Mark Skaife, the most successful driver in the history of the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship has announced that he will retire from full-time competition at the end of the 2008 season.

The Toll Holden Racing Team driver has the most impressive resume in the history of the sport, with a record-equalling five touring car/V8 titles and three Australian Drivers titles in a row from 1991-93. Skaife also picked up a record 40 round victories and has tamed the mountain on five occasions with multiple successes in the Bathurst 1000.

However, at the age of 41, Skaife has now elected to bring his career to a close and said he was now looking to the future.

"I've always admired sportspeople who know when it's time to retire, rather than waiting to be told," he said. "Motor racing has been my life for the past 21 years and, as any professional sportsperson will attest, if you have a love and passion for what you are doing, for the competition and being on top of your game, then retirement is not something you ever easily consider.

"But the reality is that you do come to point in your career when you have a decision to make. I'm looking to the future for both myself and the Toll Holden Racing Team, and while this decision ends one phase of my career, I'm confident it will also open doors and exciting new opportunities."

Having moved from karts to cars, Skaife made his professional debut at the wheel of a factory-backed Nissan Gazelle at Winton Motor Raceway in 1987, finishing third, and later showed his versatility by winning three consecutive Australian Drivers' Championships in the Formula Holden open-wheelers.

As a works Nissan driver in 1992 he clinched the Australian Touring Car Championship, Australian Drivers' Championship and Bathurst 1000 in the same season before moving to Holden with Gibson Motorsport at the beginning of the V8 Supercar era the following year.

Jumping to the Holden Racing Team in 1997 following the retirement of the legendary Peter Brock, Skaife won a hat-trick of championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in addition to back-to-back successes at Bathurst in 2001 and 2002.

He assumed ownership of HRT in 2003 and mounted a championship challenge that was alive until the final round of the series and in 2005 he collected his fifth Bathurst 1000 victory alongside Todd Kelly.

Last year Skaife chalked up 20 years as a professional racing driver at Winton, and the following round he rewrote the record books with victory at Eastern Creek notching the 38th round win of his career to eclipse the all-time record of the late Brock.

His tally increased to 39 wins earlier this year when Skaife was retrospectively awarded the 2000 Clipsal 500 title after series organisers corrected a rules anomaly, and he added win number 40 with victory in the L&H 500 at Phillip Island alongside Garth Tander.

Despite 21 years of active competition, Skaife admitted that there were three things in particular that would stand out from his time in the sport.

"The first was in '92 when I won my first Touring Car Championship in the Nissan, and then being the youngest ever to do so," he said. "That same day we also won the Australian Drivers Championship in a Formula Holden open wheeler, so it was a great day.

"The second was winning the V8 Championship in 1994 with a Fred Gibson Commodore as it was Holden's first title for 14 years since Brock and HDT in 1980.

"The 2002 HRT Bathurst win with Jim Richards was also one of my favourite moments, as it sealed the championship at the same time and came 10 years after we last won Bathurst together in 1992."

Skaife will bring his career to a close at Oran Park in what will be the final V8 Supercar event held at the circuit.



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