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Ford team spin out on victory

Riders on the storm: Paul Radisich and Steve Johnson scored Ford's first win in nine starts at Willowbank.

Wild weather works in the favour of Queensland 500 winners Paul Radisich and Steve Johnson

27 Aug 2001

PAUL Radisich and co-driver Steven Johnson recorded a dramatic victory in Sunday's VIP Petfoods Queensland 500, with a fierce thunder storm forcing officials to declare the race with five laps to go, leaving Radisich to savour the taste of victory despite sitting in the Shell Helix Falcon, buried in the sand trap.

Radisich had been engaged in a thrilling battle with Castrol Commodore driver Russell Ingall as the lightning and dark clouds closed in on the circuit, stealing the lead on lap 154 of a scheduled 161 when the Castrol Commodore driver began to battle for grip on the increasingly slippery circuit.

Both drivers pitted to change to wet weather tyres on the next lap as the rain increased, their respective crews operating as if synchronised, sending them out as they came in, nose to tail.

When the rain became torrential, Radisich slid off the circuit to gift the lead back to Ingall. He recovered to chase again in the dangerous downpour, only to tumble into the sand trap a couple of corners later, about the same time that Race Director Tim Schenken decided to declare the race.

With the rules stating that the result must be taken from the last completed lap, Radisich and Johnson were declared the winners, with Ingall and Larry Perkins second and Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly third in their Kmart Holden.

"It was a first for me, wining the race from the gravel trap," said Radisich. "On the first spin I thought 'god, I'll never get out of this one', but somehow I did, and the second one I knew there was no way out. The rain came quickly and hard. It was dangerous out there. I couldn't see lines on the road and we were all aquaplaning everywhere so the red flag was justified.

"It's disappointing for Russell after he raced so well. There was no way I could catch him in the dry but I got an opportunity when the rain started and I was there to capitalise on it and the result ended in our favour," he said.

Ingall had assumed the lead after a slick pit stop by his crew on lap 120 and looked a winner before the rain came, but remained positive about the result.

"It was a great race to be in as a driver. Paul is a tough competitor, I think we are from the same mould. All credit to their team, they went hard all race, like us. It was one of the classic V8 Supercar races," said Ingall.

Murphy and Kelly ran in the top seven or eight for the duration of the race, before leaping to third after the last scheduled stop on lap 119 and holding station despite spewing oil from the back of the car in the closing stages.

"I didn't know about the oil and I am glad I didn't because I probably would have worried about it and made a stupid mistake," said Murphy.

The Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife and Jason Bright finished fourth in the team's number one car, with Tomas Mezera and Tony Longhurst fifth in the second HRT entry. Skaife and Bright had fought their way from 15th on the grid to take the lead at the midpoint of the race, but couldn't match the late race speed of the podium trio.

There were only five runners on the lead lap when the result was declared, with 14 of the 34 entries retiring during the course of the race.

Despite Ford boasting the best qualifying results on Saturday, it was the Holden entrants stronger when it counted. There were 11 Commodores in the top 15 finishers and 11 of the 14 retirees were Fords. But the Blue Oval camp will rejoice in the victory, its first from nine races at the Willowbank circuit where many of its top teams test.

After the glory of putting two cars on the front row of the grid on Saturday, the Stone Brothers' tactics to have the slower co-drivers, Greg Crick and Matthew White, start the race in the Pirtek and Caltex Fords backfired when they were swamped at the start.

The plan was to allow the two drivers to do their minimum stint of 54 laps, then handing over to the exciting rookies, Marcos Ambrose and David Besnard who would run to the finish. By the time Ambrose and Besnard took the wheels, they were struggling midfield and both eventually retired.

Craig Lowndes' day was over before he had even climbed behind the wheel. His co-driver, Neil Crompton, got caught up with Cameron McConville on lap 11 and damage to his right rear led to a blown tyre on the main straight six laps later and he spun the Gibson Falcon into the sand trap and out of the race.

It was an early finish for the Gibson team after the other car it prepares, Rodney Forbes' Ford, was forced out with engine trouble on lap seven.

The Steven Richards and Glenn Seton combination was another high profile casualty, retiring after a broken push rod in the Tickford Ford saw Richards losing plenty of speed and even spinning into the sand before limping back to the garage on lap 44.

The result in this double points round sees Johnson and Ingall close on Skaife and Bright in the Shell Championship Series standings, setting up an engrossing four way battle for the title over the last four rounds.

1 Paul Radisich/Steve Johnson (Falcon) 3hr 17:41
2 Russell Ingall/Larry Perkins (Holden) 3hr 17:42
3 Todd Kelly/Greg Murphy (Holden) 3hr 18:04
4 Mark Skaife/Jason Bright (Holden) 3hr 18:29
5 Tony Longhurst/Tomas Mezera (Holden) 3hr 19:02
6 Steve Ellery/Geoff Brabham (Falcon) 3hr 17:45
7 Paul Weel/Tim Leahey (Falcon) 3hr 19:06
8 Jim Richards/Dean Canto (Falcon) 3hr 18:56
9 Paul Morris/Matt Neal (Holden) 3hr 18:16
10 Paul Romano/Owen Kelly (Holden) 3hr 18:18 DRIVERS' POINTS
1 Skaife (HRT) 2270 points
2 Bright (HRT) 2166
3 Johnson (Shell Ford) 2062
4 Ingall (Castrol Holden) 2008
5 Radisich (Shell Ford) 1675
6 Murphy (K-Mart Holden) 1611
7 Kelly (K-Mart Holden 1554
8. Marcos Ambrose (Pirtek Ford) 1410
9. Craig Lowndes (Gibson Ford) 1381
10. Garth Tander (Valvoline Holden) 1370 Next round:

Shell Championship Series round 10, Winton, September 8-9

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