Despite results not going the way he would have liked, Super Cheap Auto Racing's Steve Ellery again proved that he - and his small team - could be very competitive as they tackled round twelve of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship in New Zealand.

Ellery finished the three-race Pukekohe round in 13th place overall, encouraged by his performance.

"I could say that I'm disappointed to have missed out on the top ten in both races today," he said after Sunday's double-header, "It was there for the taking, but I'm actually heading home feeling very encouraged. We again showed that we can race the big teams, and we've started a pretty impressive performance trend.

"The aim was the top ten - we just missed out on that but, given the circumstances, I am pretty pleased. Thirteenth overall is good, it's a strong result for a single-car team."

Ellery started the first of two races on Sunday from ninth place, but a coming together with another driver ruined his top-five ambitions. He was as high as fifth before contact with fellow Ford driver Paul Radisich forced him onto the grass.

"Everything was going so well for us up to lap forty-eight, the car was very strong," Ellery said, "I think my overtake of Marcos Ambrose showed how much power the Super Cheap Auto Ford has, and I was able to pretty well drive away. But you really saw how powerful the car was on the hairpin, I passed quite a few cars under brakes there.

"Unfortunately for us, all the good work in the garage, the great pit-stop and the passing came to nothing when contact was made with Radisich. There was a very big gap on the inside going into the first corner and I thought it was an easy pass, I felt I had the stronger car so I went for it. As I attempted to overtake, Radisich closed in and we hit, forcing me off. It was so disappointing; to go from a potential top four or five to 21st is hard."

From 21st on the grid in the event's final race, Ellery made a strong start and made up position through another well timed tyre stop to finish the race 14th.

"I was running in the top ten, but I had an off caused by worn tyres," he said, "In the closing stages, I had to work pretty hard to keep myself from going off again.

"I was happy with the start, I had risen to 15th by the end of the second lap, which was good. We decided to pit early, and it worked in our favour. Before the off, we
got to seventh, which even we weren't expecting. It was another very strong run."

The success of the last two months has Ellery thinking that Super Cheap Auto Racing will be a major force next year.

"Podiums aside, we were running fourth at Indy and fifth today - next year will be exciting for us," he insisted, "We'll make the Ford stronger so that we become a consistent top ten player.

"The goal now is to go to the final event of the series at Eastern Creek hoping to finish on a high note, but we've already begun planning for 2004."



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