Betta Electrical Team Brock will abandon the conservative approach it has adopted throughout the V8 Supercars Series after Jason Bright's championship hopes were dealt a cruel blow in the Sandown 500.

Bright, the early-season championship leader, has dropped to fourth placing in adjusted series standings after he and co-driver Paul Weel finished 31st at Sandown, losing 25 laps to repairs after sliding into a wall in treacherously wet conditions. With four rounds still to race, however, Bright said Team Brock would not give up hope of contending for the championship.

"We're still in the mix - it only takes one or two bad races from any of the guys above us and we're right back in it," he insisted, "Having said that, you can bet we're going to have a crack at Bathurst, because we've got a lot less to lose now."

Team Brock general manager John Panozzo agreed with his driver.

"It's time to throw caution to the wind and have a red-hot go," he said, "We'll be racing a bit harder, be a bit more aggressive. There are some small adjustments we can make that will make us more competitive."

The second Team Brock car, piloted by Greg Ritter and Marcus Marshall, finished 22nd after copping two drive-through penalties during the race - the first for Ritter's kerb-hopping and the second for his team-mate exceeding the pit-lane speed limit.

The pivotal point in the race came on lap 40 of 161, when rain began to fall across the Melbourne circuit. Most teams opted to pit for wet tyres, but Team Brock was among a handful to take a calculated risk to keep both its cars circulating on slicks in the belief it would be no more than a brief shower. The move promoted the #50 car, driven by Bright, from seventh to second on the track - and would have been a strategic masterstroke had the rain eased.

But the call backfired as the rain continued and Bright, who was about to enter the pits for wet tyres on lap 43, aquaplaned on the straight section just two corners before the pit entry and struck a wall, severely damaging the front-left of the car and requiring a new radiator to be fitted.

Ritter, in the second car, also stayed out on slicks and lost considerable time with severely reduced track speed. The #16 car had risen from its 20th-place grid position to eleventh prior to the first drive-through penalty, but had dropped back to 31st after pitting for wet tyres and handing over to co-driver Marcus Marshall.

Panozzo said the risk had been worth taking, noting that the Holden Racing Team - considered among the foremost strategists in the series - also left Todd Kelly out on slicks until the same lap that Bright was to have come in for wets.

"They've played the same strategy as us and it won them the race," he said, "We were two corners short of doing exactly as they did.

"If we didn't think the risk was worth it, we obviously wouldn't have taken it. If I had my time over again, we'd pit two laps prior to when we did, but that's not the way it works. We made the call and we have to wear it."

Bright agreed it had been a difficult decision to make.

"Perhaps we should have been thinking more about the championship and less about winning the race," he admitted, "but it was a very tough call either way.

"We knew it was too wet to be out on slicks, but we thought that, if we could keep going, it would increase the number of possible 'windows' we could utilise. It almost worked."

Bright explained that the track conditions had been diabolical as he approached the pits.

"I was only 50 per cent on the throttle and the thing was aquaplaning - I had no control at all at that stage," he said.

Co-driver Weel pointed out that the #50 car had been among the half-dozen quickest cars throughout the race.

"We had a really quick car and, if you take out the accident, we had the pace all day to be a contender. Sometimes it's the right call to stay out on slicks, this time it was wrong."

Ritter and Marshall also suffered from the decision to race in the rain on slick tyres, but Ritter said a dubious drive-through penalty imposed for kerb-hopping had forced the need to take a risk.

"We were travelling quite nicely until then - we had a nice start and got up to eleventh, so the drive-through really put us on the back foot," he said, "I'd been told I was doing nothing wrong in relation to kerb-hopping, there was no warning at all, so that was very disappointing.

"Staying out on slicks was a gamble we took to try to gain back the lap we lost with the penalty, and it hasn't worked. I'm disappointed, for sure, but very encouraged by the way the car was working. It felt very comfortable and had nice speed so we can only look forward and focus on Bathurst now."

 

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