With three drivers heading into this weekend's final round of the 2003 V8 Supercar Championship at Sydney's Eastern Creek with a chance of taking the title, the question everyone has been asking is 'who has to finish where to win?'.

Given the intricacies of the new-for-2003 points' system that, on the one hand, rewards consistency and, also, allows a driver to drop or delete his worst round, working out the computations of where Marcos Ambrose, Greg Murphy and Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife have to finish to win, requires the skills of Albert Einstein's gifted grandchild!

Like or loath them, these TWO factors have contributed to potentially the best finish for many years in either the V8 Supercar or Australian Touring Car Championship, and should result in a huge crowd at the western Sydney circuit next weekend.

The flip-side to the point system, however, comes in the unique-to-Eastern Creek for this round 'number out of the hat' qualifying draw!

Rather than a set qualifying session followed by a top ten shoot-out, the drivers will have two practice sessions before a full-field draw for positions in the run-off for the shoot-out.

The draw for this unique system takes place at 8am on Saturday morning, with the shoot-out set to begin at 11-10am and last for almost two hours. Over that time, conditions will probably change in some form - even if it is only temperature and cloud cover - so it's quite possible that the starting grid for race one will be somewhat different to what would normally be expected.

The race format for Eastern Creek sees a 39-lap - or 150km - race on Saturday afternoon, complete with a compulsory stop for tyres, followed by a 64-lap - 250km - heat
on Sunday afternoon with two stops, one each for tyres and fuel.

It's unlikely that the new champion will be crowned until after the completion of the Sunday race, even though points for the final round will be split evenly across the two races.

For all the vagaries of round 13, Mark Skaife says from his and HRT's point of view, the equation is simple.

"All we can do is try and win both races - it's as simple as that!" Skaife noted, "With our position going into Eastern Creek, we have to do the best job possible and not worry about Marcos or Greg as we have no control over what they do.

"To a certain extent, the pressure is more on them - particularly Marcos - to maintain their championship situation, while we have nothing to lose - and everything to gain!

"Eastern Creek is a circuit HRT has traditionally done well at and, with the recent performance of the VY Commodores, I think we will be right in contention at the weekend."

Todd Kelly sits in ninth place in the 2003 points, so has no concerns about winning titles. However, he is keen to do well at 'the Creek' as his championship chances were gone after a disastrous round there earlier in the year.

"That was the 'wheels falling off' race for us." Todd said, recalling round three where both HRT VY Commodores suffered from broken wheels, "That's pretty much in the past now and was part of the learning curve of the VY Commodore's change to the double wishbone front suspension. It hasn't been a problem since and I think you'll see a different pair of 'red' cars this weekend.

"Seeing as I'm not concerned with championship positions, I just want to finish the season off on a strong note as a springboard to next year. It's been a difficult season, but the performance and results over the last few rounds shows HRT is back on the pace and it would be nice to finish with a win."

The round held earlier this season at Eastern Creek resulted in a comprehensive win for Ambrose and the Pirtek Ford, and was the springboard for a run of victories that put the Stone Brothers Racing driver into a lead that he takes to Eastern Creek this time around.

Ambrose's lead however has been whittled away over the past few rounds, however, to the point where he leads - on adjusted points - by just 24 from Kmart Racing's Murphy. Skaife is a further 46 points in arrears.

 

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