R8 RACES - BRIGHT UPHOLDS HRT STREAK FOR WINTON WIN
Christening a brand-new VX Commodore, Bright won both of today's 100km races, round eight of the series, to secure his second round victory of the year and further underline the team's complete domination of V8 Supercar racing.
If Skaife doesn't win, Bright probably will.
"It is great for me, I don't think I've gone to a race meeting and won two races before," Bright said.
"It [the car] didn't miss a beat all weekend. You don't know where you stand until you all get onto green tyres, and honestly I would have been happy to be in the top four or five. I was pretty happy with my qualifying speed, but we really are just happy to bring it out of the box and have it firing."
HRT is now eight from eight this season, defying a winless history at the rural Victorian circuit.
Skaife was in the mix but couldn't fight his way to the front. And an uncharacteristically clumsy pit stop saw him finish the final race in eighth - unfamiliar track territory for the runaway championship leader.
"We are the benchmark team for pit stops, and I think that was our only tyre stop this year that has been longer than ten seconds," Skaife said of the botched tyre change, when the air jack was pulled from the car prematurely.
Ironically, it was the crack HRT crew's slick work in pitlane that allowed Bright to gain the upper hand over Ford pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose in a processional opening race.
"Our pit stops weren't bad today, it was just that the others had brilliant stops," said Ambrose, who finished on the third tier of the podium with a second and fourth from today's races.
Ambrose said the Stone Brothers Racing crew would look at making their stops more efficient, though the team's lonely pitlane position doesn't help. "Our spot in pitlane...means we need to try to do our pitstops on our own. It really affects our strategy."
K-Mart Racing's Todd Kelly continues to outshine his more experienced teammate, Greg Murphy, claiming his sixth podium finish in an ever-improving career.
He had second place stolen from him late in the first race by Ambrose (and the notorious Paul Romano, this time playing an unhelpful backmarker), before finishing second in the final race.
Kelly said his K-Mart Commodore - Bright's hand-me-down - was finely tuned to the Winton layout, the team's designated test circuit.
Race two was more of a dogfight. Three safety car periods compressed the field, including one on the opening lap when John Faulkner was shoved hard into the turn one tyre barrier.
Craig Lowndes' weekend was cursed. The Ford star was turned around during the first corner crush in both races; the race two hit from Glenn Seton forcing him into retirement with damaged suspension.
"We really needed to get some points on the board this weekend, but we seemed to be constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time," Lowndes said.
Skaife's unproductive weekend did little damage to his imposing championship lead; still a 679-point advantage over Bright heading into the vital endurance events. Murphy, Kelly and Ambrose all remain in contention for second in the series.
"Mark really has it all wrapped up now," Bright conceded, "but between myself, Murph [Murphy], Toddler [Kelly] and Ambrose we've got a really good battle on our hands."
Race one results: http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?18/08/2002.WIN.R4
Race two results:
V8 Supercar Championship Series standings:
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