Eyes on the prize

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 12/09/2015
  • By Kassie Gadeke

Ten years ago when he tackled the Sandown 500, Marcos Ambrose was fighting for his third consecutive V8 Supercars Championship.

This time he features as a co-driver, but has just as many eyeballs on him as he returns to racing for the second time this season with DJR Team Penske after stepping out the car after two events.

Ambrose's first chance to race again comes this afternoon in a 60km qualifying race against fellow co-drivers. An all in session sets the grid for the co-drivers, whose results set the grid for the primary drivers, who set the grid and ARMOR ALL Pole Position for Sunday's 500km classic.

But Ambrose's sights are set higher than beating the other co-drivers - which include his former teammate Russell Ingall, who took that title in 2005 and comes out of retirement.

"I want to mix it up there, but not just the co-drivers. I want to take it to Whincup, Winterbottom, Mostert - that's what I want to do," Ambrose told v8supercars.com.au.

"I'm looking forward to it. We've got a bit of work to go on the car still and I've got a bit to go myself, but certainly I feel closer than what I have been."

The team has steadily improved this season with Scott Pye behind the wheel, and Ambrose is showing a genuine enthusiasm to return to the driver's seat.

Last time he was fighting for a Championship - what exactly is he fighting for this time?

"My job, probably," Ambrose quipped.

"I'm not fighting for anything, I'm just enjoying the laps here. It's been a fun weekend so far getting back behind the wheel.

"I'm feeling more confident. I hope to have a good credit here on Sunday and just feel like it's the Sandown 500.

"It's been over 10 years since I've been here since and raced, it's always been one of my favourites, so I'm just looking forward to it and just enjoying it.

"There's no pressure on me whatsoever, I'm just out there turning some laps and feeling good about it."

The two-time champion has completed more miles than any other co-driver, having raced at the Clipsal 500 and Australian Grand Prix before stepping back. He performed well at the former, qualifying in the top 10. But the Ford Falcon FG X proved difficult, and Ambrose felt Pye's experience in the new gen Supercar would help improve the car quicker.

Pye's results have gradually improved throughout the season, with a top five qualifying result at the last race at Sydney Motorsport Park. Team boss Ryan Story says the car is faster than it's ever been and the morale in the team is at a high. Add to that the highly competitive Ambrose, who dismissed satisfaction with a podium finish.

"We're out there racing to win, and that's our goal," he told v8supercars.com.au.

"But to be honest with you, we haven't made the podium yet this year in a race, so we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us.

"We've got to be in the race to win it, and we've done better this weekend than we have done in the last few so looking forward to it. We've got a chance to win like anyone does out there and we've got to give it a shot."

Day two at the Wilson Security Sandown 500 kicks off with a final all-in practice session at 10.20am before the first of the qualifying phases at 12.20pm.

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