Russell 'The Enforcer' Ingall is forthright in his summation of this weekend's V8 Supercar 1000 at Bathurst. He and co-driver, Larry Perkins, form the strongest driver pairing on the entry list and, for his championship hopes, they just have to...
Russell 'The Enforcer' Ingall is forthright in his summation of this weekend's V8 Supercar 1000 at Bathurst. He and co-driver, Larry Perkins, form the strongest driver pairing on the entry list and, for his championship hopes, they just have to win it.
Ingall and Perkins are lining up for their seventh Bathurst start together and hoping for win number three. The 540 points on offer for winning this eleventh round of the Shell Championship Series could even give Ingall, who is currently third and 217 points behind leader Mark Skaife, the lead with just two rounds remaining.
"As far as experience, results and form go we have to one of the strongest pairs out there," said Ingall. "In particular now that HRT have split Skaife and Bright. The top three combinations would have to be us, 'the Rat' and Johnson in the Shell car and Murphy and Kelly in the Kmart car.
"For my championship hopes, we have to win it, there is no other result for us to think of. If we win this, we go to the last two rounds, New Zealand and Sandown, with the momentum and all the pressure switches to the HRT crew."
Ingall does not discount the chances of the men in front of him in the title hunt, Mark Skaife and Jason Bright, he just doesn't rate them in his top three. A decision late last week was made by the HRT outift to split the two who shared driving duties at the last enduro event, the Queensland 500, instead teaming Skaife with Tony Longhurst in the #1 car and Bright with Tomas Mezera in the #2 car.
"I am not surprised that the two of them are split for this race," he said. "If I was in their shoes, I would want to be split too, so I had a chance of beating my teammate in the championship. To be honest, I am a bit disappointed that they are not together because I could have hoped for both of them dropping out with problems on one car, but I can't see HRT having two cars drop out.
"Their co-drivers in Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera are very experienced drivers, but recent history says you have to have two leading drivers who are hardened by racing near the front of this category, which is so fiercely competitive, if you want to win at Bathurst," he said.
The dominant Holden Racing Team have not been able to conquer Bathurst's Mt Panorama since a fresh faced rookie in Craig Lowndes teamed with Greg Murphy in 1996. Splitting their two lead drivers in 2001 may be a case of increasing their chances of putting another win on the board.
"Being able to split Jason and Mark, is a bit like having two tickets in the lottery, rather than one," Jeff Grech, HRT General Manager, stated.
The championship fight had looked likely to become an all-HRT affair after Skaife blew everyone away at Oran Park in July. But, having lost some of their advantage at the top of the points table in the Queensland 500 and at Winton, their rivals go into this weekend's race with high hopes of knocking them off.
The Shell Helix Racing pair of Steven Johnson and Paul 'the Rat' Radisich has been touted as one of the strong Bathurst chances all season. Their team's Falcons have shown the most power at Mt Panorama for the last two years, and they reckon they are due. The fact that Johnson finds himself as the leading Ford driver in the championship and a genuine contender means the win becomes more desirable.
"There's no question the race is ours for the taking, I believe," said brand new Dad, Radisich. "We know how good our cars are at Bathurst and we have really got our act together in the pits now, so I expect we will set the pace on and off the track. Our championship challenge is important too, of course, but the best possible result for Steve (Johnson) right now is to win Bathurst and take the double points that would set him up very nicely for the rest of the year."
Johnson hopes to become the second son of a Bathurst winner, after Steven Richards, to win the race.
"There's no point us playing for points because that's not enough. If I'm going to win the title I have to win Bathurst. Simple as that," said Johnson.
The Kmart Racing entry of Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly also has a strong chance, having won a well-deserved podium spot at the Queensland 500. Kelly would become the youngest winner at Bathurst should their Holden be the first to take the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon.
Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna are hoping to become the first back-to-back winners of Australian motorsport's most celebrated race since Jim Richards and Skaife in 1991-92. The Valvoline Cummins Holden pair have struggled throughout the year, but encouraging signs of improvement at Queensland and Winton, plus last year's hard fought win ensure they must be considered as a real threat in 2001.
Ford fans will be looking for Craig Lowndes and Neil Crompton who will debut a purpose-built Gibson Falcon at the event. Glenn Seton will hope that his 18th trip to the mountain can bring him an elusive victory and his Tickford Racing teammate, Steven Richards, may provide just the Bathurst luck he needs, having won here twice and boasting a streak of five straight podium finishes from his last five visits.
Dual winner, John Bowe, has a talented youngster in Simon Wills as his co-pilot in the CAT Falcon and could figure in the final result.
Ingall can think of only one result.
"My dream finish will come if I am behind the wheel when we take the chequered flag at the end. LP has had that honour the last two times we have won Bathurst and, while celebrating the win has felt pretty good from pit wall, I think it would be a really nice feeling if it was me behind the wheel this time."
<pre> Shell Series Points Overall after 10 rounds: 1)Skaife - 2498, 2)Bright 2371, 3)Ingall - 2281, 4)Johnson - 2217, 5)Murphy - 1842, 6)Radisich 1836, 7)Kelly - 1644, 8)Ambrose 1611, 9)Tander - 1479, 10)Ellery 1477, 11)S.Richards - 1454, 12)Lowndes 1432, 13)Morris 1341, 14)Perkins 1307, 15)Seton - 1300
Bathurst V8 Supercar action at a glance: Friday: Provisional Qualifying 1.10-2.50pm Saturday: Top 15 Shootout 10.45-11.50am Sunday: 161 lap (1000km) race 10am-4.45pm Compulsory Pit Stops: 3 for fuel between laps 2-120 + 1 for brake pads between laps 48-120 NB: 1 fuel stop and the brake pad stop can be combined for a minimum of 3 compulsory stops
Recent Bathurst Winners 2000 Garth Tander Jason Bargwanna, Holden Commmodore (Valvoline Cummins Racing) 1999 Greg Murphy - Steve Richards, Holden Commmodore (Kmart Racing) 1998 - Jason Bright - Steve Richards, Ford Falcon (Pirtek Racing) 1997 Larry Perkins - Russell Ingall, Holden Commodore (Castrol Racing) 1996 Craig Lowndes - Greg Murphy, Holden Commodore (Mobil Holden Racing Team) 1995 Larry Perkins - Russell Ingall, Holden Commodore (Castrol Racing)