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ROUND 6 RACE 2 & 3 - HRT WINS, BUT SKAIFE'S RECORD RUN ENDS

V8 Wire (Jason Whittaker) The streak is over.

Mark Skaife captured the attention of some 35,000 fans at the VB 300 at Barbagallo Raceway today, not because he won it but because he didn't.

And it was a rare mistake from the usually impregnable champion that allowed Holden Racing Team stable-mate Jason Bright to pounce on the round victory, ending Skaife's prodigious start to the season. It is Skaife's first round loss since Sandown last year.

K-Mart Racing's Greg Murphy became only the fourth driver to win a race this year in this morning's opening 100km encounter to stand on the second tier of the weekend podium. Stone Brothers Racing's David Besnard was third overall.

Skaife's grip on the championship trophy remains firm, still with a 609-point advantage over second-placed Murphy, despite his first non-finish of the season.

Lady luck, a good friend of Skaife's, deserted him. "The car was good enough to be way higher than that," he said after finishing fourth overall.

He pushed too hard in a lead battle with Murphy during the opening laps of race two according to race stewards, who inflicted him with a costly drive-through penalty.

And as he fought his way back through the field, Skaife slipped off the circuit - not once but twice. The second, running out of road with a sticking throttle in a battle with Craig Lowndes, left him stranded in the sand trap as Murphy drove on to victory.

"It's not like we've beaten him [Skaife] with speed, he's just had a bad weekend," conceded Murphy, who himself was lucky to escape the Barbagallo quick sand in the final race when an oil spill tripped up many drivers.

"It was bad luck for him and good luck for us, but we've got to be able to run head-to-head with him if we want to win the championship."

Bright won the final race, relieved to put a luckless start to the season behind him.

"It is good to finally break his [Skaife's] run and to keep it within the team," he said.

"We haven't had the results this year, it has been the most frustrating five races of my career. It is good today to have no problems and finish where we should have been all year.

"The only moment today was in that oil that got Murphy and a few others. I saw a lot of tyre marks and I was on cold tyres so I backed off early and still only just got through. It just touched the dirt on the exit."

Besnard produced one of the best performances of his short V8 Supercar career. While teammate Marcos Ambrose struggled to recover from his disappointing qualifying performance - "that is one of the weekends you really want to forget," Ambrose said - Besnard was a consistent performer in the lead pack.

"We have had a goal of improving every race meeting and we are certainly managing to do that," Besnard said.

"The team and myself are working better and better together and the confidence is growing."

On a tumultuous day when many of the V8 superstars languished in unfamiliar back-marker territory, the OzEmail Racing Team was an inspired success.

Veteran racer John Bowe gave the team its best non-endurance result, a warmly received third in the second race, while team boss Brad Jones finished fourth in the final sprint.

"We knew we were making progress but I must admit that we have exceeded our expectations this weekend," a delighted Jones said.

"It's a total credit to some of the hardest working guys in the category, the team deserve this and with a fifth and seventh this round, we were one of the strongest Ford teams. We now have John inside the top ten in the championship and I'm fifteenth."

Cameron McConville, Tony Longhurst, Cameron McLean and Paul Morris also surprised many by making strong impressions throughout the day.

Kmart racer Todd Kelly lost an engine and second place in the series standings to teammate Murphy today, while Bright's win catapulted him to fourth in the championship. The TWR stable now holds the top four positions in the series.

Skaife's coronation, though, has only been delayed.

Race two results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?30/06/2002.BARB.R4

Race three results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?30/06/2002.BARB.R4

V8 Supercar Championship Series standings:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?30/06/2002.BARB.V8S.S

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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