The Betta Electrical Sandown 500 will go down as "the one that got away" for Stone Brothers Racing at Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne today, which was run in rain, hail and shine. The SBR Falcon of Marcos Ambrose and Russell Ingall...
The Betta Electrical Sandown 500 will go down as "the one that got away" for Stone Brothers Racing at Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne today, which was run in rain, hail and shine.
The SBR Falcon of Marcos Ambrose and Russell Ingall led the early stages of the race which was run in both wet and dry conditions, but the chances of the team recording its seventh consecutive V8 Supercar victory went astray on lap 67.
Ambrose started the race from pole in the Caltex Havoline-Pirtek Falcon and ran strongly in the lead until he was forced to pit early for wets on lap 40.
Once all the teams had pitted for wet tyres on lap 44, Ambrose had shot to a 25-second lead.
The track started to dry out and Ambrose came in for a fuel and brake pad stop on lap 67 and handed the car over to Ingall.
Unfortunately Ingall got caught out in the wet conditions with a "soft" brake pedal at turn one on his out lap and ended up in the sand trap on the outside of the turn.
The incident cost the team a couple of laps, but Ingall stayed in the Falcon for the remainder of the race and fought his way back from 22nd to finish an incredible fifth.
The result has maintained Ambrose's lead in the championship and kept Ingall in fourth.
"You cannot blame Russell for what happened," said Ambrose.
"Those were tough conditions and to go back out with cold front brakes and fresh slicks was always going to be difficult.
"That was the toughest stint I have driven all year, maybe ever in the V8 category.
"The good thing is that a couple of the other guys towards the top of the championship also had an ordinary day and we have maintained the championship lead.
"We certainly had car speed today and now we will take it to Bathurst in a few weeks time."
Ingall had to put his opening lap incident behind him and get on with the job.
"We did a brake pad change in the stop and I "pumped" the pedal up and thought I was right," said Ingall.
"I took it pretty easy into turn one and the brake pedal went to the floor, so obviously I had not pumped it enough.
"I had a choice of hitting the car in front of me or going scrub and trying to collect it.
"I just carried in a bit too much speed and got it bogged.
"From then on it was a case of keeping the thing out there and picking up as many points as possible without spearing off again.
"Thankfully we managed to get back up there without losing to many championship points, but it still would have been nice to win it.
"The conditions were just unbelievable."
The second Pirtek-Caltex Havoline Ford driven by Mark Winterbottom and Mark Noske finished a strong 11th.
Winterbottom had an ordinary start from 14th place and had slipped back to 20th by the end of lap one. He showed tremendous character in his first V8 Supercar Championship Series event to make up plenty of spots before handing over to Noske.
Noske did a fantastic job in constantly changing conditions, especially towards the end of the race which included heavy rain, sleet and hail.
"I got a bad start, but we had plenty of car speed and I managed to chip my way back through the field," said Winterbottom.
"When the rain came it took me about 15 laps too many to get up to speed. Unfortunately that cost me a fair bit. I did learn plenty in that period.
"This category is certainly a lot harder to pass cars than in the Konica series.
"The car has a few bumps and bruises, but I think we will go to Bathurst a lot better for today's experience."
Noske knew he had been at work when he finally got out of the car.
"I hope we don't have to race in conditions like that too often," said Noske.
"I think we all learnt a lot today and I am looking forward to heading to Bathurst, without the rain or hail hopefully."
The next round of the championship will be the Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 at Bathurst on October 9-12 - A 1000km endurance race for two drivers.