LD rivals and now good mates Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall are the latest signings to what is becoming an all-star cast of Australian driving talent for BMW's attack on February's Bathurst12 Hour car race. The two Bathurst 1000 winners will be part of a two-car BMW M6 GT3 run by Steven Richards Motorsport (SRM) and will be joined by dual Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst.
Longhurst is no stranger to the BMW Motorsport family, having raced a variety of ‘M' cars in the Australian Touring Car Championship between 1984 and 1987 and then in the 2.0 litre Super Touring Car Championship from 1991 to 1994, winning the title in 1994 in a 318s.
Between them the three drivers have 10 Bathurst 1000 wins under their belts in Touring Cars and V8 Supercars.
Richards, son of Australian and New Zealand racer Jim Richards, was already a confirmed starter for February's 12-hour race but confirmation of a second car came as a surprise to rivals and fans alike.
Richards, himself a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner (the last in 2015) is expected to be partnered by Max Twigg in the February long distance classic, but a third driver is still to be named.
Despite the fact Longhurst, Skaife and Ingall can these days be classified as motor racing ‘senior citizens', none are lacking in driving talent. Ingall raced a Nissan in the recent Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar race and Longhurst ran a Porsche in support races at the same meeting.
The driver pairing of Skaife and Ingall comes as a surprise to many. The pair had a spirited rivalry in Supercars which came to a head at Eastern Creek (now Sydney Motorsport Park) in 2003 when the pair clashed in the final race of the season.
Skaife was forced out of the race; Ingall won the championship, and both were heavily fined for their actions. Neither man spoke to the other for a long time afterwards.
That is all water under the bridge now, and the two are good friends and television co-hosts for Fox Sports.
"When you look at the Bathurst wins between the three of us (you see) people who know how to win Bathurst and are very passionate about racing. It's going to be fantastic," Ingall said. Make no mistake; we are taking this seriously. We're going there to try and win the race. I'm looking forward to getting to Bathurst and having a big swing at it."
Skaife echoed the sentiments of his former rival and now television co-host.
"It's a very exciting project (and) one of those things that came out of nowhere. Who would have thought I'd have a teammate like Russell Ingall at some stage, and to be rejoining Tony Longhurst after winning (the Bathurst 1000) in 2001 is fantastic," Skaife said.
"We want to go there and do a good, solid job. You can't go to a place like Bathurst and not feel comfortable; you have to go there and be able to drive the car well. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think we would enjoy the experience and be able to do it properly," he added.
Longhurst, who put the deal together with backing from lubrication specialist Castrol and telecommunications company Vodafone, started his professional racing career with Jim Richards in 1984 driving BMWs.
"What a difference between the M6 GT3 and the 635 that I drove in 1984. It's an amazing journey," he said.
As for the 12-hour race, Longhurst says it is a "long, long way", suggesting that "12 hours around Mount Panorama is a huge ask".
"It's a 12-hour race, and it's going to be a full field. For the next four months, we have to plan to be very comfortable in the car and make no mistakes. We've got a trick team (and) we're very, very fortunate to have Mark and Russell on board and Steve and his team. We've got the cream of the crop. We've got the right people around us, no egos, it's nice and calm."
Sources in this article:
Want more stories?
Thanks! You have been subscribed successfully.