THERE was a time when, if you had asked Russell Ingall who he would least like to share a seat with at Mount Panorama, Mark Skaife surely would have topped his list.
But come next February the duo will be team-mates as they combine for a tilt at the Bathurst 12 Hour.
“Who would have thought that myself and Mark Skaife would be pairing up together to do an endurance race? I would say none, but we are,” Ingall said.
The pair, along with Tony Longhurst, will share a BMW Team SRM M6 GT3 for the annual endurance race.
All three men have a wealth of motor sport experience – boasting 10 Great Race victories between them.
Many of those Bathurst 1000 campaigns came at a time when Skaife and Ingall were fierce rivals.
In 2003 the pair of talented drivers were involved in a infamous incident at Eastern Creek, Skaife crashing out after Ingall’s Falcon had made contact with his Holden.
A livid Skaife, who was vying for second in the championship, erupted when Ingall drove past him on the next lap, waving fists and pointing fingers.
Ingall, in turn, swerved towards his fierce rival.
Insults followed with both blaming the other, Skaife saying he had: “never seen something so bad in sport” while Ingall offered: “If he wants to be a dickhead, no problems.”
However, in the 13 years that have past since that incident, tensions have certainly eased.
Ingall is now keen to share a seat with Skaife in one of Bathurst’s iconic annual events.
“What a great opportunity to drive a true race car in the BMW M6 around one of the world’s best circuits in Bathurst at the 12 Hour in February. I’m really looking forward to that,” Ingall said.
“[When] you look at the Bathurst wins between the three of us as well, this is people who know how to win Bathurst and are very passionate about racing and know how to do their job. It’s going to be fantastic.”
The BMW team will be run by Steve Richards, himself a four-times Bathurst 1000 victor.
Longhurst, Skaife and Ingall have already begun testing and the latter is confident they can challenge for a podium.
Though all three are no longer full-time drivers and the BMW is different to the Supercars they are familiar with, Ingall feels their experience will give them an edge.
“BMW want to make an impression on this race. They won the Spa 24 Hour race in 2016, so to win the Bathurst 12 Hour in 2017 would be a big tick for them,” Ingall said.
“So of course we are taking this seriously, this is a very fast car. They are a lot faster than a Supercar across the top of the Mount with how much down force they have got, so the approach on how to drive the track is going to be a lot different.
“There will be a little bit of a learning process, but where I think our program will set us apart from the rest is we know how to win this race.
“We know when to go and when not to go, we know when to challenge cars and when not, and if something gets out of control, we can back out of it, we can predict what is going on.
“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.”
The 2017 Bathurst 12-Hour runs February 3-5.