Motorsport: Blue joy as Ford rules Bathurst

By Bob Pearce

Craig Lowndes and Ford spoiled Holden's big day yesterday when he took the Peter Brock Trophy as winner of the Bathurst 1000.

There were wild scenes in pitlane as Ford fans surged over the barriers, chanting "Lowndes" and waving blue flags. Lowndes, who won 10 years ago for Holden, carried the words "Brock Always With Us" on his visor in memory of the Holden hero who died last month.

It was Ford's first victory since 1998 and it came after one of the most incident-packed races in the history of Australia's Great Race.

At the finish Lowndes, who shared the winning car with Jamie Whincup, had a margin of just a couple of car lengths over the Holden of Rick Kelly, whose co-driver was his brother, Todd. Third were James Courtney and Glen Seton in a Ford.

Then followed Russell Ingall/Luke Youlden in a Ford and the first Kiwi, Steven Richards, in a Holden he shared with Paul Dumbrell. Craig Baird was 10th with Jason Bargwanna.

Another New Zealand hero, Jason Richards, watched the final laps from the barriers on Mt Panorama after two crashes when his Holden suffered suspension problems in the closing laps after running near the front.

In the most spectacular crash of the race, which had nine safety-car interventions, Paul Radisich of Team Kiwi careered off the track at speed and had to be cut from his Holden. He was not badly hurt.

The first blow to Holden's hopes of lifting the trophy named for Bathurst hero Brock came at the start when pole-sitter Mark Skaife crawled off the line with a clutch problem and was hit by Jack Perkins when nearly stationary round the first bend.

Other early casualties included Ford hopes Jason Bright and Steven Johnson, who had both qualified in the top 10.

Radisich and Fabian Coulthard had run steadily in the middle of the field as others fell by the wayside. But on the 72nd lap Radisich was squeezed into a three-into-two situation just after the kink on the high-speed Conrod Straight.

The Team Kiwi Holden skated across the sand trap into the barriers at high-speed. Radisich was trapped inside and safety crews had to cut the roof off to get him out. He was flown to hospital for precautionary tests after complaining of a sore back.

On the 104th lap Greg Murphy's hopes were dashed when his teammate, Cameron McConville, spun into the barriers at the top of the mountain. He got the car back to the pits but the damage was extensive.

Half a dozen laps later Steven Richards, who had been running in the first three, fell back when his Holden was forced to pit because of leaking fluid.

Of the other Kiwis, veteran Jim Richards, in his 35th start in the race, put his Holden into the barriers and out of the race on lap 25. Matt Halliday never really recovered after the early pitstop when teammate David Brabham flat-spotted the tyres on their Ford. They completed 56 laps.

New Zealand V8 champion Kayne Scott got barely half a lap of racing in a Paul Morris Motorsport Holden. Teammate Alan Gurr came in with an over-heating engine. Scott took over but the engine soon died. He headed to Sydney to be at the bedside of good friend Mark Porter.

Baird and Jim Richards had a longer day in the sun than most, competing early in the morning in the third eight-lap Porsche Carrera Cup race of the weekend. Baird was second and Richards third behind Victorian David Reynolds.

Baird was third in the other two races and has a big lead in the Australian Carrera Cup championship.

The official attendance for the four days was a record 193,647, 20,952 more than the previous best in 2004. Yesterday a record 62,841 crowded round the circuit. Pit straight stands were dominated by Holden red.

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