After much anticipation, it has been announced that Russell Ingall, the veteran V8 Supercars 2005 Champion, will be racing in 2014 in what will be his 19th straight season.
Ingall will be a full-time driver for a small Holden team in Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, having last year farewelled the sport after racing with Walkinshaw Racing (in Supercheap Auto Racing livery). Ingall’s seat was taken up by the upcoming Tim Slade.
The LDM outfit will be racing the Triple Eight Racing-build Holden Commodore VF, which will be their only car this year on the grid after running as a two-car operation last year. Ingall will be dropping his iconic #66 for the team’s #23 entry this year.
The 49-year-old doesn’t see this as a ‘comeback’ per se, stating that he was not closing the door on other opportunities at the end of last season.
“I wasn’t comfortable last year with how things were presented by some parties about my so-called retirement – I always maintained that if there was a suitable full-time opportunity for this season that I would take it,” he said.
‘‘I haven’t changed my mind and made a comeback. I never left the sport or intended to leave the sport.”
His focus however, was a full-time position. The drive will have some major backing from Phil Munday’s Repair Management Australia with co-sponsorship by Holden and GB Galvinisng.
“There were some good offers to join some well-credentialed teams for the endurance races, but a full-time opportunity was always my main focus,” he added.
This is an ambitious move for the 2005 V8 Supercars champion, who will face a tough challenge bringing LDM – which has had a very checkered performance record and churned through a number of drivers – to a competitive level.
Ingall is one of the V8 Supercar’s oldest and most experienced drivers. Known on the grid as the ‘Enforcer’ due to his sometimes robust driving style, he has won Bathurst twice and finished as a runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship standings four times.
His best years however, were earlier on in his career. Nonetheless, a move to a smaller team will allow them to grow and benefit from his extensive experience.
“Plenty of people will be asking why would I come to a small team that has been going through some growing pains,” said Ingall regarding the partnership.
“But I see it as a challenge to help build the team, move it forward and keep it on the grid.
“There are plenty of hero drivers out there that would never ‘lower’ themselves to drive for a small team but I see it as an opportunity to be involved in something from the ground floor.”
Barring a last-minute announcement, Ingall’s hiring sets this year’s grid at 26 entries, down from the 28-car field seen last year.
Unless the final two grid slots can be filled, the championship looks set to absorb the two remaining Racing Entitlements Contracts – LDM’s second entry and the sole Tony D’Alberto Racing license – with a view to selling them on at a later date.
D’Alberto’s license could remain active, however, amid rumours he may join forces with Tekno Autosport.
Image via V8 Supercars Championship Media