Sunday came and for most teams and fans it was somewhat somber with the recent passing of Channel 10 commentator Barry Sheene. A minute silence before the start of the race was dedicated to the former World Motor Cycle Champion. The grid saw ...
Sunday came and for most teams and fans it was somewhat somber with the recent passing of Channel 10 commentator Barry Sheene. A minute silence before the start of the race was dedicated to the former World Motor Cycle Champion.
The grid saw three Fords in the top 7, something that hasn't been seen for a number of years in this series. Perhaps the most notable Ford driver absent was Lowndes who was starting at the back of the field. In past years this was expected, as the top 10 drivers reverted to the rear of the grid for Sunday's race, but this was not the case with the new rule changes for 2003.
As the lights changed, Skaife got a good start, passing Ambrose down the straight with Richards looking to do the same. Ambrose covered his line but by the end of the first lap Richards got by before the safety car emerged after Anthony Tratt in the Toll/Ipec Ford went wide at one of the turns and buried his machine into the tyre wall. The damage to the car was soon greater when former Team Kiwi Racing driver Jason Richards ploughed into the back of him in his new Dynamik Commdore. The Adelaide based team were looking for a good result in front of their new home town, but that was not to be. Several teams opted to pit, including fellow Kiwi Craig Baird in Richards' old car, and Richards team mate Simon Wills in the second Dynamik car. During the fracas, Murphy managed to hall in Rick Kelly and McConville and take 8th spot.
Following the re-start Ingall pressured Rick Kelly and passed him looking like a man on a mission. He had tasted victory a few weeks earlier and was back to his best and reminding his former Holden drivers that he was still 'The Enforcer'. The other mover in the pack was Lowndes who moved through the field to take 15th position before the first 10 laps had been completed.
Bright soon passed Ambrose at the end of the straight after some contact and went out after Richards who jumped him at the start, and soon hauled him in. This no doubt put a smile on the face of team owner and former champion, Peter Brock. Bright was soon on the tail of Skaife who had gained a 2 second break on the field, while Ambrose clawed his way back to pass Richards who appeared to suffer tyre problems. Bright was the first of the lead bunch to pit and this would later prove to be costly. It was 6 or 7 laps before Skaife, Ambrose, Murphy and Ingall pitted and this was for fuel only. They returned to the track for a handful of laps before pitting again, this time for tyres. Ambrose took the lead ahead of Ingall and this was short lived when he pitted a lap later. Ingall followed suit and also pitted, leaving Skaife out front ahead of Bright, Richards.
Ambrose and Johnson joined the field in 4th and 5th while Ingall retained 6th with Murphy in 7th. Ambrose wasn't holding back and was looking for two wins from two starts and went about attacking Richards and Bright. This scrap allowed Skaife to set a record lap of 1:23.200 and stretch his lead even further. Eventually, Ambrose got past both drivers while Ingall took Johnson at the end of pit straight. Shell team mate and former F1 test driver Max Wilson's race ended when his windscreen shattered, showering glass into his helmet and eyes, resulting in him running off the track into the pebbles.
This brought the safety car out for two laps before Ambrose again diced with Skaife, coming off second best. He was fortunate enough that only Richards passed him but he had to contend with Ingall and Bright hounding him for the next 2 laps. With his tyres fading, Bright spun at the end of the main straight which cost him any chance of a podium finish today. Infact, the entire field passed him before he could re-join.
Murphy tried a number of times to pass Johnson before the safety car returned after Ellery lost his front right wheel and parked against the wall. A loose wheel nut was the cause. Following the re-start it was a race to the wire with Johnson, Ingall and Murphy all passing Ambrose who was under threat from the rest of the field. With a handful of laps left to go, Johnson braked late and ended on the grass at turn 14 and spun demolishing the front and rear of the car against the concrete barrier. Ambrose apparently suffered mechanical problems and parked his machine. He was not going to taste victory for a second time and Ford fans were now pinning their hopes on Ingall to take on the Holdens.
Ingall and Murphy continued their duel with Ingall again diving down the inside and pushing the K-Mart driver wide. This indiscretion forced Murphy back to 12th and was a weekend he would rather forget. 'The Enforcer' later apoligised, if that was any consolation.
With 2 laps to go Skaife crossed the line to be the first driver to win back to back Clipsal 500's, and was on the road to chasing his 6th championship. Richards took 2nd ahead of Ingall, Paul Weel in the second Team Brock car with 'The Rat', Paul Radisich in 5th, followed by Todd Kelly in the second HRT car, with Bright managing a credible 7th ahead of Lowndes, Dumbrell and Wills rounding out the top 10.