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Supercars’ ultimate late bloomer

THIS October will mark 20 years since the start of one of Supercars’ more fascinating careers in recent memory.

David Russell, 40, was plucked from his rookie Super2 season to partner privateer Jose Fernandez at the 2003 Great Race.

It was a relatively unspectacular outing in the #55 Fujitsu AU Falcon – Fernandez qualifying 35th and the duo not classified at the finish – and Russell would disappear from all forms of Supercars for the next five years.

When he finally returned to the second tier in 2009, it was in eye-catching fashion: taking pole position and winning a race at the Adelaide season-opener.

The following year he was back in the main game co-driving with Jonathon Webb in the third Dick Johnson Racing car, placing sixth in Russell’s second ever top-level race.

From there, Russell became part of the furniture at Kelly Racing, spending seven years as a co-driver and making two solo round starts as an injury replacement for Greg Murphy.

Along the way, 2015 proved a key year, Russell picking up a maiden Supercars Championship podium alongside Rick Kelly at the Gold Coast, and finishing runner-up in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia.

His big break seemed to arrive in 2018 when Tickford Racing swooped on the New South Welshman to pair up with its rising star Cam Waters.

A clash with teammate Chaz Mostert derailed their first Bathurst 1000 tilt together and a second would never eventuate, as Russell became collateral damage of Richie Stanaway’s insertion at Garry Rogers Motorsport.

Triple Eight Race Engineering subsequently decided to sign Garth Tander to its co-driver roster instead of Michael Caruso, the latter winding up at Tickford.

Russell in turn was bumped off the grid altogether and only returned in 2020 by scraping his way to a last-minute backmarker seat (shining with fifth in the final co-driver only session).

David Russell (left) with Brodie Kostecki on the 2021 Bathurst 1000 podium. Pic: Nathan Wong

Fast forward to now and Russell is suddenly a star of the annual endurance season.

Erebus Motorsport threw him a lifeline and he’s delivered in spades.

Famous for his eyes-wide-open (literally) driving, Russell has not missed a beat in helping Brodie Kostecki to third in the 2021 Bathurst 1000 and fourth last year.

Now in demand, he is understood to have already re-signed with Erebus – although the squad does face a potential co-driver crunch between its incumbents Russell and Jack Perkins plus the possible arrival of Chris Pither.

Russell has in fact long been a Bathurst specialist, boasting the enviable record of having class wins in the 3 Hour, 6 Hour, 12 Hour and 24 Hour.

Also coming off a race-winning Carrera Cup season, there’s no slowing down for the bubbly veteran.

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