Sandown: Race report

Ambrose regains V8 Supercar Championship lead Gold Coast plasterer Greg Ritter turned overnight hero for reigning V8 Supercar Championship Series champion Marcos Ambrose when the two formed half of a Stone Brothers Racing domination of the ...

Ambrose regains V8 Supercar Championship lead

Gold Coast plasterer Greg Ritter turned overnight hero for reigning V8 Supercar Championship Series champion Marcos Ambrose when the two formed half of a Stone Brothers Racing domination of the Sandown 500 in Melbourne today.

Ritter stepped into Ambrose's Ford Falcon after 12 months on building sites and was instantly on the money. Their team-mates Russell Ingall and Cameron McLean finished second with Steve Johnson and Warren Luff a welcome third for Dick Johnson Racing.

The three turned the race into a Ford domination although Holden's Cameron McConville and Garth Tander came in fourth. Another Holden of Rick Kelly and Greg Murphy, last year's Bathurst winners, were fifth.

Ambrose reclaimed the championship lead with the victory and now heads to the world's greatest touring car race -- the Bathurst 1000 -- as a firm favourite.

The race was littered with safety car periods as the Melbourne rain in recent days -- it was fine for the entire race day -- left the surrounds of the track boggy, meaning most cars that left the track needed to be helped out.

"Who would have thought the race would have unfolded like that today? These enduro rounds throw up so many variables, it's great for racing," said Ambrose.

"We controlled the race today. A Stone Brothers Racing one-two -- we are the top team and we are delivering at the moment."

Ambrose had an extreme moment when Ritter, a renowned speed merchant behind the wheel, made just one mistake when he beached the car on lap 101. He managed to get back in the race and a safety car enabled the team to stay on top.

"At the time I was all suited up and ready to go back into the car," Ambrose said.

"It was always clear to us there were going to be many safety cars and one of them really helped us. We predicted it and were prepared for it."

Ingall had en equally great companion in McLean who stayed honest and did his job to the letter. McLean had been competing in the second tier V8 Konica Minolta Series.

"These guys get thrown in the deep end," Ingall said.

"Both of them were out there with the Jason Brights and Mark Skaifes of the world and handled it really well, bringing the cars back in one piece."

It was a welcome result for Johnson and Luff. Their team has struggled all year and to finish on the podium will lift them before Bathurst early next month.

"It's been a long while coming," Johnson said.

"Everyone is under pressure and we needed this. This has lifted the confidence of everyone. If we build on that from here we will keep doing very well and Bathurst is a place I seem to always perform at."

Co-driver Paul Weel did a magnificent job for PWR Racing by handing the car over to Jason Bright after 64 laps in second place behind Ambrose. Bright took the car from there and with obvious speed stayed in the top three.

Similarly Mark Skaife had plenty of speed and moved into fourth place on the 98-lap mark when he slid underneath Cameron McConville.

The same happened to Bright just two laps later when he missed a corner and found himself also struggling to slip back onto the track. That mishap meant Bright fell to seventh from second.

As if the 100th lap signaled an all-in, Mark Skaife and Glenn Seton's races effectively ended finished when Seton was clipped by another car leaving him spinning across the track directly into the path of Skaife.

Seton was left sitting alone off the track while Skaife limped back to the pits but both were eventually able to continue. Seton and Craig Lowndes finished 18th with Skaife and Todd Kelly in 23rd.

-avesco-

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Series Supercars
Drivers Garth Tander , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Cameron McConville , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Paul Weel , Todd Kelly , Cameron McLean , Greg Ritter , Steve Johnson , Dick Johnson