Pirtek Racing's Marcos Ambrose has won his first V8 Supercar Championship Series in style with victory at the final round, the VIP Pet Foods Main Event at Sydney's Eastern Creek.

The result was the 27 year old's sixth win of the year (13 rounds), Ford's first title since Glenn Seton in 1997 and gave the BA Falcon its ninth win of 2003.

Another record set today was the best debut season for a Falcon model in Australian Touring Car history.

"Awesome - this is something I've been working for since I was 11 years old," said Ambrose. "I have the number #1 door plate and we want to keep it!

"2003 has been a great year for me, but I want to dedicate this to four very special people who we all lost this year. Howard Marsden, Barry Sheene, Possum Bourne and Stewart McColl.

"To Ross and Jimmy Stone, and Geoff Polites the President of Ford I'd like to give a big thanks, as these guys gave me a chance to fulfil my dream today.

"It has not sunk in, I'm going to enjoy this and anyone who wants to join the party can come along."

The result was hard earned for Ambrose, as today's final 250km race provided a fitting finale to a season long battle between the Tasmanian, defending champion Mark Skaife and Greg Murphy.

Murphy didn't even make the final race after a back strain forced him to park his car in the pits.

After his win in yesterday's opening race, Ambrose took the lead from the start of today's event with Stone Brothers Racing team-mate Russell Ingall [Caltex Havoline Racing] sitting in behind.

The two cars cleared out from the field before pitting for fuel on lap #19 [Ingall] and #21 [Ambrose]. Just six laps later the safety car was called onto the track after Steve Johnson [Shell Helix Racing] blew his engine and spun off the track with Steve Ellery [Super Cheap Auto Racing] and Paul Weel also losing control on oil left on the track.

Ambrose dived into the pits to make his compulsory tyre stop, while Ingall missed his opportunity to pit when his two-way radio failed.

On fresher tyres Ambrose once again stretched a gap, while Ingall battled with Skaife. That battle ended when Skaife speared off the track after a side-by-side duel.

Ingall immediately pitted for tyres while Skaife stood trackside waiting for him to pass the scene. What followed was a fiery exchange between the two drivers before another incident back in the pits between Skaife and the Stone Brothers Racing crew. Both drivers were subsequently punished by the stewards - Ingall excluded from the results.

Back up front Ambrose cleared out from Jason Bright with Max Wilson [Shell Helix Racing] in third.

The next major concern was threatening skies with an electrical storm causing a total power blackout. Then a heavy downpour forced the safety car back out on the track for the third time in the race.

With the track flooded and no timing system in operation, officials called an end to the race seven laps early.

The post-race celebration spiled onto the track as long suffering Ford fans helped crown the 2003 champion.

"What a great car and awesome team," said Ambrose. "Everyone said that the pressure was on me and boys. We won this race by being the best, nothing else.

"Our challengers both had dramas, but that was because we put the pressure on them. The last few events have not been great for us, but in this game only small things can tip your weekend upside down.

"The big highlight for me was that we won this thing in style. No points count backs, simply winning the race and taking the title."

In the previous five years of existence Stone Brothers Racing had won four rounds of the V8 Supercar Championship. In 2003 it took eights wins [two for Ingall] and have gained a strong following from fans across Australia and New Zealand.

For Ambrose, who had chased a Formula One dream in Europe for three years, his return to race for Stone Brothers Racing in 2001 was the start of the team's rise. He took pole position on debut at the Melbourne Grand Prix support event that year before taking his first round win in Darwin.

It wasn't until the final round in 2002 that he next won, but the writing was on the wall that the Tasmanian and the team would be amongst the leaders in 2003.

Despite a slow start to the season, Ambrose started a four race-winning streak at Eastern Creek in May. Wins at Winton [Victoria], Perth and Darwin had him within sight of the championship lead.

That streak was only beaten by his team-mate, Ingall, in Queensland before Ambrose took the championship lead and his fifth victory at Oran Park [NSW].

The next four events at Sandown, Bathurst, Surfers Paradise and Pukekohe [NZ] brought mixed results and his championship lead narrowed.

His charge back this weekend earned him a sweep of all the Sydney races in 2003.

Ford's title in the V8 Supercars in Australia has earned the Blue Oval its fourth major motor sports championship in 2003, with Matt Kenseth [NASCAR], Paul Tracy [Champ Cars] and Tony Pedregon [Top Fuel Funny Car] all winning their first championships this year.

Topping off the day for Ford was six cars in the first ten positions, including Craig Lowndes [CAT Ford Performance Racing] in fourth, Jason Bargwanna [Orrcon Steel Racing] in fifth, Paul Radisich [Team Betta Electrical] in eighth and team-mate Dean Canto in ninth.

Teams now finally have time for a break for Christmas, before engines fire up again at the Australian Grand Prix support event on the first weekend in March.

 

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