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V8 Supercars: Battle of the bridesmaids

Runner-up race: Greg Murphy (51), Russell Ingall (8) and Jason Bright (2) are all in contention for second place in the championship.

The V8 Ultimate at Sandown will be a four-way battle for second place in the drivers' title

28 Nov 2001

AFTER the longest season ever in V8 Supercars racing, the final meeting of the 13-round Shell Championship Series takes place this weekend at Sandown International Raceway, Melbourne.

Ford will be represented by l0 teams and 12 drivers at the V8 Ultimate event, with the aim of repeating its 2000 success when Falcons filled seven of the first 10 positions, including victory to Shell Helix Racing's Paul Radisich.

With the help of teammate Steven Johnson, the Shell team has taken round wins in Canberra, Perth and Queensland this year, making it the best-performed Ford outfit.

Radisich is keen to extend that record with a repeat performance at Sandown this weekend.

But 2001 Shell Series champion Mark Skaife will be looking to ruin Ford's weekend and finish the season with a bang.

Skaife secured his fourth championship crown and the Holden Racing Team's fifth in six years at the recent round in New Zealand, so he heads to Sandown with little pressure and the chance to enjoy the rewards of the year.

The Sandown circuit has been successful for Skaife in the past, most recently taking the chequered flag in 1999 after first racing at the circuit in 1987.

While the championship may have already been decided, the race for second position is wide open, with four drivers a chance of being best of the rest.

Russell Ingall is currently in second but Jason Bright, Greg Murphy and Johnson can all catch him with 288 points on offer over the weekend's three races and qualifying shootout.

Murphy is the form driver after his clean sweep of the last round at Pukekohe, which helped lift him from fifth to fourth in the title race and within reach of the runner-up position.

Bright has been in the top two for most of the season and will be keen to reward HRT's faith in him with a one-two result.

Johnson is the only Ford challenger in contention for an end of year podium placing, but will need to win all the races and the shootout, while relying on the other drivers failing to finish, if he is to make the grade.

Saturday's program features a Top-15 shootout followed by the first 48-lap race with compulsory tyre pit stop. Sunday's schedule includes the remaining two 48-lap races.

1 Skaife (HRT) 3290
2 Ingall (Castrol Holden) 2720
3 Bright (HRT) 2635
4 Murphy (K-Mart Holden) 2562
5 Johnson (Shell Ford) 2440
6 Kelly (K-Mart Holden) 2231
7 Radisich (Shell Ford) 2005
8 Tander (Valvoline Holden) 1977
9 Ellery (Super Cheap Auto Holden) 1936
10 Ambrose (Pirtek Ford) 1873

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