Pirtek Racing's Marcos Ambrose has regained the top spot in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship Series, after a second placing overall in the PlaceMakers V8 International at Pukekohe Park Raceway south of Auckland.
The round was won by Jason Bright and in the process ended Greg Murphy's consecutive win streak at three. Murphy finished third overall for the event.
After heavy showers postponed Saturday’s opening 36-lap race, all of Sunday’s three races were completed with only the first race being run in damp conditions.
In that race, the defending V8 Supercar Champion got the jump and headed the field to win. It was Ford's first race win in the V8 Supercar Championship Series in New Zealand.
A poor start in the second race saw him finish third behind Bright and Murphy.
The final race featured an exciting battle between Ambrose and Murphy. Ambrose made a great move on lap 8 to pass Murphy and began to pull away. However, a determined effort by Murphy with just two laps remaining saw him regain second.
Third place for Ambrose was enough for runner-up overall.
“It's great to get a strong result and more importantly regain the lead in the championship, that was our goal this past weekend,” said Ambrose.
“That was a very difficult day, with the weather remaining unpredictable.
“I've said it many times, but you can't expect to win every time out. To win this championship you must score consistently. You can win races, but if you have a bad round it's going to be very hard to make it up.
“Already there's a gap starting to form from the top group down, and many of the best drivers in this category aren't in that group. We must stay consistent and not fall out of that group.
“We now go to Darwin and that's going to be another tough challenge. A totally different set of circumstances with the track layout and the hot weather.
“The great thing about our team is that we can adapt to all challenges and with two victories in the top-end in the past, we're feeling pretty good right now”.
Russell Ingall (Caltex Havoline Racing) was turned around on the opening lap of the first race, before recovering to finish seventh overall.
After a strong sixth position at Eastern Creek, Shell Helix Racing's Steven Johnson finished eighth overall and is placed ninth in the championship chase.
The tricky conditions in NZ proved a big challenge for a number of Ford teams.
After finishing third in Sunday’s opening race, Team Betta Electrical Paul Radisich had a wild spin in race two, before recovering to finish ninth overall.
His teammate Max Wilson finished fifth in the first race, but a non-finish in race two placed him 16th overall for the event.
Jason Bargwanna (Orrcon Steel Racing) went into the NZ round fifth in the championship, but his day was ruined when Paul Dumbrell slammed into the side of him in the opening race. From there things didn't improve and he finished 29th.
Craig Lowndes scored an impressive eighth position in the opening race after starting 21st. However, a broken alternator belt in the second race and power-steering failure in the final race saw him finish 24th overall.
Top-10 overall - PlaceMakers V8 International
1. Jason Bright - PWR Racing - Holden Commodore
2. Marcos Ambrose - Pirtek Racing - Ford Falcon BA
3. Greg Murphy - KMart Racing - Holden Commodore
4. Steven Richards - Castrol Perkins Motorsport - Holden Commodore
5. Rick Kelly - KMart Racing - Holden Commodore
6. Paul Weel - PWR Racing - Holden Commodore
7. Russell Ingall - Caltex Havoline Racing - Ford Falcon BA
8. Steven Johnson - Shell Helix Racing - Ford Falcon BA
9. Paul Radisich - Team Betta Electrical - Ford Falcon BA
10. Jason Richards - Tasman Motorsport - Holden Commodore
Top-10 championship positions after 3 of 13 rounds.
1. Marcos Ambrose - Pirtek Racing - Ford Falcon BA, 532 pts
2. Steven Richards - Castrol Perkins Motorsport - Holden Commodore, 528 pts
3. Greg Murphy - KMart Racing - Holden Commodore, 509 pts
4. Rick Kelly - KMart Racing - Holden Commodore, 502 pts
5. Jason Bright - PWR Racing - Holden Commodore, 457 pts
6. Craig Baird - Team Kiwi Racing - Holden Commodore, 364 pts
7. Russell Ingall - Caltex Havoline Racing - Ford Falcon BA, 350pts
8. Paul Weel - PWR Racing - Holden Commodore, 347pts
9. Steven Johnson - Shell Helix Racing - Ford Falcon BA, 341pts
10. John Bowe - OzEmail Racing - Ford Falcon BA, 326 pts
Highlights of the PlaceMakers V8 International in New Zealand will be broadcast in High Octane Motorsport on Supersport on the following dates:
May 11, 22:30 - Supersport CSN
May 11, 22:30 - Supersport 2
May 12, 04:00 - Supersport CSN
May 12, 04:00 - Supersport 2
May 12, 15:30 - Supersport CSN
May 12, 15:30 - Supersport 1