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R9 RACE - FORD'S ACCIDENTAL HEROES:
BESNARD, WILLS WIN QLD THRILLER

he beleaguered Ford brigade found a couple of unlikely and somewhat accidental heroes at today's VIP Petfoods Queensland 500, just when they needed them the most.

The Stone Brothers Racing Falcon of David Besnard and Simon Wills claimed a dramatically famous victory at the team's home circuit, Queensland Raceway, a year after Ford's last V8 Supercar win at the same event.

For Besnard, only now starting to find his feet in the sport after a troubled rookie year in 2001, and Wills, a racing refugee following his dismissal from Briggs Motorsport just weeks ago, it is their first V8 Supercar win and most significant career achievement.

"I can't describe just what this all means," 25-year-old Besnard said.

"The last 18 months have been the longest drought in any racing that I've done, so to win a big race like this and break through for Ford's first win of the year is just awesome."

They ran faultlessly - and luckily - throughout the weekend, under the radar of most who expected the SBR stablemate Falcon of Marcos Ambrose and Paul Weel to lead the Ford charge (they finished fifth).

Greg Murphy had the race in the bag for co-driver Todd Kelly and the Kmart Racing Team, but not in the tank.

A nine-second lead to Murphy became a nail-biting, three-lap fight for the flag after a safety car period, and as Murphy's fuel tank and race hopes dried up on the second-last lap, Besnard was able to pounce.

As Murphy crawled heartbreakingly to the line, finishing tenth, Besnard and Wills were toasting their victory. Finally, the motor racing gods were smiling on the Blue Oval.

"I would love to have had a crack at them fair and square," Besnard said, "but their strategy obviously relied on a lot of safety car laps and we had enough fuel for another 10 laps."

25-year-old Wills drove the middle and most difficult stint, as intermittent rain created a greasy circuit on slick tyres.

The Kiwi said the win made up for a difficult first year on the V8 Supercar circuit.

"The environment I have been in this week has been fantastic and I have to thank Ross and Jim Stone for the opportunity," he said.

"David did the job early and got the car in the lead and I just had the job of keeping it there."

Steven Richards brought the Castrol Commodore he shared with Russell Ingall home in second, recovering from a spin during the brief downpour. Garry Rogers' odd couple, Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna, finished third.

"When we rolled it out of the truck she [the car] was a bit evil," Ingall said, in one of his final drives for the Larry Perkins-led team. "We did a lot of work on it and it wasn't a bad jigger in the race."

The Rogers Holden wasn't a rocket, but Tander and Bargwanna hung on with grim death to the podium - with some borderline blocking from Tander.

"It didn't matter what was going to happen, no-one was going to get passed!" Tander said.

Bargwanna endured a painful stint behind the wheel after injuring a finger earlier in the weekend.

This race, in front of a record crowd, never went to script.

Holden Racing Team guns Mark Skaife and Jason Bright, unbackable favourites for this event, had a usually indestructible engine blow up in their faces before half distance, ending their race and leaving the door ever-so-slightly ajar to runaway series leader Skaife's championship rivals.

"This is a rarity," said Skaife, who still holds a 679-point series advantage. "The last time I can remember it [an engine blow-up] happening to our team in a race was in Darwin three years ago."

In their absence, veteran duo Jim Richards and Tomas Mezera masterfully steered the second Holden Racing Team Commodore to fourth.

OzEmail Racing returned to their Bathurst-beating best, with John Bowe and Brad Jones firmly entrenched in the lead pack for most of the day.

But two costly drive-through penalties - Jones crossed the yellow line on exciting the pits while Bowe put a late-race bump on Tander's Commodore - robbed them of a podium finish. The result of a protest by the team is pending.

"It's bloody shattering," Bowe said. "We would have come close to winning if people had used some common sense."

And this is only the warm-up. The one everyone wants to win, the Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 at Bathurst, is next month.

Race results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?15/09/2002.QRI.R12

(Jason Whittaker)
V8 Wire

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