After two tough sprint races on Saturday, ex-NASCAR racer Marcos Ambrose picked up the pace overnight in the 250-kilometer feature race of the Sydney 500.
Armed with a No. 66 Xbox/DJR Team Penske Ford Falcon that was more to his liking than it was on Saturday, Ambrose pushed from 23rd on the grid to a 16th place finish in a race that was called shortly after heavy rains again wreaked havoc on the Homebush course and forced a red flag at Lap 44.
Despite treacherous conditions at the start of the race, Ambrose climbed into the Top 20 by the time he flipped to slick tires on his Ford. He made further progress up the pylon prior to his second stop, and was running firmly in mid-pack before another storm settled in over the Olympic Park-based track – with lots of lightning to go with it.
Ambrose was pleased with a better performance on Sunday, but was already looking forward to getting more test time with the Ford prior to his 2015 full-time V8 program with DJR Team Penske.
“Today, it all started to click in the Xbox Falcon, despite the weather conditions,” he said. “I am much happier today than where we started and I think there is a small window of light coming through now. I am already looking forward to getting back in the car for the two day test at Eastern Creek and staring work on this new deal.
“It has been a tough weekend, no doubt about it, but we kept the car straight and finished all the laps available in all the races, which is what I wanted to do. The weather was a factor too, but it did allow me to experience a lot of different things and I do feel a bit more rounded after not driving these cars for 9 years.
“I’ve got a long way to go and I just hope the team is patient with me and we can build this thing into a winning combination.”
Fortunately for him, it would appear that at least one of his new bosses – Penske Racing president Tim Cindric – is willing to let Ambrose’s re-acclimation to V8 racing play out.
On Twitter, he compared Ambrose’s current situation to the one Juan Pablo Montoya experienced this past year when he returned to IndyCar racing for Team Penske after a long stint in NASCAR:
In the Sydney Morning Herald’s own assessment of Ambrose’s return weekend, Cindric added: “I think Ambrose has really handled it well, he’s a true professional. We didn’t really know what to expect before he came here.
“Without a doubt, he’s continued to progress…We have a lot of work to do.”
Shane Van Gisbergen won Sunday’s feature after front-runner Garth Tander spun out on a rain-slicked course just moments before the Safety Car came out due to the deteriorating conditions.
Tander was forced to settle for second, while James Courtney picked up the last spot on the podium. V8 driver’s champion Jamie Whincup finished fourth.
The 2015 V8 calendar will begin with a two-day test session at Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) on Feb. 7-8. The first race weekend of the year is Feb. 26-March 1 in Adelaide, Australia.