Hidden Valley: Stone Brothers race three report

Stone Brothers Racing leading Ford Team in Darwin. Stone Brothers Racing's Marcos Ambrose and David Besnard finished as the leading Ford drivers in the fourth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway this ...

Stone Brothers Racing leading Ford Team in Darwin.

Stone Brothers Racing's Marcos Ambrose and David Besnard finished as the leading Ford drivers in the fourth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway this weekend.

Both drivers finished in the top 10 in all three races and were fifth and seventh respectively in their Pirtek and Caltex Havoline Fords overall.

Fellow SBR driver Wayne Gardner showed terrific speed in his Caltex Havoline Ford, but a series of unlucky incidents saw his efforts go with little reward.

Ambrose and Besnard started the weekend strongly with a third and ninth respectively in the opening 20-lap race on Saturday afternoon.

The opening race today started in dramatic circumstances when Rick Kelly spun on the opening lap and caused a chain reaction of carnage and a red flag.

The race re-start was delayed almost half an hour as several cars were collected from the circuit, including Russell Ingall, John Faulkner, Rodney Forbes and Kelly.

Ambrose and Besnard both escaped without any damage, but Gardner was not so fortunate.

He had managed to pull up at the back of the main accident, but was then hit in the right rear by Paul Morris who had locked his brakes while trying to avoid the carnage.

Gardner managed to get back to the pits and some quick work was done by his crew for him to rejoin the field for the re-start.

Ambrose made a solid start, but lost a lot of time on his pit stop when the right-rear wheel nut cross-threaded. He re-joined the field in 11th and eventually finished ninth.

Besnard did not make his stop until lap eight of the 35-lap contest, but his stop was faultless and he rejoined the field in sixth.

He chipped away and eventually passed Steve Richards for fifth and was pushing Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly when he had a minor incident at the end of the main straight and lost a few seconds. He did not loose a place and finished as the leading Ford.

Besnard's fastest lap of 1:09.1660 was the second fastest of the race behind Jason Bright's 1:09.0698.

"It was great to know I had the car speed to match those guys in front of me," said Besnard. "I was pushing as hard as I could and the tyres started to go away from me a little and that's when I slipped off the track, but we got away with it. "The result was good for everyone who is working to hard on this program."

Gardner did a great job from the rear of the grid and eventually finished 16th in the 32-car field.

The third race of the weekend was also a very positive for both Ambrose and Besnard with the pair actually racing side-by-side at different stages.

They both made early pit stops and were placed fifth and seventh when a safety car period was forced by a small grass fire out on the circuit on lap 25.

Besnard got caught wide on the re-start and slipped to seventh and Ambrose moved to the inside and slotted into fifth and that's where they remained for the remaining 10 laps.

"I think we were lucky to get away with the points we did this weekend," said Ambrose. "We missed the car set-up a little and did not have the pace to challenge the leading couple of cars. "It was good to finish as the leading Ford, but we are out there to beat everyone, not just the other Ford teams."

Besnard is now ready to continue his form at the next round in Canberra in three weeks time.

"We are making progress every time we go out and that's a very positive thing just four rounds into the championship," said Besnard. "It would be nice to think that it won't be too long before we are on that podium. "I can tell you that myself and the team are working as hard as possible to get the job done. "We made some good ground in the championship today and we are breathing down the neck of a few in front of us."

Gardner got an ordinary start and slipped back to 19th, but pushed his way through the field and was looking strong when he made his compulsory pit stop.

He lost a lot of time during the stop after a wheel nut jammed. Later in the race he went off the track after being hit from behind by John Bowe and eventually finished 24th

"It has been a hot and tough weekend," said Gardner. "I just could not take a trick. In Japan they tell me that being 42 years-old is an unlucky year, maybe they are right."

Gardner will now concentrate on his commitments in the Japanese GT Championship before rejoining the Caltex Havoline team for the VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 in September and then Bob Jane T-Marts V8 1000 at Bathurst in October.

Ambrose remains in third position in the championship while Besnard made a terrific jump from 16th to 12th, with a little luck finally going his way.

The weekend was won overall by Mark Skaife from teammate Jason Bright and Greg Mruphy.

The next race of the V8 Supercar Championship will be in Canberra on June 7-9. Crowd: A three-day record of 36,706

-sbr-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers John Faulkner , David Besnard , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Wayne Gardner , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Paul Morris , John Bowe , Todd Kelly , Bob Jane , Steve Richards