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Skaife almost certain to miss Sandown

Five-time V8 Supercar champion and two-time Sandown 500 winner Mark Skaife is almost certain to miss Sunday's Sandown 500 V8 Supercar endurance race, after being struck down with appendicitis

Currently sixth in the championship, Skaife suffered pains in his stomach before visiting a doctor earlier today. Following scans, it was determined he had appendicitis, and was operated on this afternoon to remove his appendix.

"There's only a remote chance that Mark would be okay to drive," his wife Toni confirmed. "The operation finished up being a normal procedure, but Mark was really disappointed that such a thing should happen at this time of year."

Last year's Sandown was also cruel for Skaife, suffering a suspension failure while looking set for victory. It was followed by a lap one exit from Bathurst a month later, Skaife's car starting from pole at both events.

These two races put paid to any chance of a title challenge last year, and Skaife's absence this weekend will almost certainly end any chance he had for the 2007 title.

Skaife was expected to pair up with regular teammate Todd Kelly in Skaife's number 2 car before today's shock, with Glenn Seton and Nathan Pretty in Kelly's regular car, number 22.

Now, the driver pairings at Holden Racing Team are to be reshuffled - Kelly and Pretty in Kelly's 22, while Seton will be joined by veteran two-time Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst in Skaife's number 2 machine.

"If Mark is out, we will pair up Todd Kelly and Nathan Pretty in Todd's number 22 Commodore and we believe ex-HRT Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst will share with Glenn Seton in Mark's number 2," said Holden Racing Team team manager Robbie Starr.

"We hope to fly him down to Melbourne from the Gold Coast tonight in time for practice tomorrow."

Skaife is not the only driver whose plans to race this weekend have ended before they begun. Brad Jones, who retired from full-time racing this year, was planning to contest both endurance races for family-run team Team BOC.

But treatment for a herniated disc in his lower back has seen Jones advised to concentrate on recovery or miss out on racing next month at the jewel in the crown, the Bathurst 1000.

"Yesterday was definitely my best day since the test last week in terms of being able to sit down, but the doctors have told me that I would miss Bathurst if I aggravated it further by driving at Sandown and to be honest Bathurst has, is, and will always be, my 100 percent focus," said Jones.

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