Ford will be out to score its eighth straight V8 Supercar Championship round win of the year, and its third straight 500 kilometre crown, at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 this weekend in Melbourne.

Ford has won the two previous 500-kilometre endurance races at Queensland, with Paul Radisich and Steve Johnson (Shell Helix Racing) in 2001 and David Besnard
and Simon Wills (Caltex Havoline Racing) in 2002, and the new BA Falcon has already shown that it is the car to catch in 2003. Pirtek Racing's Marcos Ambrose has claimed five of the seven wins to date to lead the championship standings, with Russell Ingall and Craig Lowndes also taking the top step.

Like Bathurst, Sandown is a two-driver race and Ambrose will be joined by Stone Brothers team-mate Ingall, the winner of the Queensland 300. The pair come in to the race as the hottest of favourites, but Ambrose is fully aware that endurance racing is a whole new ball game.

"Sandown is going to need a different approach in and out of the car," he admitted, "We will drive my car from this year, but to accommodate both of us, Russell
and I do have to compromise a little for each other in terms of the set-up in the car. In saying that, however, we're going into the race very confident, we've prepared well with testing last week and we know that the car will be strong.

"I have not won an endurance race in my career, but Russell has won both Sandown and Bathurst, so he's the perfect partner for an attack Sandown this weekend."

Ingall sits fourth in the championship standings and sees the opportunity of driving with Ambrose as a great boost to his title chances.

"Having us together means that I can make ground on the other title challengers," he said, "It does also present a risk, as we're putting all our title hopes in the one
car, but, if we want to win, we have to be together, so the decision was pretty simple.

"I'm looking forward to this weekend as I won the last 500 at Sandown in 1998, Marcos won the round at Sandown last year and the Stone Brothers Racing team
won the last 500 in Queensland."

The two-driver format has seen a number of international drivers drafted into service for this weekend.

Leading the way is UK-based sportscar driver David Brabham (Shell Helix Racing) and European Touring Car ace Rickard Rydell (Team Betta Electrical) from Sweden. Brabham will partner Brazilian Max Wilson, with Rydell sharing the driving with former British Touring Car counterpart Radisich.

"This is a very competitive series, and it's great to have a guy with as much international experience as Rickard in the car," Radisich admitted, "You can't afford to have a co-driver who's even a couple of tenths of a second off the pace. They need to be fast and able to mix it with the V8 regulars. Rickard has tested with us and it's all looking pretty strong."

Teams hit the track on Friday for practice, before further practice, qualifying and the top ten shootout on Saturday.

 

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