It's said defending a title is harder than winning it the first time. But for the Holden Racing Team, the reigning V8 series champions, their supremacy is again likely to go unrivalled. Led by Skaife, with Bright as the reluctant but valuable sidekick, this incomparable unit set a benchmark last year that few could emulate.
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Mark Skaife was an emphatic winner of the major prize, all but sealing the title three rounds from the finish with a famous victory on Mount Panorama with Tony Longhurst.
Basking in the glow that comes with being defending champion, his favouritism always sat well with him - typically composed, calculating and capable throughout the season. On the rare occasion his factory rocket ship was off the pace, his uncanny ability to keep the points ticking over, with precision driving and reliable machinery, meant his title defence never really looked vulnerable.
He is the complete racer: sober and collected off-track, but an antagonistic master with the helmet on. Some argue he lacks the natural talent of a Craig Lowndes, but few match his racing intensity, one-lap wizardry and adept race craft.
And at just 34, Skaife's only problem may be boredom. But the lure of a record-equalling fifth Touring Car crown will provide the impetus for another spectacular year of success.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]So, too, the lure of a maiden championship for Jason Bright, particularly after a somewhat frustrating first year with the factory outfit.
From last year's Clipsal 500, where he shone brightly to take the spoils, the amiable Victorian loomed large in Skaife's mirrors for much of the year. Replacing the sport's biggest drawcard, Craig Lowndes, was never going to be easy, but he quickly found his feet in the category again after an aborted Indy challenge in America the year before.
But after an ominous start to the season, which saw him momentarily wrestle the series lead from Skaife, the wheels fell of his championship assault. He finished the season in third, a commendable, career-best result, but the year had promised more.
Skaife may be the king, but Bright is just as capable and just as hungry. Team orders don't exist here.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Also watch for teenage tyro
Rick Kelly, HRT's 'Young Lion' for 2002. He's a kid going places - fast.
The younger brother of K-Mart Racing's Todd Kelly, 19-year-old Rick clinched the Formula Holden championship last year before earning a start, and performing admirably, in the endurance events, and a cameo solo appearance at Sandown Raceway.
Kelly, according to his website, was "kicking arse and melting hearts" last season. It encapsulates the kid from country Victoria, whose marketable looks and inherent talent suggest he is a future superstar of V8 racing.
Holden Racing Team|
1. Mark Skaife
2. Jason Bright
02. Rick Kelly
Team Principal: John Crennan
Team Formed: 1988 as Holden Special Vehicles, became HRT in 1989
1992-2001 V8 Supercar
1988-1992 Group A
Bathurst 1000km Wins
Other Race Wins
Eastern Creek ATCC
Eastern Creek, Sandown, Symmons Plains, Lakeside, Barbagallo, Mallala and Oran Park ATCC, Sandown 500
Symmons Plains, Mallala, Barbagallo and Oran Park ATCC, Sandown 500
Sandown, Symmons Plains, Phillip Island, Barbagallo, Calder Park and Oran Park ATCC
Eastern Creek, Adelaide 500, Barbagallo, Phillip Island, Sandown, Calder Park, Symmons Plains and Oran Park ATCC
Barbagallo, Eastern Creek, Hidden Valley, Queensland Raceway & Oran Park ATCC, Albert Park F1 Support, Queensland 500
Adelaide 500, Phillip Island, Eastern Creek and Oran Park ATCC
Larry Perkins, Denny Hulme, Armin Hahne, Jeff Allam, Tom Walkinshaw, Win Percy, Allan Grice, Neil Crompton, Steve Harrington, Tomas Mezera, Brad Jones, Wayne Gardner, Michael Preston, Peter Brock, Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy, Mark Noske, Stephen White, Mark Skaife, Jason Bargwanna, Todd Kelly, Cameron McConville, Paul Morris, Nathan Pretty, Yvan Muller, Jason Plato, Jason Bright, Tony Longhurst & Rick Kelly.