Holden Racing Team veteran Mark Skaife will join lifelong friend and rival Glenn Seton in third spot on the all-time most Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship Series starts list when he makes his 205th appearance at Sandown this weekend.
Only John Bowe, with 225, and the late Peter Brock, on 212, have started more ATCC/V8 rounds than Seton, and Skaife is looking forward to joining his 'mate' in third spot. Since beginning their racing careers together in karting, Skaife and Seton have paralleled each other after initially racing alongside each other in the Group A Nissan squad. Eventually, both went their separate ways on either side of the V8 fence, Skaife with Holden, Seton with Ford.
“When Glenn and I started together as kids in go-karts, we were just thinking about the next race and never looked towards any of the milestones,” Skaife admitted, "There's been a lot of competition between us and the rivalry grew over the years, especially we drove for rival manufacturers and had rival sponsors.
“But, throughout it all, we've always maintained a healthy respect and great friendship, and it's a thrill to have our names beside each other in the record books.”
Skaife already holds the record for the most round wins, with 39, and most championships - a tally of five that he shares with Ian Geoghegan and Dick Johnson - in addition to having five Bathurst 1000 victories, while Seton has two V8 titles and sits sixth on the all-time win list with 17 round victories. Skaife is due to move into second on the all-time appearance list at Symmons Plains in November, when he will rack up his 213th start to move past Brock on the honour roll.
Skaife's landmark will be but a sidebar to the main event this weekend - unless of course he garnishes the moment with a front-running performance. Instead, Sandown's Midas 400 will be about the four drivers fighting at the top of a tightening championship table.
Current V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander heads to Melbourne defending a slender championship lead over former HSV team-mate Rick Kelly, with Ford drivers Mark
Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup in close attendance.
The last time the V8s hit Melbourne it was a fast and furious battle for 400 kilometres around the famous Sandown circuit, with Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup taking the honours in the lead-up race to the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. This year's race will be different, however.
Instead of the familiar endurance event, there will be no co-drivers, no driving with Bathurst on the horizon, no marathon race, just an all-out qualifying and sprint across three races on Sunday and the Queen's Birthday Holiday Monday, with a stack of championship points up for grabs.
Tander has never stood on the podium at Sandown - he's been on pole, but never finished better than fourth place. Lowndes, Kelly, Whincup and Winterbottom, meanwhile, have form there, while James Courtney holds the record as the fastest driver around the circuit. Such is the current youth movement in V8s, this will be the first 'solo drive' round at Sandown for more than half the field.