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Thumping drive from Brad Hodge at the Grand Prix

Former test batsman Brad Hodge takes pole for today’s first Mazda celebrity race

15 Mar 2013

AUSTRALIAN cricket may be in turmoil, but former test batsman Brad Hodge has hit the rest of the Mazda6 Celebrity Challenge field for six at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

Hodge edged out actor Jonathan LaPaglia and Scottish Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy in qualifying to take pole for today’s first race at the Albert Park street circuit – a track that also saw its share of carnage.

The most spectacular ‘off’ was that of comedian Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann, who speared his Mazda6 diesel into the wall at turn 12 in the final stages of qualifying.

Lucky for Lehmo – and the handful other competitors involved in bingles over the past few days – there were plenty of replacement vehicles on hand, replete with roll-cages and harnesses.

“My motto from the start has been win or crash and I have achieved that. I’m hanging to see the vision. I hope it looked good, it's all about looking good in this game,” Lehmo said after the smash.

Hodge, who played only six tests but finished with a batting average above 55, said he took the advice of hired gun – and V8 supercar legend – Mark Skaife.

“It’s a great feeling, I just tried to do exactly what Skaife said, keep in control. It’s been great fun, what a great circuit and a great atmosphere,” he said.

“We are all having a ball out there. It’s good to be starting at the front, I hope I can stay out of trouble, which is pretty much the idea at turn one at Albert Park - especially with the big boys breathing down my neck.”

Mazda has rustled up 21 personalities for this year’s celebrity race – past versions of which have been as famous for their crashes as their contestants.

This year’s contestants braved track conditions of more than 50 degrees when practicing down the road from Albert Park, at Sandown.

GoAuto completed a few hot laps this week at Sandown with Skaife, who preached a “slow in, fast out” mantra that helped iron out understeer from the front-drive family car.

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