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Mark Skaife has an uncanny habit of winning from impossible positions, but few times in his remarkable career have the V8 gods conspired for him like they did today.

He won, of course, taking his 2002 race tally to nine and extending his almost unassailable championship lead.

But the win was a gift from his rivals, who each managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy and Jason Bright each had the opportunity to win before they were cruelly struck down.

In controversial circumstances, leaders Lowndes and Bright were both handed drive-through penalties early in the race for crossing the yellow lines in pit lane while making their stop.

It is the first such penalty awarded this season.

Murphy had the lead on lap 16 before a misfiring alternator forced him into retirement.

Castrol Perkins racer Steven Richards snuck onto the podium with plenty of pace and a slick pit stop for tyres. Kmart Racing's Todd Kelly finished one behind in third.

Marcos Ambrose gambled on strategy after a qualifying shootout mishap saw him start from 15th. He remained in circulation until lap 13 - ten laps after Bright began the pit stop barrage - and fought his way to fourth, resurrecting his weekend.

"I was so mad at myself after the shootout, that I really wanted to prove a point in that race," Ambrose said.

"The strategy of stopping late was a gamble, but it went our way and considering the accident this morning, I'll take it."

Tomorrow morning's 25-lap second race is another survival test, with today's best-performed drivers relegated to the back of the reverse grid.

Last-placed finisher today, Cameron McLean will start the race, somewhat reluctantly, from pole.

Russell Ingall may be the man to watch. He'll start alongside McLean on the first row after being relegated to 28th post-race by a stewards' decision.

Race one results:

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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