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Mark Skaife had conceded defeat when his teammate Jason Bright heartbreakingly fell by the wayside in the dying stages of today's torrid Clipsal 500 encounter, gifting him the best possible start to his championship defence.

Only until six laps from the finish of the 78-lap race did Skaife emerge from the shadow of his more dominant teammate, swerving around Bright's wounded Commodore to drive on to victory.

Bright was one of many victims of a dangerous oil slick, perpetrated by Max Wilson's Betta Electrical Falcon, through the super-fast Dunlop sweeper.

He slipped off course and was flung into the concrete wall at more than 220km/hr. The impact snapped Bright's rear axel assembly, forcing him to yield to Skaife and eventually retire from the race.

It ruined what looked certain to be another Holden Racing Team quinella, with the two untouchable factory men setting a punching pace out in front.

"The reality is the cars (the two HRT cars) were very similar in speed, at almost every juncture we were together," said Skaife.

"To be honest, I wasn't going to risk it all and race him at the end. He just ran wide and hit the wall, he tried to block me but I could see the axel moving so I knew he was in trouble."

Skaife won from Garth Tander, in an encouraging return-to-form for the Garry Rogers Motorsport ace. K-Mart Racing's Greg Murphy, from 15th on the grid, finished third.

Tander's result was a contentious one. Originally down a lap when he was trapped out of position behind the safety car, the team argued the disadvantage and timekeepers reinstated him to the lead lap.

"It seems like we were the best of the cars that were not red," said Tander, who battled clutch problems throughout the race. "We've got a bit of work to do overnight to close the gap, though."

Marcos Ambrose was the best of the Fords in fourth, but may have challenged the HRT pair had it not been for some blatant blocking tactics from a lapped (and eventually black-flagged) Todd Kelly mid-race. Craig Lowndes was fifth, ahead of Castrol Perkins' Steven Richards.

Most of the passing was done in pitlane, with two compulsory stops for fuel and tyres.

Most took on fuel during the first stop, around the 26-30 lap mark, while a pre-season rule change allowed a flurry of stops for new tyres when the safety car first made an appearance (to rescue John Faulkner's stranded Commodore) on lap 36.

Bright wasn't the only victim of the slippery Dunlop corner. An unlucky and strong-finishing Steven Ellery skated into the wall moments after Wilson's Falcon dumped the oil. Ellery has already withdrawn from tomorrow's second leg, with the car too badly damaged to repair.

"There was really nothing I could do to avoid the crash, the oil on the road from Wilson's car meant whoever was unlucky enough to hit it first, was gone. We were the unlucky car," Ellery said.

Dick Johnson Racing burned the midnight oil to have Paul Radisich's mortally wounded Falcon on the grid, only to see him park the car on lap three when his engine expired.

"The crew did a fantastic job right through the night to have the car ready for today, but luck wasn't with us," Radisich said.

Coolant spilt by Radisich sent Simon Wills and Wayne Gardner into a spin, colliding with each other.

Along with Wills and Gardner, other notable retirees included; Cameron McLean (dislocated oil pump belt), Cameron McConville (engine misfire) and Paul Morris (engine failure). Russell Ingall limped around the circuit with power steering failure to finish last.

They're back to do it all again tomorrow; another 250km torture test beginning at 2:00pm local time.

Race one results:

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