Queensland: Saturday qualifying report

Reigning champion Marcos Ambrose has made his intentions clear at the Queensland 300 today -- win the race, take the points and be far enough in front to have a big buffer for the rest of the V8 Supercar Championship Series. Ambrose made no...

Reigning champion Marcos Ambrose has made his intentions clear at the Queensland 300 today -- win the race, take the points and be far enough in front to have a big buffer for the rest of the V8 Supercar Championship Series.

Ambrose made no bones of his plan to build a healthy lead and hang onto it as the season reaches the enduro rounds -- including the glamour Bathurst and Sandown races -- after clinching a fourth consecutive pole position for tomorrow's race.

His fourth pole position in a row equalled that of six-time champion Mark Skaife who looked in line to take the honour before Ambrose slipped underneath his time late in the Top 10 Shootout this afternoon.

"The next two rounds could really make the difference in the field," Ambrose said.

"Ideally I'd like to get about 150-odd points in front and have a nice advantage going into the enduro races where we know anything can happen. It's a matter of working hard and not making any mistakes."

Skaife, who himself has been in similar positions in his glory days, jokingly rebutted Ambrose with a line from the Castle -- "Tell him he's dreaming."

Unlike Ambrose, however, Skaife doesn't harbour championship hopes.

"I haven't got my championship eyes on to be honest," Skaife said.

"There are still some very big races to come which we would like to win. We know how hard those races are to win but we would like to think we will be up there."

Ambrose capitalised on his home-track advantage, bumping a brace of Holdens off the top spot.

Ambrose's pole is the 15th of his career, and gives him four pole positions in a row at Queensland Raceway.

Skaife and HRT team-mate Todd Kelly were next quickest in the shootout, with Steve Richards and Jason Bright next ahead of Russell Ingall in the second quickest Falcon.

"This circuit is very unique," Ambrose said after his run.

"It is going to be tough tomorrow, the red (Holden) cars have caught us up a bit. But I don't want to just go out there and enjoy driving around, I want to win. If I win races the points look after themselves, I don't come out here to finish 10th.

"I am in a bit of a golden patch at the moment, I've won a championship for Ford in my third go and I am leading this one, but I think the next two races are really going to spread the field out, I think two or three are going to drop off the chain in the chase for the championship."

Skaife started the weekend slowly yesterday with a best time good enough for 23rd on the time sheets, but slowly pegged his way up the order until he nearly snatched an unlikely pole position.

"Any time we look at non-qualifying it is very hard to quantify where everyone is," Skaife said of his lacklustre Friday. "The tyres we had on the car yesterday were three-quarters of a second down, so you really can't read too much into it.

"We're going to press on, I haven't got anything to lose in that respect. We're going to be professional about it, but it will be on for young and old -- it'll be great."

Kelly was third fastest, jumping from ninth in qualifying with a lap time the equal of his earlier run.

"It was a reasonable lap, but it has been tricky to get the car set-up for here," Kelly said. "We've been hovering around 12th to eighth for the other sessions, and we made a few changes which has made it easier to drive and easier on its tyres."

Kelly said he is expecting safety cars tomorrow, and that pit strategy and a bit of luck may be required to win.

Pole winner at the last round, Steve Richards was fourth quickest in the shootout, fractions ahead of Jason Bright who had earlier topped qualifying. Bright said his multiple-round winning Commodore was still struggling for time in the single lap shootouts.

"I'm over these top 10s," Bright said. "We've still got a great car under brakes, but we need to improve it out of the hairpin. We haven't had a good top 10 car for a while, but it is a great race car, we just struggle to get temperatures into the tyres quickly.

"We are working on that, but at the moment we get our best laps after that first lap."

Simon Wills was a surprise runner in the Shootout after making a the rare jump from the bottom half of qualifying into the top 10. He finished in seventh spot after locking a wheel into Turn 1.

John Bowe was eighth fastest in his fifth shootout of the year, with Paul Radisich and Craig Baird rounding out the top 10. Baird's run in the shootout was his first since joining Team Kiwi at the start of last year, and only second in 47 starts in the series.

Kmart Racing drivers Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly had a shocking day and will start tomorrow's main race from 23rd and 24th. It is Murphy's worst ever run in qualifying in the Series, and opens up the prospects of another tough day for the Bathurst winners.

There is one 300km race tomorrow starting at 1:45pm.

-avesco-

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Series Supercars
Drivers Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Craig Baird , John Bowe , Todd Kelly , Simon Wills , Steve Richards