Why Ingall wants an ‘absolute scorching’ Bathurst 1000

Russell Ingall will make his 26th Bathurst 1000 start this year

Russell Ingall says a hot as hell Bathurst 1000 could play into his hands as he bids for a third victory at Mount Panorama.

The Repco Supercars Championship veteran will return to the grid for the first time since 2016 come the November 30-December 5 event.

There, the 1995 and 1997 Great Race winner will compete alongside teen hotshot Broc Feeney.

At 57 years old, Ingall has more years of experience at The Mountain than the years his co-driver has been alive.

It’s that experience dating back to 1990, when Ingall made his Bathurst 1000 debut, that could come in handy according to The Enforcer.

The heat factor was raised following Supercars’ announcement the 2021 edition of the annual enduro had been pushed back again, making for the first occasion in the gruelling event’s six-decade history that it has run in summer.

“We never had cool suits,” Ingall told Speedcafe.com.

“They say the pace is a lot faster now so that wears you out a lot more, but try going back to the ‘90s when you were racing with no power steering, no insulation, the exhaust ran straight under the driver and under the pedal box, h-pattern gearboxes, no sequential.

“You grab some of the current drivers and stick them in a VS Commodore around Bathurst and ask them to go out and do 31 laps, good luck.

“If you grab guys who have experienced that, like Lowndes, like Skaife, or any one of those guys, they’ll tell you don’t discount the guys who used to race in that era on how physically hard it was. I would say it’s a lot harder than one of the current generation cars by a country mile.

“You look at them and you go, ‘They don’t look like athlete swimmers’, but they train the right way. They can deal with those sorts of things. You watch at Bathurst, if it’s hot, they’re the sort of guys who won’t suffer.”

Since readings began in 1911, the mean maximum temperature at Bathurst in December according to the Bureau of Meteorology is 26.5°C, compared to 20.1°C in October when the Great Race is traditionally held.

More recent readings between 1991 and 2020 have seen that December figure climb to 27.1°C (versus 21.0°C for October).

In 2019, the town recorded a December high temperature of 40.3°C.

Ingall said some of the younger drivers could find themselves in strife if temperatures get up.

“I think you’ll see some of the young guys, a couple of the lycra wearers, that will get knocked around,” Ingall said.

“I’m actually hoping it’s hot. I’m hoping it’s a stinking hot day because I’ve never had a drama with the heat, ever.

“It’s how you deal with it mentally throughout the race. I’m hoping it’s an absolute scorcher because I think a few won’t make it out the other side.”

Shane van Gisbergen says it will “suck” if it’s hot at Bathurst. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

What impact a hot day could have on stint lengths remains to be seen, though Ingall said he wouldn’t be surprised if stint lengths are shortened if drivers fatigue too quickly.

Fellow Triple Eight Race Engineering driver Shane van Gisbergen said he’s not looking forward to the hot conditions.

“Yeah, it’ll suck,” said van Gisbergen.

“I’ve never been to Bathurst in December, but in the [Bathurst] 12 Hour we can either have 20 degrees or we can have 40 degrees.

“When it’s 40 degrees it’s so still and the soak is crazy. It’ll be a tough race.

“It’s only a couple of months later than normal, but we’ve had weeks where the week after Bathurst it snows. December will be completely different and it’ll be tough.

“Hopefully we get lucky like we got at the start of the year. The start of the year was a 12 Hour weekend date, it could have been hot and it was quite pleasant. Hopefully it’s the same.

“You just have to remember it’s the same for everyone else. If you’re struggling, the next guy is as well.

“Maybe it’ll change the strategy. It’s a long way from Lap 100. That’s when we normally get in. it’ll be a long way on a hot day.”

Fellow full-timer Tim Slade said he’s not envisaging a struggle.

“I guess we’ve had some hot races there with the 12 Hour, the last two years of the 12 Hour was basically a week of 40 degrees,” said the Blanchard Racing Team pilot.

“It’s tougher, obviously any race when it’s hot, but as long as all the cooling in the car works properly then there shouldn’t be any problems really.

“That’s something that my guys have done a really awesome job of, with all the cooling systems and keeping heat out of my car.

“But no, it’s not something I have really thought too much about… it does make it tougher but it’s not going to be a problem.”

As for how he’ll prepare for the race, Ingall said some old-school methods might be employed.

“I remember when I was back at Larry’s [Perkins Engineering] I used to take a circuit bike and put it in the sauna with the race suit, helmet, everything and cycle away,” he explained.

“There’s not a lot you can make up. Again it’s one of those things where it’s no good going out in the open breeze on a pushbike. You physically have to be in a hot climate.

“I used to, and probably will in the lead up just to get my head into gear, just get in a hot environment. Whether that’s being in a hot room and turning the heat up. Throw the race kit on.

“Even just having the helmet on. Depending on where you come from, I think living in a hot climate makes a different. You just acclimatise a lot better.

“You’ll get a divide between Queenslanders and Victorians for sure. There’s no doubt about it, we’re used to the heat.”

This year’s Repco Bathurst 1000 will double as the Supercars season finale, following a Sydney Motorsport Park quadruple-header.

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