V8 Supercar Championship Season opens in the streets of Adelaide Almost a quarter of a million people will be trackside for the first round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend when Mark Skaife will make a bid to restate his ...
V8 Supercar Championship Season opens in the streets of Adelaide
Almost a quarter of a million people will be trackside for the first round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series this weekend when Mark Skaife will make a bid to restate his dominance of Australia's premier Motorsport category.
The annual Clipsal 500 street race attracts the biggest spectator numbers of the season with up to 200,000 spectators producing high octane atmosphere, while high temperatures and expectation present a significant test to drivers.
Defending champion Marcos Ambrose gave Ford their first championship since 1997, with the Kiwi owned Stone Brothers Racing the team to beat in 2004.
They made their winning start at Adelaide last year with victory in the first of the 250km races. They were also embroiled in controversy with their No 2 driver Russell Ingall was penalised after ending the hopes of New Zealand's Greg Murphy when the Kmart Holden driver was in a strong position.
It was not Ingall's only skirmish, and there is certainly no love lost between the form man and 2002 series champion Skaife after their much-publicised on-track incident in the season finale at Eastern Creek.
The Stone Brothers led the Ford charge last year with Craig Lowndes and Kiwi Paul Radisich the only other Ford drivers in the top 10.
Radisich is tipped to be a real contender this season in the Betta Electrical Ford, based by Triple Eight Racing Team. The Queensland based team took over during last season, but have won five British Touring Car titles with Vauxhall.
Murphy, who finished runner-up to Ambrose despite several early season dramas including the ownership wrangles and resulting lack of testing days and also his controversial penalty at Winton which was not supported by the television evidence.
The Kmart team are a much happier bunch this season with two full days testing, the total for last season, already under their belts, as well as an excellent debut in the non-championship round at the Australian Grand Prix where Murphy picked up a win.
His Bathurst-winning teammate Rick Kelly faced a tougher time with a hefty repair and some long hours after an incident with nemesis Ingall in Melbourne.
Kiwi Steven Richards enjoyed a strong first half of the season for the Castrol Perkins Commodore team although faded, finally finishing sixth overall.
Perkins is running an ambitious four-car team in this year's series, with Richards his designated No 1 driver, seeking a serious tilt at the title with a good start at Adelaide.
``There's no doubt that the Clipsal 500 is the jewel in the V8 Supercar Series crown,'' Richards said.
``The two 250km races format is the toughest on the calendar and with the traditional great weather in Adelaide, we all know how physically and mentally draining this event can be for drivers and teams alike. It is without question the toughest, most important way to kick start the season.''
There are two 250km races this weekend, one on Saturday and one Sunday.