Marcos Ambrose drove magnificently to Ford's first Australian V8 Supercar title since 1997 despite an action-packed race that was ended early due to rain.

Ambrose certainly didn't set out to take the title by numbers as he stormed away at the head of the field, in a race that title rival Greg Murphy was unable even to start, after having injured himself in the VB challenge Ute demonstration immediately before the race. Only in Australia...

Ford man Ambrose simply let the Falcon fly at the front from the off and was immediately setting successive fastest laps to leave his rivals behind.

By the fifth lap Ambrose had already set four fastest laps in the race and was 3.3 seconds clear of the next man, Russell Ingall. The early laps were clean and incident free, and there was no hint of what was to come later. Some of the wiser observers noted some cloud on the horizon, but it wasn't thought by many that it would amount to much.

As Ambrose stretched his legs out front, Mark Skaife sat solidly down in seventh place. Elsewhere there were early unscheduled pitstops from Greg Seton, on lap ten, and Todd Kelly the next lap, the latter for a repair to a broken power steering bracket.

As the frontrunners began to take to the pits, so Ambrose's lead continued, the Ford man opting for a late stop. Mark Skaife was also staying out later than many and was up to third on track before he took to the pits for the compulsory stop, almost at the same time as Ambrose, the title duo pitting on the twentieth and twenty-first laps.

Come lap 25 a three car incident involving Steve Ellery, Paul Weel and Steven Johnson, and a very surprised rabbit, brought out the safety car. There was then a rapid influx to the pits from almost all the field as the V8 Audi lead around the cars and with time on their hands the wise sages on hand looked to the sky and saw interesting developments ahead; it was getting ever colder and darker, rain could be afoot yet.

With the safety car coming in at the end of lap 30, there was a mere two laps to be completed by Marcos Ambrose for the title to be his, and these he intended to complete as rapidly as possible. Having no fear or contemplation for cold tyres or debris remaining on the circuit from the off-track action of the retired trio, Ambrose was soon back to his fastest lap setting ways. He was in the lead on track by the end of lap 31 and fastest laps on lap 35 and 36 seemed the best way to celebrate the title he gained by completing over half race distance.

As a marked contrast of fortunes, outgoing champion Mark Skaife was left by the trackside laps later after an incident with Russell Ingall out of turn nine and coming into turn ten. Skaife had the advantage on the inside of turn nine but Ingall remained resolute in keeping position. As they powered alongside each other to turn ten so Inghall's rear tyre took some dust and the Holden man steered back on track, and then some.

Ingall steered into the rear quarter panel of Skaife once then twice and the outgoing champion was soon exiting the race and making close acquaintance with the off-track concrete. Attempting to regain the circuit, it was soon apparent that the Holden's steering didn't and Mark drove off the track, parked the car and waited.

The Holden man was clearly aggrieved at the coming together, and remained at trackside to express his displeasure. Ingall, on track, drove as close as possible to Skaife as he passed, all the better to understand exactly what the 2002 champ was saying. Anyone watching on TV was left in no doubt what exactly Skaife was mouthing, and it looked like he was contemplating the remainder of the 64 lap race shouting at the Fords going past.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. As the safety car from the Skaife / Ingall incident returned to the pits so the rain started. And then some. Lightening was soon seen behind the start / finish grandstand and this lighting soon took out the electricity at the circuit and for a good number of blocks in the vicinity of the Sydney circuit.

As some very confused members of the press dug out stopwatches and lap charts, and even the odd typewriter from the more-prepared and aged members of the news corps, so rainfall on a biblical proportion flooded the track.

The pits were soon awash with cars coming in for wet tyres, whilst confusion reigned for teams and spectators alike as the timing monitors were out as was the trackside commentary. Every time Marcos Ambrose passed the start / finish line however, there were massive cheers.

Eventually, after ten laps behind the safety car, the red flag was shown. This, remarkably, was greeted by the onslaught of sunshine as the rain disappeared as rapidly as it had started, but no matter, the race was run. Ambrose was champ.

1. Marcos Ambrose Ford
2. Jason Bright Holden
3. Max Wilson Ford
4. Craig Lowdes Ford
5. Garth Tander Holden
6. Jason Bargwanna Ford
7. Paul Radisich Ford
8. Cameron McConville Holden
9. Dean Canto Ford
10. Rick Kelly Holden

 

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