There is little doubt that the front-running Ford team will be Steve Johnson and Paul Radisich in the number 17 Shell Helix Falcon.
Johnson is currently sitting in third place in the championship while Radisich is in ninth, but with plenty of solid performances under his belt this year.
It will be first time that Radisich and Johnson have shared the same car since their partnership began.
"Steve and I pairing up for the long distance races makes sense because we are very evenly matched on pace, we've both got a track record of running at the front, and it gives us a chance to share the new car," said Radisich. "Running together will give us the best chance of victory, and we also have to consider Steve's challenge for the championship ... this enables me to support him in the best way I can."
The second DJR car will be shared between Paul Stokell and Greg Ritter, both making their racing debut for the team after a number of tests earlier in the season.
The Queensland Raceway is the home of no less than six front-running Ford teams including Dick Johnson Racing, Stone Brothers Racing, CAT Racing, Ellery Motorsport, Larkham Motorsport and Paul Weel Racing.
The other two Ford contenders this weekend will be Gibson Motorsport and Ford Tickford Racing, which are both Melbourne based.
Lowndes heads into the race as a defending champion, but will be making his first Queensland appearance in a Ford. He will be teamed with regular Network Ten commentator Neil Crompton who will be making his 2001 debut.
Glenn Seton will have his best chance of an endurance win with his co-driver seat being filled by regular FTR teammate Steve Richards.
Bud Racing will not debut in the 2001 Shell Championship Series at Queensland Raceway this weekend as previously planned, which means the Mark Noske and Craig Baird will both sit on the sidelines until Bathurst.
The VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 will be supported by no less than the four support categories including Formula Ford, Porsche Cup, Sports Sedans and Improved Production.
Action starts from 8.25am Friday, 9.00am Saturday and 8.05am on Sunday. The top 15 shootout for V8 Supercars will be held at 3.15pm on Saturday while Sunday's big race begins at 1pm.
Top-10 Championship Standings after eight of 13 rounds
1. Mark Skaife (Holden) - 2,006 pts
2. Jason Bright (Holden) - 1,902 pts
3. Steve Johnson (Ford) - 1,692 pts
4. Russell Ingall (Holden)- 1,675 pts
5. Craig Lowndes (Ford) - 1,365 pts
6. Marcos Ambrose (Ford) - 1,328 pts
7. Greg Murphy (Holden) - 1,323 pts
8. Steve Richards (Ford) - 1,316 pts
9. Paul Radisich (Ford) - 1,305 pts
10. Todd Kelly (Holden) - 1, 266 pts