A clash between V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose and Mark Skaife handed victory to probably the last person Skaife would have wanted to benefit, Russell Ingall.

In the opening race of the fourth round of the 2004 V8 Supercar Championship Series at Darwin's Hidden Valley, Ambrose and Skaife's coming together gifted Ingall the win.

While charging for the lead, Ambrose got alongside Skaife on the final corner of the final lap, with the ensuing contact between the two rivals damaging both cars.

Ambrose brought his Falcon home in third, while Skaife fell from first back to 14th.

Both cars stopped just after the finish line, with both drivers reporting damaged steering from the incident.

It was the final chapter in one of the best races in recent history. Despite being just 17-laps in length, positions changed throughout with a number of drivers sliding wide on corners.

Despite his nickname as the 'Enforcer', Ingall kept out of all the dramas and brought home a straight car for a popular victory. It was his first individual race win since the Gold Coast last year.

"That was a cracker race, it had everything and I seemed to have the best seat in the house," said Ingall. "The car was a great toy in that race, and with a few very minor improvement overnight it'll be a weapon tomorrow.

"We qualified really well earlier today, and racing at the front usually means you don't get caught up in the mess. It was pretty messy, but I'm glad I was not the one in the middle of it.

"I wouldn't call it a lucky win. I was right on Marcos's hammer and it all opened up.

"The move by Marcos was brilliant. He's a true racer and the whole deal about the championship leader having to be conservative is not what he's about. It's great for our team, Ford and the sport."

Ambrose was disappointed to finish third, but was adamant that the move to pass Skaife was on. "I got a great run and dived to the inside, got side-by-side and we touched," said Ambrose.

"Mark wanted to fight for the corner and that's what happened. I wouldn't expect anything less from him. It was fair, but certainly tough racing and that's what V8 Supercars is all about.

"I'm sure Ross and Jimmy Stone would be a little disappointed with the outcome, but I'm a racer and I won't be changing anything. It's brought me success to this point in my career and I'll keep it that way.

"In terms of the championship, we got a small points gap on rivals Steve Richards (5th place) and Greg Murphy finished in 14th. That's important for the overall picture.

"You know I don't like losing a race, but for Russell to win and Stone Brothers Racing having two cars in the first three is a top result.

"I'm now focusing on tomorrow's two races and making sure we have the opportunity to win the round. I'm sure Russell will have something to say about that and it will be a good fight".

Ford finished the race with six cars in the top-10, with places seven through to 10 being Jason Bargwanna, John Bowe and Team Betta Electrical teammates Paul Radisich and Max Wilson rounding out the ten.

Top ten

1. Russell Ingall Caltex Havoline Racing - Ford Falcon BA
2. Todd Kelly Holden Race Team - Holden Commodore
3. Marcos Ambrose Pirtek Racing - Ford Falcon BA
4. Jason Bright PWR Racing - Holden Commodore
5. Steven Richards Castrol Perkins Motorsport - Holden Commodore
6. Rick Kelly KMart Racing - Holden Commodore
7. Jason Bargwanna Orrcon Steel Racing - Ford Falcon BA
8. John Bowe OzEmail Racing - Ford Falcon BA
9. Paul Radisich Team Betta Electrical - Ford Falcon BA
10. Max Wilson Team Betta Electrical - Ford Falcon BA