Whether you sit on the Holden side of the fence or the Ford side, it’s a race moment you won’t forget.
For the endurance races in 2003, Russell Ingall was paired with Marcos Ambrose in a Ford Falcon BA. It was the only year the Stone Brothers Racing teammates contested the enduros together.
Ambrose was the form man – Ingall eloquently described him as the Jamie Whincup of the time – and after leading the majority of what was the Betta Electrical Sandown 500, handed the car to his co-driver in the pits.
Ingall struggled with his belts in pit lane, drove out on track – and straight into the sand. He hadn’t pumped his brakes after a pad change, locked his rears and didn’t make the first corner, turn one.
It wasn’t his proudest moment and to add insult to injury, the TV coverage hooked up a chat between stranded Ingall and Ambrose standing in the pits, after he handed over a straight, leading car after 68 laps.
However – the part many may forget is how Ingall redeemed himself.
He powered through the field in patchy conditions – which included hail at one point – and drove back up into fifth, creeping into the top five in the final lap recorded. The race was won by Holden Racing Team’s Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly in a VY Commodore, after a risky late dive by Jason Richards for the lead didn’t pay off.
While it wasn’t Ingall’s favourite race to talk about, the now Supercheap Auto Racing Holden pilot was a good sport and admitted the “brake thing” had been a bit of a rookie mistake.
“I paired with Marcos, who at that stage was the man to beat, the form driver in the category – he was like the Jamie Whincup,” Ingall said.
“To be paired together, we were expecting a really good show at the enduros. But that’s part of motorsport – nothing pans out how it should be in the script. It’s very unscripted and little mistakes like that are what cost you.
“That’s what Larry Perkins always told me – endurance races are easy, just don’t make mistakes. And that’s true.”
He had to put it down to an experience to learn from.
“Sometimes you need lessons in life. I haven’t done it since!” he laughed. “No matter how experienced you are, you never stopped learning.
“When anything like that happens, it’s a matter of dusting yourself off and getting back on and I did and eventually came out with reasonable results.”
Tearing through the field, Ingall said it was always good to race when you had nothing to lose. “You can get into the groove and hold it flat when you can’t do any worse and have everything to gain.”
Looking back, Ingall remembers a lot of highlights at Sandown, next on the V8 Supercars calendar for the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win there – Sandown’s a pretty fast average speed, you’re on 100 percent of the throttle and Phillip Island is probably the only place you’re on 100 percent of the throttle for a higher percentage of the lap.
“The good thing is you can see the whole circuit and that’s what makes the place pretty exciting. You can visually see the cars are fast there. They’re damn fast over the top of the hill.”
The unpredictable weather played a part that day in 2003, and Ingall is hoping it will factor again in this year’s 500km race.
“It’s best when all of a sudden it changes half way through – it sorts the men from the boys. I’m sort of hoping that happens again to be honest. It’s another element and sometimes you think races and race winners are predictable, but (throw in) changing weather conditions and it’s the bravest driver and the quickest.”
Ingall will be paired with Ryan Briscoe for the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, which begins with the Wilson Security Sandown 500.