With victory in eight of the eleven rounds so far contested in the 2003 V8 Supercar Championship series, Ford goes into this year's PlaceMakers V8 International at
Pukekohe Park as hot favourites to take a first full championship win in New Zealand.

Leading the charge will be a team owned by two Kiwi brothers Jimmy and Ross Stone, with championship leader Marcos Ambrose and the winner of the recent Gold Coast round, Russell Ingall.

Ambrose has tasted victory five times in 2003 and, with seven Fords filling the top ten places on the Gold Coast, the battle for victory could be between a number of Falcon teams.

The major opposition is expected to come from Kmart Holden's Greg Murphy, who has won the previous two events at Pukekohe. However, with so many long-standing winless streaks at circuits broken for Ford in 2003, Pukekohe represents another opportunity for the Blue Oval to open another new chapter.

"Last year, we came within a couple of laps of winning the whole thing before a tyre puncture, so we know the track very well," explained Ambrose, "We feel that we're the Ford team that Kiwis should get behind and I know that Jimmy and Ross would count this event as a special one to win."

Ambrose requires an average eighth place finish in the final two rounds to take the title.

"In terms of the championship, I will remain aggressive," he insisted, "I didn't qualify well on the Gold Coast, but raced hard and got fourth overall."

Team-mate Ingall will drive a Ford in New Zealand for the first time after two past outings with rivals Holden. After two wins so far in 2003, he's keen to get more of that feeling and close the gap in the championship chase.

"I have to keep on winning; there's no conservative approach from me," he said, "I enjoy winning races and, if that helps the championship, well then all the better.

"In terms of the competition, I know Murphy will be tough, but don't count out some of the other Ford teams. They're getting stronger and it won't be just one Ford team that will be out to do the job in NZ."

Another New Zealand favourite is Team Betta Electrical's Paul Radisich. The former two-time World Touring Car Challenge title holder is keen to break his hometown
hoodoo with the BA Falcon and a new team for 2003.

"The last couple of years have been very disappointing, but I'm determined to give it everything in 2003," the Kiwi said, "We've been improving throughout the year and with us consistently qualifying in the top ten, we're in with a good chance at Pukekohe.

"Over the races, we'll be very consistent and, with strong pit-stops, we'll be right up there. We're keen to score a win before the end of the year and, if we can do
that, it will help Ford secure the title."

Practice and qualifying for the PlaceMakers V8 International gets underway on Friday, with a top-ten shootout and the opening race on Saturday. Sunday completes the weekend with two 150-kilometre races. All races include compulsory tyre stops.

 

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