R3 RACE 2 & 3 - CREEK FOUR-PEAT FOR SENSATIONAL SKAIFE
His love affair with the Sydney circuit continued today, wrapping up a comprehensive round victory with wins in today's two 150km races.
It is the fourth straight year Skaife has won at Eastern Creek, becoming the only man in V8 Supercar history to win at the same venue in four consecutive years.
It was the perfect weekend for the man now at unbackable odds to win a fifth V8 Supercar crown: provisional pole, shootout success, a race win yesterday, and two faultless driving displays today.
Marcos Ambrose was the best of the rest, but simply no match. Craig Lowndes threw away victory in the final race, succumbing to pressure from Skaife. Garth Tander is back, racking up a big bag of points and an overall podium finish. And Greg Murphy proved a formidable foe.
But Skaife was too good. It looked easy, though he insisted it wasn't.
"Our cars have always worked well here, and we've got a good handle on what makes the tyres work, but we knew it would be tough here and it was," he said.
"To have gone from having the biggest crash of my career here to have such a good run is great - this is like a home track for me being an ex-Sydneysider."
Ambrose ran a strong second in today's opening race, but after putting Skaife behind him early in the final race he faded to finish fourth. Still, it was enough for second place on the dais and confirmed his standing as the biggest threat to the runaway leader.
"It was really important this weekend to be fast and consistent and that's what we've done," Ambrose said.
"This result further underlines that we're out to challenge our rivals and I know that we can improve even more."
Tyre wear hampered Ambrose's efforts, as it did many others. The Holden Racing Team's tyre management was far superior this weekend, and Ambrose admitted it's something the Stone Brothers Racing team must work on.
Lowndes had the final race in his grasp, making a terrific start from the second row and building a healthy lead.
The 00 Motorsport crew won a tense pit stop race between the Stone brothers outfit and HRT; Lowndes retaining the lead in the sprint to the line. But as Skaife loomed large in his mirrors, Lowndes ran wide five laps from the finish, allowing Skaife to sneak through and take the chequered flag.
"We were (at) 110 percent, and I went to 112 and fell off the track," Lowndes said.
"I was trying to get everything out of the car and just went too far. We were lucky to get back on the track quickly and only lose one spot."
Murphy wanted Skaife in his rear vision mirror as quickly as possible. He made an ambitious run at the lead in the second race from the third row of the grid, but came unstuck at turn two.
He finished seventh, and fifth in the final race, to retain his second position on the championship standings - a daunting 410 points behind Skaife.
OzEmail Racing's recruitment of John Bowe over the summer is looking like a master stroke, with the 48-year-old veteran today finishing eighth - Bathurst aside, the team's best championship result.
Russell Ingall was on course for a much-needed points boost - that is, until a wheel oddly spun free from his Commodore during the first race.
John Faulkner is back in the game, collecting plenty of points this weekend to finish seventh overall. His phenomenal weekend ended badly, though, when his engine expired late in the third race.
Steven Ellery also suffered a letdown after his impressive qualifying performance, with rear suspension dramas denying him what looked set to be his best result of the season.
The disappointing finish books Ellery a place in the pre-qualifying field for the next round at Hidden Valley Raceway. A change in rules will see those outside the top 25 in the championship, not last-round qualifying, fight for their right to compete in Darwin.
Race two results:
Race three results:
V8 Supercar Championship Series points:
--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)
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