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HomeNewsEllery lifts lid on infamous Longhurst split

Ellery lifts lid on infamous Longhurst split

STEVEN Ellery’s early days in the Supercars Championship were punctuated by a spectacular seven-month period in which his relationship with Tony Longhurst capitulated.

It was in late 1996 that Ellery put himself on the map with a third-place finish alongside Longhurst in the Bathurst 1000, only behind Craig Lowndes/Greg Murphy and Dick Johnson/John Bowe.

“It was the moment where I realised that I belonged,” Ellery reflected on this week’s edition of the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco.

Longhurst had fought to have the then 22-year-old as his co-driver despite commercial pressures to pair up with the more experienced Charlie O’Brien, and Ellery had repaid that faith.

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Having effectively run as a customer car throughout the 1996 championship, Ellery was added to an expanded, fully fledged two-car Longhurst Racing outfit for the following season.

An apprentice fitter and turner, he was plying his trade in the Longhurst workshop around his own training commitments.

But the combination only made it to the first weekend of May 1997 before an infamous split.

Speaking candidly more than 25 years on, Ellery admitted he’d prioritised Bathurst preparations over championship consistency; and a season that had promised so much was over by the completion of Round 4.

“My recollection of everything that happened over those four races, I probably don’t remember a lot,” he said.

“But it certainly hit a head at Symmons Plains when, I think it was raining and I beat Tony and I know I’m not allowed to do that but I did.

“He didn’t like it. I won’t say that he liked it at all because he was of the opinion that the team was his, the sponsors were his, and I was pretty much to play second fiddle.”

Ellery claimed that the requirement to finish behind Longhurst was not in writing, although he can understand the logic to a degree.

“There was one race earlier in the year, I can’t remember where it was, I beat him,” he said, presumably referring to the season-opener at Calder Park.

“When I passed him and drove away from him, I left him pretty quickly – I got in a lot of trouble after that.

“It just hit a head in Symmons Plains. I don’t remember all the conversations that happened, I just remember after the last race I was told to take the car and park it out the back of Glenn Seton’s truck.

Ellery at the 1997 Symmons Plains round. Pic: an1images.com / Scott Wensley

“We owned the car, it was ours, and somehow the decision was made during that day that the relationship with Tony was not able to be saved.

“We didn’t want the car to go in the truck back to Queensland so Glenn, I don’t know whether he wanted to get involved or not, but he helped us out, took the car back to Melbourne and that was that for a while.”

The dispute ended up going legal, while Ellery’s young career lost direction.

“We ended up suing each other basically,” he continued.

“That went on for years and I remember Dad saying it was one of the worst things he ever had to go through in his life, so the breakup with Tony wasn’t pretty at all.

“When that happened, you rewind six months and you have got this kid leaving Bathurst who all of a sudden has got the world in front of him… six months later you have got this kid who didn’t have any idea what was going to happen.

“We had no idea. All we knew is we weren’t going to be there anymore.”

Among other topics covered in Part 1 of the episode are Ellery’s start in motorsport, the establishment of his Supercars team, the time he nearly won Bathurst with Dick Johnson Racing, and a memorable sole victory at Sandown.

Ellery went on to make 276 Supercars Championship race starts in total and was thrice a Great Race podium finisher.

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