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Gold Coast’s first championship round

It’s 21 years since the Gold Coast was officially welcomed as part of the V8 Supercars Championship in 2002.

After first being a support race on the CART/IndyCar schedule in 1994 as a non-points paying event, it took eight years to be awarded championship status. Close to Bathurst weekend, it was a danger for teams due to the carnage always guaranteed at the popular event along the beach.

Mark Skaife was riding a high and was in the midst of dominating the 2002 season after completing back-to-back Bathurst wins this tome partnered by Jim Richards, however it was Tom Walkinshaw Racing stablemate Greg Murphy on pole alongside the Brad Jones Racing Ford Falcon of John Bowe.

Bowe made a bad start and it proved a torrid opening lap for the veteran as Murphy led the early stages. A tangle with David Besnard driving a fresh completed spare Caltex Havoline Falcon forced Bowe off the circuit and led to the former retiring after incurring suspension damage.

As the pit stops started to occur on lap 3 of 22, Murphy continued to lead as Craig Lowndes in the 00 Motorsport and Skaife battled for the remaining podiums spots as Marcos Ambrose in the Pirtek Falcon closed dramatically.

Skaife was the loser as Ambrose got it in front to be second and it was the latter making his move during the concluding laps until a safety car was dispateched following a big incident for Castrol Perkins Racing’s Russell Ingall hitting the wall heavily exiting the Beach Chicanes after contact from Holden Racing Team’s Jason Bright.

It turned sour for Skaife as he was one of the drivers to be penalised for kerb hopping as was Garth Tander, Bowe and Brad Jones.

Murphy won the first leg from Ambrose and Lowndes, with Ingall’s teammate Richards just missing the podium.

For Sunday’s race, it was turned on its head when it started to rain as Jason Bargwanna started well after climbing nine positions in the opener. Skaife and Ambrose spun on the warm up lap just to demonstrate how greasy the conditions were.

Lowndes won the start from Murphy, Ambrose, Richards and Bargwanna. The first move was Richards on Ambrose heading into Jupiters before Murphy had a crack at Lowndes on the main straight, but it was the Castrol Perkins Racing Commodore making the moves.

Pit stops were not forthcoming for the leaders in the first few laps of the window opening unlike the previous day as teams waited for a drier line to appear and it was Bargwanna taking advantage as he moved through on Richards first, then Lowndes.

Skaife retired with a misfire to compound a bad weekend.

A gun pit stop from Garry Rogers Motorsport placed Bargwanna ahead of Murphy, who dropped back to fifth after the shuffle.

Bargwanna took victory for the round after winning Race 2 after being level on points with Lowndes, but winning on a countback. New Zealand was next and teams had plenty to repair ahead of the trip two days later.