Plea to scrap driver combos

VETERAN V8 Supercar driver Russell Ingall says top driver combinations at endurance races should be scrapped following the introduction of ethanol fuel.

It is common practice at endurance races such as the Phillip Island 500 and Sunday's Bathurst 1000 event for teammates to pair up in one car despite spending the rest of the championship series in separate vehicles.

It allows leading drivers such as TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup and Holden Racing Team pair Garth Tander and Will Davison to combine forces for the long races.

But two-time Bathurst winner Ingall says the introduction of ethanol fuel, which burns faster than regulation fuel, will mean more pit stops and driver strategies at those races.

And he claims that will disadvantage drivers unable to combine with another top driver at endurance races, saying it already hurt his Supercheap Auto team at last month's Phillip Island race.

“It blew our strategy right out of the water, because for me to finish Sladey (Tim Slade) had to double-stint in the middle,” Ingall said.

“It's really hurt the drivers that have got the rent-a-drivers but unfortunately that's the way the rules are.

“If they were half-smart they'd ditch it out and have rules where, whatever car you start the championship with at the beginning of the year, that's it, you have to stay in that car.

“This mixing of both drivers ... it was always a major problem we had when I was with SBR (Stone Brothers Racing). You had two different sponsors and couldn't mix the drivers.

“It is a problem and I really hope they have a good look at it after this weekend. I think it would help get a few more cars being competitive, give everyone a chance of having a shot at the podium.”

To emphasise Ingall's point, defending Bathurst champions Lowndes and Whincup began their run for an unprecedented fourth-straight crown by clocking the fastest time at yesterday's practice session.

While delighted to get off to a strong start to the weekend, Lowndes said there was still plenty of racing left before they could celebrate.

“For us it's an encouraging run today,” he said.

“Really doesn't mean anything to be honest. It's really giving us some good data. As Jamie said, today was all about learning the track. Who knows what the next couple of days are going to present?”

Finishing just behind the TeamVodafone duo was the Holden pair of Jason Bargwanna and Mark Noske, while James Courtney and Steven Johnson were third in their Ford.

Five-time Bathurst winner Mark Skaife marked his return to Mount Panorama after his retirement from full-time racing at the end of last season by clocking the seventh fastest time with partner Greg Murphy.

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