This year’s Bathurst 1000 has marked the last time that race fans will see Mark Skaife race a V8 Supercar in anger, with the series’ most successful driver announcing his retirement from competitive driving.
The 44-year-old has confirmed he will take up the newly-created position of Chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission – the new technical and sporting arm of the championship – a decision that effectively rules him out of being able to race in the championship, even in the part-time capacity under which he has performed for the last three years.
The new role will see Skaife take up a greater role behind-the-scenes, particularly getting involved in the sport’s ‘Car of the Future’, the next-generation chassis design set to come into play in 2013.
Skaife made his top-level tin-top debut in 1987 – when the championship was known under its previous guise of the Australian Touring Car Championship – and he went to amass a record 90 race wins in just under 220 championship starts. His record of five ATCC/V8SC titles and six Bathurst 1000 wins ranks him among the best touring car drivers in the country, if not the world.
Having retired from full-time competition at the end of 2008, Skaife occasionally competed in the championship from then on, albeit in the traditional endurance races. Last year, he and team-mate Craig Lowndes (with whom he is pictured, top) won the L&H500 at Phillip Island and the Bathurst 1000, and managed to successfully defend the Phillip Island win this year. The pair finished runner-up to HRT pairing Garth Tander and Nick Percat at this year’s Bathurst 1000, in the closest ever finish in the race’s near-50-year history.
“This is one of the biggest decisions of my life,” Skaife told the Daily Telegraph newspaper when making the announcement.
“I have got to say it’s a decision that’s a bit more of my head and not my heart. Driving a V8 Supercar and racing at Bathurst has been a big part of my life for the last 25 years.
“I can’t drive forever. I’ve really only got a two or three-year window at the highest level and on the other side I have an opportunity which has probably got a longer tenure and a modern career path.
“The biggest thing is saying my heart is still in love with driving race cars but my head tells me that this is too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.”
In what has been a sad day for motorsport, racing fans across Australia and the world will certainly miss seeing further demonstrations of Skaife’s skill behind the wheel.
[Image via LAT]