Russell Ingall isn’t very good at being retired. Since hanging up his helmet full-time at the end of 2015 he’s partnered Rick Kelly in the Supercar endurance races, joined Fox Sports as a pundit and now put his hand up for one of the world’s most gruelling endurance races.
“I only said I’d retired from full-time racing, so you’ve got to read the fine print,” laughs the 2005 V8 Supercar champion. “I find it very easy now to do the enduros because the co-driver’s part is a lot easier, this gig’s a little bit different because all three drivers have to play a very important part.
“Someone asked me on the weekend at Bathurst ‘why do you keep coming back?’ and you think ‘have a look at the place!’. Then you jump behind the wheel and you’re at one of the world’s wildest tracks, you’re doing 200km/h+ across the top; these GT3 cars are about three to four seconds faster than a Supercar, and to have the opportunity to jump behind [one], you can’t knock it back.”
At the time of this interview Ingall had yet to sample the M6 GT3, but was chomping at the bit for a chance to drive a car with proper downforce again. “I’m looking forward to getting behind something with aero because that’s what I predominantly raced,” explains Ingall. “It’s taking me back to my grass roots of racing.
“Steven Richards knows me pretty well and he said ‘when you get behind the wheel of this thing, you’re going to get out with the biggest smile’. With no disrespect to Supercars, this is a proper race car, everything’s computer-controlled and there’s so much more to learn again and I think that’s what’s interesting about it.”
While Ingall is the driver with the most recent race experience, he’s adamant the trio will be competitive: “Don’t think we’re going to be a heap of geriatrics running around. Mark’s already been to Phillip Island in the car and he was seriously fast straight up [and] Tony did a Porsche race at Bathurst and was [around] the top 10 in the Carrera Cup – not bad.”
And the prospect of racing with Skaife, once his arch nemesis? “No matter what the past is with Mark, we’re the same. We’re fiery people, we don’t like losing, we’re fierce competitors. We think that competitiveness is missing amongst the new breed of drivers. They all get on, they all go push bike riding together and drink coffee – we would never do that. When we were racing full time, as soon as you left the racetrack you wouldn’t talk to each other, because it’s competition, so we sort of view it that we were harder competitors back then than a lot are now.
“I think [Skaife and I] respect each other because of how competitive we are. That’s what it’s all about, pushing each other, but we know how to push each other and be smart, that’s the difference nowadays. If [the Bathurst 12-hour] was a sprint event it would probably come back with every panel torn off, but it’s 12 hours of racing, you’ve got to be fast but you’ve got to be smart too.
“It’s going to be massive, it’s a serious event. Everything feels right about it, it’s one of those deals that just feels good, I can’t wait to get up there.”
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