The V8 Supercars paddock has been stunned by the announcement that two-time series champion Marcos Ambrose will step down from full-time driving, just three rounds in to his high-profile comeback to the championship.
The 38-year-old Tasmanian was lured back to the series on a high-profile two-year contract to drive for the Team Penske / Dick Johnson Racing merger.
His place will be taken by the team’s former full-time driver, Scott Pye, who was set to partner Ambrose at the Pirtek Enduro Cup events later in the year – now the roles will be reversed.
A statement from the Queensland-based team confirmed that the decision to step down was entirely Ambrose’s, with the winner of 28 V8SC races admitting that he has struggling to transition back to the Australian touring car scene after almost a decade spent racing in the NASCAR series’.
“Following the Australian Grand Prix, Marcos came to the team, requesting to be replaced from his upcoming driving responsibilities, while he continues the transition back into V8 Supercars competition,” DJR Team Penske co-owner Roger Penske said.
“Entering the season, Marcos understood that the competition in this series is at a very high level and now realizes that more time is required for this transition. This was a difficult decision for Marcos but I appreciate him thinking about the greater good of the team. Marcos will continue to support the team and our partners including competing in the Endurance Series Races.”
Despite Ambrose’s past successes, the odds were certainly stacked against the veteran, whose move back to the championship attracted plenty of expectation that he would immediately be competing at the front of the field.
He had a rather unconvincing return at last year’s curtain-closing Sydney 500 at Homebush Bay in a wildcard-entered DJR Ford, and a handful of off-season test days to get familiar with the team’s brand new FG X Ford Falcon.
It was little surprise to see him struggle to develop a set-up to his liking, or to see him continue to run off the pace in both the Adelaide and Australian Grand Prix meetings to-date. His poor qualifying performances at Albert Park, in particular, saw him caught up in two early-race accidents over the event’s four races.
“This decision to step aside from the lead driver role at DJR Team Penske is completely my decision. I want to thank DJR Team Penske for the opportunity and support through the process of transitioning back into V8 Supercars. I would like to make it clear that I am fully committed to this team. Although this decision has been hard to make, it has become clear to me over the first two events of the season that I need more experience in these cars to do what is required of the lead driver and to be competitive for the team and our partners,” Ambrose added.
Image via Christian Hartung