Russell Ingall has backed up his recent Queensland Raceway form with an equal-season’s best in today’s first race for the Sydney Motorsport Park 360 –the Enforcer home fifth for Supercheap Auto Racing.
Ingall qualified the #66 SCAR Commodore 10th and was then one of just five drivers to start the 36-lap race on soft tyres.
Ingall quickly moved through those in front but was concerned that he might not be running the right strategy and paid particular attention to looking after his tyres throughout the first stint.
With good tyre life, Ingall hit the lead on lap 13 and then ran the softs for another seven laps before pitting for the switch to the regular control tyres.
After a good stop, the veteran stalled leaving his pit bay with the anti-stall not kicking in as expected, losing three vital seconds.
The Supercheap Auto Commodore had good pace on the harder tyre and Ingall was running within the top six until late in the race before Walkinshaw Racing teammate Garth Tander passed him five laps from home.
Ingall gained the spot back the very next lap when he passed Jonathon Webb’s Commodore, then grabbed fifth by passing series leader Jamie Whincup –the Supercheap Auto Commodore pressing Tander’s #2 Holden Racing Team Commodore right to the finish.
In a strong return to form for the Walkinshaw Racing camp, James Courtney finished sixth for HRT, giving WR three cars in the top six.
Holden’s Craig Lowndes won the race from Ford’s Mark Winterbottom with Will Davison third.
The Sydney Motorsport Park 360 continues tomorrow with Race 19, the day starting with a morning practice session (10.35am), qualifying (12.55pm) then a longer 56-lap race starting at 3:35pm.
Russell Ingall, #66 Supercheap Auto Racing Commodore:
“Today backs up our Willowbank results and I’m even happier as we were even fighting for another position further up the field.
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the second practice session which cost us –I honestly believe we would have qualified further up than 10th. I’m starting to overcome the qualifying hurdle.
“I’m feeling more comfortable in the car and we’re starting to get into a rhythm on our side of the garage. We’re not doing lunatic things, we’ve got a base and when you’ve got that to work from it makes it easier. You can make subtle changes whereas up until now we’ve been throwing the workshop at it.
“Our decision to start on softs had me worried a bit to be honest. I was panicking when I lined up on the grid and I thought we’d made the wrong call, so I was mindful in the first stint to make the tyres last because I didn’t know what we’d have when we switched to the hard tyre. In the end the hards were almost as quick as the softs, so I think we’re covered both ways.
“The stop cost us three seconds and fourth place ultimately. I stalled taking off and the anti-stall didn’t kick in. It cost a position, which was a shame but it won’t take away from what was a very good day.”