Skaife, Ingall unite for Bathurst 12 Hour

The Castrol/Vodafone BMW

The Castrol/Vodafone BMW

Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall will join an all-star line-up of Bathurst legends for BMW’s factory assault on February’s 12 Hour.

The former touring car adversaries are set to pair up for the first time in SRM Team BMW’s second entry that will also feature Tony Longhurst.

The trio boasts a combined 10 wins in the Bathurst 1000 touring car event, including Skaife and Longhurst’s victory together in 2001.

In a deal put together by Longhurst, the BMW M6 GT3 will be backed by Castrol and Vodafone, marking a return to the sport for the telecommunications firm after a four-year absence.

Confirmation of the driver line-up follows BMW’s recent announcement that Steven Richards’ factory-backed team would run two cars in the GT3 enduro.

The full line-up for the lead car is yet to be announced, but will be spearheaded by four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Richards.

“It’s a very exciting project,” said Skaife, who has not raced at Bathurst since the 2011 Bathurst 1000, where he finished second in a Vodafone-backed Triple Eight Holden.

“It’s one of those things that came out of nowhere, really.

“Who would have thought I’d have a teammate like Russell Ingall at some stage? And to be re-joining Tony Longhurst after winning in 2001 is fantastic.”

Skaife and Ingall had a spirited rivalry in Supercars, which most famously included a clash at Eastern Creek in 2003 that resulted in heavy sanctions for both drivers.

While the duo frequently needle each other as colleagues on Fox Sports’ Supercars television coverage, both stress that they are serious about finding success in the 12 Hour.

“Make no mistake, we are taking this seriously,” said Ingall, who after retiring from full-time Supercars driving at the end of 2014 continues as an enduro driver with Nissan.

“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.”

After a spell on the sidelines, Longhurst has ramped up his racing activities in recent months, including a Carrera Cup appearance at Bathurst last weekend.

Crashing out of the meeting in qualifying, Longhurst is planning for plenty of pre-event miles in the BMW in order to avoid a repeat scenario.

“For the next four months, we have to plan to be very comfortable in the car and make no mistakes,” said Longhurst, whose touring car career began in BMWs in the mid-1980s.

“Twelve hours around Mount Panorama is a huge ask, (but) we’ve got a trick team.

“We’re very, very fortunate to have Mark and Russell on board, and Steve and this team.

“We’ve got the cream of the crop. We’ve got the right people around us, no egos, it’s nice and calm.”

SRM Team BMW has run a single BMW M6 for Richards and Max Twigg during this year’s Australian GT and Endurance Championships.

The car has shown strong form on the open, flowing circuits but has struggled to match its more nimble rivals on the street layouts.

Although admitting that it will take time for the veterans to adapt to the GT3 machinery, Richards has high expectations for the trio at Bathurst.

“We’re very lucky that we’ve been able to put this group together, and that BMW Group Australia are so keen to be back in motorsport and take on this challenge,” he said.

“This is a very serious campaign. We have expectations of those guys running on the lead lap all day, and at the end of the day seeing where they pop up.

“With the right driver in the right car at the right time, it can make all the difference at the 12 Hour.”

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