Marcos Ambrose heads for this weekend's Lexmark Indy 300 determined to hold on to his points lead in the Australian V8 Supercar Series, but admits that the tricky Gold Coast street circuit could yet determine whether or not he will be fighting for the title at season's end.

The Tasmanian has seen his advantage slip in recent races at Sandown and Bathurst, and describes Surfer's Paradise as a circuit where ' the slightest mistake can cost - big time'.

"It is one of the world's great motorsport events - not only is it a terrifically demanding race track which produces great racing, but it also has a fantastic carnival atmosphere which fans can enjoy for a week or so," Ambrose says, "This is my home race of the year and I do not have a lot of spare time, but the beach is always great to cool off between sessions. I think making this a round of the series was a positive move and you will see it continue to go from strength to strength."

The circuit's proximity to the beach almost proved a problem for Ambrose's 2003 team-mate Russell Ingall, as he recalls with great clarity.

"My biggest memory of Surfer's is almost having a shunt on the form-up lap when I noticed a very well-endowed spectator on the run up to turn two," he grins, "I did not know where to go when she decided to prove she had no tan lines. It was very distracting indeed!"

Despite the near miss, Ingall joins Ambrose in rating the event as one of his favourites.

"I guess this is now my home race and, again, it goes on the list of my most successful circuits," he says, "How could you not love Indy? It is one of the best race
tracks in one of the best settings, with some of the best scenery - and I am not just talking about the beach and buildings!

"This circuit is not for wimps - it usually sorts out the men from the boys. The best move was making it part of the championship, it just makes sure everyone puts in a total effort. This has produced some of the best racing you will see. It is a track you need to approach like Adelaide, in that you have to be very aggressive to produce the times. The more aggressive the faster you go. Too aggressive and you go home..."

Ambrose agrees that the circuit needs total commitment, but also a little self-control if a decent lap time is to be achieved.

"As you cross the start-finish line at Indy you are really getting everything set-up for the run into the first chicane," he says, beginning a lap of the seaside venue, "This is a high-speed gradual right turn and you need to be committed. You are hard on the brakes for the first chicane, which is fairly standard - but you need to get in as quickly as possible and out as straight as possible.

"You can clip the wall on the exit so you need to watch your mirrors and things. This is even more so on the second chicane where the wall on the exit juts out a bit - you know you are too close when you clip the wall and turn your mirrors in! If you do this, then you don't really have a guide for the rest of the session or the race. When you hit the wall with the side of the car, it's then too late.

"Out of the second chicane and you are then into the long run down to ANA corner. The camber of the road makes braking difficult here and you are also pulling up on a slight bend. There is a major shift in car balance. Sometimes it can suck you in, and you can carry too much speed, and this is where the passing opportunities are created.

"You stay in second gear for the short burst up to the turn on to the back straight. The left hander is really tough with the lines on the road and sand from the beach really playing havoc with traction. Getting on the gas early out of here can really help with a good lap.

"It is then down the back straight and the fastest part of the circuit at about 265kph, before going back to second or third gear for the quick left-right combination. You are then into the fast and flowing part of the circuit which takes you into the controversial VB esses on the beach front. Several guys got black flagged for jumping the kerbs in the V8s last year - and it is easy to understand why. It is not easy to be that precise in these cars, especially if you are following someone.

"You get real close to the wall on the exit of the esses and blast your way down to the left hander at the most northern part of the circuit. This leads into a series of left and right handers through the high-rises which you attack in second gear. You can make good time through here if you are committed to attacking the car and the track.

"You then have a run on to the Lexmark Hairpin, which is a pretty flat corner, but one which can be a nightmare if you have an ordinary-handling car. If your car is not right, this corner just seems to go on forever. Again, you need to get out of here solidly and get up to speed as quickly as possible down the front straight and over the start-finish line.

"This really is a terrific street course which offers a little bit of everything - a mistake here and can cost you big time! If you get it right you should be back around in about 1min 51secs."

 

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