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R6 RACES - SKAIFE SUPREME IN SYDNEY SHOWDOWN

It was another walk in the park for reigning V8 Supercar King Mark Skaife today. Oran Park, that is.

The record books are furiously being rewritten as the Holden Racing Team ace charges towards a record-equalling fifth touring car crown.

He won both of today's demanding 150km races, Skaife's fifth victory from six rounds this season. He dare not admit it, but the championship is now a formality.

Ford's relentless pursuit of the red barons again came up short, with eager pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose's challenge thwarted by some sloppy work in the pits.

Craig Lowndes, who qualified third, also failed to make an impression, struck down by mechanical problems in the first race.

Jason Bright ran faultlessly to finish second overall - another HRT quinella - launching himself into a four-way fight for the vice-championship.

Behind second-placed Bright, Ambrose now sits in fourth, splitting the Kmart Racing pair of Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly who both had a forgettable weekend. Less than 100 points separates the chase pack.

But they're all backed up behind Skaife, who further extended his insurmountable lead to 797 points.

"We weren't going well enough in qualifying, the car wasn't as good as we'd like," Skaife said. "But we did say it was a better race car than qualifying, and that is the way it turned out.

"Clearly I want to win the championship and that is what we are working towards. But there are a lot of points left. They were bloody hard races today, and we had to work for the win."

Ambrose said he needed to lead into the first corner to have any chance - and in race one he did. But an early pit stop for tyres went horribly wrong; a bungled tyre change blowing the stop out to a race-destroying 29 seconds.

He recorded a second in the final race, but any chance of catching Skaife ended on lap 39 of 58 when, on fading tyres, he slipped off the circuit.

"We have to make the car quite loose so it will turn, but it cooks the tyres," Ambrose said. "I was pushing really hard, and I just ran out of notches on the roll bars to keep adjusting it."

An overall podium result was little consolation in Ambrose's concerted bid to overthrow the factory Holden outfit. "I'm a little disappointed not to have fully capitalised today," he said.

Castrol chargers Steven Richards and Russell Ingall were imposing throughout the day, finishing fourth and fifth overall, while Steve Ellery recorded his best round result of the year in sixth.

The safety car was called on three times; the panel beaters many more.

Brad Jones was involved in a car-crunching collision in the first race, and was in no doubt who to blame - V8 Supercar bad boy Paul Romano.

"You just can't afford to make driving mistakes like that these days and his [Romano's] mistake will not only cost me championship points but tens of thousands of dollars as well," Jones said after climbing out of his severely damaged OzEmail Falcon.

Teammate John Bowe had his own enemy. "I should have known better than try and get past [Max Wilson]," he said after coming off second best with the erratic Brazilian.

And Paul Weel had a scary moment in the first race when he rolled his Falcon at turn one. He emerged unscathed.

Victoria's Winton Raceway is the next stop on the V8 Supercar circuit next month, before the series gears up for the two endurance races at Queensland Raceway and Bathurst.

Race one results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?28/07/2002.ORAN.R7

Race two results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?28/07/2002.ORAN.R12

V8 Supercar Championship Series standings:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?28/07/2002.ORAN.V8S.S

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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