Eight Facts about the V8 Supercar Championship Series in New Zealand Having won all three races in the final round of 2004 at Eastern Creek and both races at the Clipsal 500 in the opening round of 2005, Marcos Ambrose is in with a chance...
Eight Facts about the V8 Supercar Championship Series in New Zealand
Having won all three races in the final round of 2004 at Eastern Creek and both races at the Clipsal 500 in the opening round of 2005, Marcos Ambrose is in with a chance of equaling a nine-year-old record. If Ambrose can clean sweep all three races at Pukekohe he will then have won eight races in a row that will equal the record set by Craig Lowndes back in 1996. Lowndes won all three races at Lakeside in round seven, followed it up with a clean sweep at Barbagallo in round eight and then won the first two races at Mallala in round nine. He missed out in the final race at the South Australian circuit when a hit from Alan Jones sent him off the track and into the leader, John Bowe. The coming together put Bowe out of the race and clinched the Championship for Lowndes who managed to continue and finish fifth.
Lowndes has one last chance to end a Pukekohe black spot this weekend. He has not finished higher than eighth in any of the races (he has done it 3 times in 2001, 2002 and 2004) while overall his best result was eleventh in his first start in 2001. It has all been downhill since then. In 2002 he was 16th overall, 2003 14th and last year he was 24th. This makes it his worst circuit for results as the only track where he has not had at least one top ten finish. Incidentally, it is the only track on this year's calendar, apart from Shanghai, where he has only ever raced for Ford.
Ambrose certainly got his title defence off to a good start with a maximum points haul at the Clipsal 500. But winning the first round of the series is no guarantee a Championship is in the bag. In the 36 Championships since 1969, the man who won the opening round went on to win the title 21 times or 58.3% but if Ambrose can win the second round his chances will multiply. On the 14 occasions that a driver has won both opening rounds the same driver has gone on to win the title 13 times. The only man to win the first two rounds and not win the series was Peter Brock back in 1984 although he missed some events that year while he raced in the Silverstone 1000Km and the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Incidentally, the last Ford driver to win the opening two rounds was Dick Johnson in 1988 while the last time Ford won the first two rounds of a series was 1993 when John Bowe won the first round at Amaroo and Alan Jones the second at Symmons Plains.
The V8 Supercar Championship Series returns to Pukekohe for the fifth and final time this weekend. This will also be the last opportunity for a Ford victory at the circuit. All four events so far have been won by Holdens - Greg Murphy in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and Jason Bright last year. The best result at Pukekohe for the 'Blue Oval' was a second place last year to Marcos Ambrose who was also third in 2001 and 2002. There has only been three other top six Ford finishes - Steven Johnson fifth in 2001 while Paul Radisich was fourth and Jason Bargwanna fifth in 2003. Russell Ingall, Steven Johnson and Paul Radisich were seventh, eighth and ninth last year while Brad Jones was eighth in 2002, Glenn Seton ninth in 2003 and Steven Ellery tenth in 2001 - 12 top ten finishes out of a possible 40.
Although this track hasn't been kind to Ford over the years the blue oval boys do come to Pukekohe on a roll. With Ingall winning at Symmons Plain last year and Ambrose winning the final round last year and the first this year, Ford is now looking for their fourth win in succession. In the 45 years that the Championship has been going they have only won four or more rounds in succession seven times while Holden have managed it on 12 occasions. The longest winning streak was over 1999 and 2000 when Holden won 19 rounds in a row while the best for Ford was in 1988 and 1989 when the Ford Sierras won 15 in succession. The problem for Ford is, of course all these wins have come courtesy of Stone Brothers Racing and the last time another Ford team won was in 2003 when Lowndes took the victory at Phillip Island for Ford Performance Racing.
If one of the General's men does take the number one grid position it will be the 150th pole position for Holden since the Championship began in 1960. Holden didn't score their first pole until 1973 when Brock did it in his XU-1 Torana at Symmons Plain and at that stage Ford already had 27 poles. It wasn't until Lakeside in 1979 when Peter Brock again took pole that Holden overtook Ford in the Most Pole positions table. Tony Longhurst took the lead back for Ford at Phillip Island in 1990 and Skaife put the general back on top at Hidden Valley last year. Currently the score is 149 to Holden and 141 to Ford.
The "Front Row Club" at Pukekohe is also an exclusive society with only four members, while the "Pole Club" is even more elite. Greg Murphy and Skaife are the only two drivers to secure pole position there -- Murphy (2001 and 2003) and Skaife (2002 and 2004), alternating the revered front position. When Skaife wasn't on pole he was in second place while the only other two drivers to get alongside on the front row were David Besnard in 2001 and Ambrose in 2004. Incidentally Murphy, like Skaife, started the race from the same position in the two years that he wasn't on pole -- third.
Not only is Ford going for their fourth win in a row but also their third 1-2 result in succession and if they do manage to get another quinella it will be the first time that Ford have gone 1-2 in three successive rounds for 15 years. In 1990 in round five at Lakeside the Ford Sierras of Colin Bond and Brock (yes, Peter Brock in a Ford) finished 1-2 while in the next round at Mallala Bond won again but this time with Dick Johnson second. At Barbagallo in Perth Brock won from Glenn Seton and Colin Bond. Since then Ford have managed to finish 1-2 in two rounds in succession (1993 and 2003) but on both occasions couldn't manage a third.