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Ford strikes the first blow

Hotting up: The Holden/Ford rivalry is set to explode following Ford's resurgence at the grand prix.

Ford lands an early blow in the V8 Supercar war with decisive victories at the Albert Park circuit over the weekend

Ford logo5 Mar 2001

By JUSTIN LACY

HOLDEN'S domination of the Shell V8 Supercar series may well be over following Ford's startling performance during the support races at this year's Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

Dick Johnson Racing's Paul Radisich lead the Ford brigade with victories in race two and three, while Craig Lowndes twice finished on the podium in his debut for Ford. Lowndes is part of a boosted Ford attack, the former Holden hero teaming with veteran team owner Fred Gibson in a new Ford team, which has helped increase the number of competitive Falcons on the grid.

But it was the Holden Racing Team which started 2001 where they left off last season, with Mark Skaife winning the first Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown last Friday.

The three-time touring car champion led the 10-lap race from start to finish, crossing the finish line one second ahead of Steven Johnson. It was Johnson's first-ever V8 Supercar podium finish.

Skaife's team-mate, Jason Bright, finished third on debut for HRT.

The tables were turned in race two on Saturday, with Ford Falcons filling the first four places and eight of the top 10.

Radisich won the incident-packed race in his Shell Helix Racing Falcon, leading home Ford factory drivers Steve Richards and Lowndes - both making their debuts for Ford at this event.

Skaife's prospects in race two evaporated when he was forced to pit his Holden Racing Team Commodore at the end of the first lap after contact in the first turn.

Steven Johnson, who finished behind Skaife in the first race, also ran off the track in the first turn.

Radisich also won the third and final Hot Wheels V8 Supercar Showdown.

The Ford driver set the fastest lap of the race at 1m59.391s on his way to taking the chequered flag 2.5 seconds ahead of Lowndes.

Russell Ingall was third in his Holden Commodore, finishing less than one second behind Lowndes.

Lowndes' result surprised many as he had only one day of testing in his new car before coming to Albert Park.

"The team is very excited with our weekend's work. It was great today to be able to match speed with Russell Ingall as he was pushing me from behind. It shows that we are closer to competitiveness than what we though we were," said Lowndes.

Skaife finished in 12th position after starting from the rear of the field, just behind Bright.

The fight for the Shell Championship Series points begins on March 24 at Victoria's Phillip Island circuit.

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