Wayne Gardner returns to series

Wayne Gardner Ready For Return To V8 Supercars Former 500cc motorcycle world champion Wayne Gardner will be making a comeback to the V8 Supercar ranks in next weekend's Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide, but first he has to get through a ...

Wayne Gardner Ready For Return To V8 Supercars

Former 500cc motorcycle world champion Wayne Gardner will be making a comeback to the V8 Supercar ranks in next weekend's Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide, but first he has to get through a mid-week pre-qualifying session.

Gardner has signed a deal to drive several rounds of this year's V8 Supercar Championship Series in a Caltex Havoline Falcon for Stone Brothers Racing and will team-up with regular teammate David Besnard for the endurance races at the end of the season.

Movement of drivers and change in ownership of team franchises during the off-season means that several high-profile drivers will have to pre-qualify for the Clipsal 500 in a special session at Mallala Raceway on Wednesday afternoon.

A total of 17 drivers will by vying for the final 11 spots on the 36-car grid for the tremendously successful Adelaide street race.

While many drivers seethe pre-qualifying as an extra "risk" before the weekend meeting, Gardner believes the Mallala run will be a vital part of his preparation for the opening round of the championship.

"I really see the pre-qualifying as a big bonus for us," said Gardner.

"The thing I am missing is time in the car and we need to make the most of the practice and qualifying sessions on Wednesday.

"It will not only give me the chance to get more up to speed, but will also be important for the gelling process between me and the rest of the team.

"I am with a very professional team with terrific sponsors and I am looking forward to an enjoyable season."

Gardner will certainly be in come good company at Mallala with Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes, Larry Perkins, Tomas Mezera, Todd Kelly, Dugal McDougal, Trevor Ashby, Neil Crompton, Cameron McLean, Greg Murphy, Tony Longhurst, Mark Noske, Simon Wills, John Bowe, Ross Halliday and Greg Crick all vying for the remaining 11 starting positions.

"Wednesday will be all about preparation and don't think that will be problem with a team like Stone Brothers Racing," said Gardner.

"I am confident we will have the car speed in the Caltex Havoline Ford after our test at Queensland Raceway a couple of weeks ago.

"When you look at the names on the pre-qualifying list I guess there are a few guys with a lot more to lose than me."

With a successful pre-qualifying behind him, Gardner will head into Adelaide where he will start to prepare for Friday's official practice and qualifying sessions.

The Clipsal 500 is run on a shortened version of the old Adelaide F1 circuit.

Ironically, Gardner had his first ever drive in a racecar in a Formula Ford support race at the Adelaide Grand Prix in 1991.

He also won a V8 Supercar race at the venue for the Holden Racing Team in 1993 and drove there in his own Coke-sponsored car the following couple of years.

"I guess I know my way around the place," said Gardner, the 1987 world 500cc champion, who now has a base in Sydney and Monaco.

"I have not driven at the Clipsal 500, but everyone has been telling me what a fantastic event it has become.

"The people in Adelaide are great sports fans and always create a terrific atmosphere which is fun to be a part of."

* Stone Brothers Racing and Caltex raised $8000 for the Royal Childrens Hospital in Brisbane last week.

That's the price one lucky bidder paid for a ride with Wayne Gardner in his #36 Caltex Havoline Ford at Queensland Raceway at a special dinner, which included former US President, Bill Clinton, as a guest speaker.

"It's great that Caltex and Stone Brothers Racing can give something back to the community like this," said Gardner.

"There are few more worthy charities than children's hospitals and it was great to see so many people digging into their pockets at last week's charity dinner.

"I can assure you that the ride will be something the lucky bidder will never forget. It's a pity we could not get Bill (Clinton) out for a spin.

-bm-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers David Besnard , Neil Crompton , Greg Murphy , Wayne Gardner , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , John Bowe , Mark Noske , Todd Kelly , Simon Wills , Tony Longhurst , Cameron McLean , Larry Perkins , Greg Crick , Ross Halliday
Teams Holden Racing Team