Monday, 18 June 2012
Factory Holden against factory Ford, established driving stars against a rising force, past winners against new championship hopefuls - the 2012 V8 Supercars championship race is building into a classic.
That's the feeling of five-time champion Mark Skaife, who can't wait for the next round in the enthralling four-way battle being waged for the title.
After the weekend's event in Darwin, just 49 points separate the leading trio of defending champion Jamie Whincup and Ford teammates Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom.
Between them, that threesome have won 12 of the 13 races this season with fourth-placed three-time champion Craig Lowndes winning Sunday's race in Darwin to keep within striking distance.
Skaife said Davison and Winterbottom finally delivering on the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing team's potential was one of many elements making the championship so engrossing.
"Effectively it's the factory Holden team against the factory Ford team, that's the first part, and in true V8 Supercar rivalry it doesn't get any better than that," Skaife told AAP.
"I've been critical of FPR a little bit over the years because I think at times they've shown really great glimpses of speed and haven't had the consistency across the whole year.
"Definitely now, since they've been able to get their brain around the soft tyre, their overall performance is now at a higher level all the time.
"I really think it shapes up now as a classic season given that you've got three of the best operators in two different teams."
Skaife said the tightness at the top of the points table would place even greater importance on the marquee Bathurst 1000 race, which carries double points and could easily turn the tables in the winner's favour.
But while he conceded Whincup's three successful championship campaigns show he will be able to handle the pressure of closing out a title, Skaife felt Davison's experience from 2009, when he finished as runner-up to Whincup, would also be a benefit.
"When you've won a championship you certainly get a feel for how to do it, an expectation of how you have to treat it," Skaife said.
"When you get to the last round and it's all on the line you're prepared for it because you've done it. That's a good thing, and that will help him (Whincup) no doubt.
"The other bit that will help Will Davison is he's almost won it before. He's in a new team, he wants to get supremacy in that team and he's hungry.
"It'll be a test of that - who wants it the most."
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