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Round 2 - Eastern Creek Part 3 Race Report
Danielle Schwerin

Sunday could not have been anymore different to the rest of the weekend. Where fine weather had been present on Friday and Saturday, Sunday dawned with nothing but overcast skies, with promise of rain coming from the Bureau of Meteorology. So on went the wet weather boots in preparation for the morning warm-up and then the race.

The rain ultimately caused a delay to the start time, due to the heavy surface water on the track. For Kmart Racing, this was a blessing in disguise, allowing the team to complete the installation of a new engine to Greg Murphy's car without penalty or loss of race time (Kmart car 51 has now used one of its two free engine passes).

17 minutes after the scheduled start time, the race begun under Safety Car conditions in an effort to disperse the water from the track. One lap down and the safety car peeled off, letting the field loose under full green conditions.

Lap 7 saw the first major incident of the race, with Steve Ellery into the wall at turn 1, the wet track conditions causing the car to slide off the track. The shunt was hard, with the tyre barrier being pushed aside and the car impacting the concrete wall behind. "It was certainly a hard hit and I am thankful I did not get hurt," Ellery said, "the Super Cheap Auto Racing Falcon hit the concrete barrier so hard it moved back."

This incident prompted the return of the WPS Safety Car to the circuit and brought a few cars into the pits for the first of the day's stops. When the jumble settled, the top ten read Marcos Ambrose, Steven Richards, Jason Bright, Mark Skaife, Rick Kelly, Garth Tander, John Bowe, Greg Murphy, Paul Morris and Russell Ingall, ready for the lap 14 return to green flag conditions.

The restart brought about the usual chaos with Bowe and Murphy coming into contact at turn 9, spearing Bowe off, this time without the damage to the tracks barriers. Murphy ended up the worst off, having to pit due to a punctured tyre, relegating him back to 31st.

By lap 22, Rick Kelly was showing superior pace to the rest of the field having passed Skaife, Bright and S Richards in eight laps. With storms building to the south of the circuit, the top ten stood at Ambrose, R Kelly, S Richards, Skaife, Bright, Tander, Max Wilson, Craig Baird, Morris, Paul Weel.

At the end of lap 31 Skaife and R Kelly both came in, to complete one of their compulsory pit stops. With a slick stop, Kmart Racing put Kelly out on front of previous race leader Ambrose, 7th and 8th on the track, with Skaife behind Ambrose in 9th.

Todd Kelly was the first to have completed both of his compulsory pit stops (laps 6 and 30), putting him within reach of younger brother Rick, Ambrose and Skaife as the corrective order unfolded.

On his lap 32 the Castrol Perkins car of Paul Dumbrell was garaged for repairs effectively ending his race, the car ended up being 18 laps down on the field when it ventured back out. On the same race lap Brad Jones spun his OzEmail Racing car 21 which pushed him from 15th to 21st.

Skaife spun off the black stuff with considerable flare at turn 8 on lap 44, making this the second bad event for HRT car 2. The ensuing safety car conditions triggered a series of final pit stops, including that of race leader and second placed, R Kelly and Ambrose, while the tow truck retrieved Skaife from the sand trap; he rejoined in 26th position.

A cross-threaded wheel nut on the FPR Falcon's front-right wheel caused a lengthy delay during his stop, with Lowndes emerging from the stop 45 seconds later. The damage to his overall track position, however, was minimised because of the Safety Car conditions.

The bad weekend that OzEmail Racing were having only got worse, when on the last lap of the safety car period Jones looped car 21 on the slippery surface without assistance, relegating him to the back of the queue.

After three laps of green racing, Ambrose ran wide at turn two's hairpin on lap 51 which dropped him back to 6th behind R Kelly, Tander, T Kelly, S Richards, Murphy and Lowndes.

Castrol Perkins driver, Tony Longhurst, and WPS' David Besnard touched at turn 9 on lap 55, resulting in Longhurst spinning off and causing Besnard to pit for a replacement front left tyre.

By lap 57, R Kelly had pulled over a 10 second lead on the rest of the field and Lowndes had moved past Murphy, S Richards and T Kelly. Todd ran off between turns 2 and 3, and his re-entry saw him impact with Ambrose on the exit of the corner, spinning off onto the grass once more. Upon re-entering the track for the second time, Jason Richards was left with nowhere to go but into the back of Kelly and out of the race.

For his untidy re-entry, Kelly earned himself a drive through penalty, one of only two issued during the race distance; the second being issued to Cameron McConville for an overlap at the end of a safety car period.

The superior speed that Lowndes' FPR car 6 had been showing in the wet conditions made for an intriguing battle between himself and second placed Tander after the Safety Car released the field, which allowed R Kelly to again pull a sizeable lead.

With conditions worsening the battle between Tander and Lowndes became ever more interesting as the track surface became more slippery, with Lowndes attempting to pass at every opportunity. After a 6-lap battle, that clearly illustrated the FPR car to be faster, Lowndes finally made the pass stick, slipping under Tander into turn 4 and holding off the return pass at turn 10.

Similar to that of last December's Main Event, the safety car returned to the circuit on lap 67, due to the dangerous amounts of water lying on the tracks surface. With more than 75% race distance completed, lap 69 then saw Race Control make the decision to red flag the race, declaring Rick Kelly the winner ahead of Craig Lowndes and Garth Tander.

Final Results:
P115Rick KellyKmart Racing
P26Craig LowndesFord Performance Racing
P334Garth TanderRepco Valvoline Cummins Team
P411Steven RichardsCastrol Perkins Motorsport
P551Greg MurphyKmart Racing
P617Steven JohnsonShell Helix Racing
P71Marcos AmbrosePirtek Racing
P810Jason BargwannaLarkham Orrcon Racing
P9021Craig BairdTeam Kiwi Racing
P10888Max WilsonTeam Betta Electrical
P1129Paul MorrisSirromet - Life, Style, Wines
P1220Mark WinterbottomLarkham Orrcon Racing
P1350Jason BrightPWR Performance Products
P149Russell IngallCaltex Havoline Race Team
P155Glenn SetonFord Performance Racing
P1644Simon WillsHoly Grail Wines/Alphawest
P1723David BesnardWPS Racing
P1812John BoweOzemail Racing Team
P1922Todd KellyHolden Racing Team
P2088Paul RadisichTeam Betta Electrical
P2118Warren LuffShell Helix Racing
P222Mark SkaifeHolden Racing Team
P2321Brad JonesOzEmail Racing Team
P247Tony LonghurstCastrol Perkins Motorsport
P2533Cameron McConvilleRepco Valvoline Cummins Team
P2675Anthony TrattToll Racing
P2745Dale BredeHoly Grail Wines/Alphawest
P2814Mark PorterIMS - Hydralink
P2916Paul WeelPWR Performance Products
P308Paul DumbrellCastrol Perkins Motorsport
DNF3Jason RichardsTasman Motorsport
DNF31Steve EllerySuper Cheap Auto Racing

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