Skaife: "Stand back for next year"

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 05/12/2014
  • By V8 Supercars

V8 Supercars greats Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes both know what returning two-time champion Marcos Ambrose is capable of. And both are saying 'look out' in 2015, as the 'Devil Racer' gets a kick-start on his campaignat the Sydney NRMA 500, beginning with practice today.

Lowndes, who is the only driver to have won twice on the streets of Homebush, and Skaife, who was involved in designing the treacherous track, both believe it will be a tough circuit for Ambrose to cut his teeth on in the new generation racer.

"He's never seen Homebush, it is a technical circuit, quite a bumpy track but I think he'll go well ... There's no doubt about that," Lowndes told v8supercars.com.au.

"It'll be good to see him back in a car, the cars have evolved so much since then, but there's no doubt he's a racer.

"I don't think anyone's expecting him to be up on the podium, but no doubt his ambitions will be to learn, develop, understand - and one of the big things will be to understand the pit lane now.

"Who are the drivers? That's something I'm sure he's seen abroad, but actually racing against people and familiarising yourself with who's good, who's what, how they drive, all your characters - I think for him that'll be the big one."

Skaife agreed his old rival would need to tread carefully at the Homebush circuit, which throws up various challenges for the drivers.

"It's not realistic to expect great things from him in Sydney," Skaife told v8supercars.com.au.

"I would argue at the moment the car - where [DJR's] Scott Pye and David Wall are in the field is probably pretty much where the car is, in reality.

"[It is] probably one of the hardest tracks of the year - if it was Phillip Island, Eastern Creek or Ipswich, it'd probably be a bit different. But Sydney is just a tough racetrack and when you drive on those sorts of tracks there's very little room for error."

He felt that a limited amount of preparation time, which has included a ride day and two tests at Queensland Raceway in the XBOX DJR Falcon, would add to the difficulty, "Marcos will have to be careful he doesn't extend himself too far as a consequence of coming back and competing so quickly in the series."

However, the former Holden Racing Team star's view on Ambrose's impact on the 2015 Championship, when the team transforms to DJR Team Penske, was unwavering.

"The message is - stand back for next year. Because as the team improves with the Penske arrangements and as Marcos improves in terms of getting his car to his liking and all those things - by the time Bathurst comes around 2015, then that will be the real showing."

While there has been some commentary about Ambrose finding it difficult to adapt to the new cars and level of competition in the category, Skaife wouldn't have a bar of it.

"It makes me laugh that some people are commenting, the game's moved on and not sure he'll be competitive. They're kidding themselves.

"Marcos Ambrose has been driving against some of the world's best touring car drivers, 38 weekends of the year on some of the fastest, most wild venues in the world."

It seems those who have raced Ambrose firsthand have absolutely no doubts about how he will perform, whereas those who haven't competed directly with the Tasmanian have raised questions.

"They'll soon work it out!" Skaife laughed. "Wish them luck for me!"

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