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When Ingall snagged a ‘Bradbury’ win in Darwin

AS Winter Olympics speed skating gold medallist Steven Bradbury proved, you only need to lead the last few metres of a race to be the winner – something that Russell Ingall can also attest to in the latest edition of Ryco Rewind.

This time we’re looking back at May 22, 2004, which was the Saturday of the Hidden Valley round of that year’s V8 Supercars Championship.

The Darwin round featured a traditional three-race format from its debut on the calendar in 1998, with the first of those sprints moved to Saturday afternoon for the 2001 event.

Often in those early years, these Saturday sprints would only be broadcast in the form of a highlights package prior to the Sunday races.

Those who were watching trackside at Hidden Valley that day therefore had a 24-hour head start on one of the wildest finishes to a Supercars Championship race.

Skaife leads Kelly and the rest of the train in the early stages. Pic: an1images.com / Ross Gibb

Polesitter Mark Skaife had led from the start of the 17-lap race while a host of likely contenders brawled behind him, headed by his own Holden Racing Team teammate Todd Kelly.

The HRT duo briefly swapped places on the run to the hairpin on Lap 8, only for Skaife to retake the lead and nudge Kelly wide on the exit, dumping him to fifth behind Jason Bright, Marcos Ambrose and Russell Ingall; the #1 Falcon also giving the HRT car a clip on the way through.

Bright harried Skaife for the next few tours, only to run wide at the final corner with three laps to go, the two Stone Brothers Racing cars and Kelly quickly demoting him to fifth.

That left the way clear for Ambrose to hustle Skaife for the lead.

The blue Falcon was only a couple of carlengths adrift through the final tours but, with half a lap remaining, it looked like Skaife’s race-long defence was going to pay dividends.

Until the last corner of the last lap.

Ambrose dives for the inside as Skaife begins to turn in. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Ambrose made a bold move, arrowing towards the apex while Skaife took the traditional wide racing line.

The pair made side-by-side contact, sending Skaife into the weeds and costing Ambrose momentum.

The leaders’ contact opened the door nice and wide for third-placed Ingall, who raced through to take an unlikely win ahead of Kelly, who pipped Ambrose on the run to the line.

Ingall accepts the chequered flag, unexpectedly in first place. Pic: an1images.com / Ross Gibb

Skaife limped the #2 Holden to the finish line in 14th place.

It had been a nightmare start to 2004 for HRT and its lead driver, and he was left frustrated at watching what was potentially his first race win of the year evaporate with one corner to go.

“I didn’t think he’d be that desparate with his championship where it is,” Skaife fumed.

“I can assure you, if they’re going to turn on those sorts of games, we’ll turn them on too, I tell you.”

An angry Skaife marches his way back to the pits. Pic: an1images.com / Ross Gibb

Ambrose had led the championship by just four points heading into the race, with just two points the difference between a win and a second-place finish.

“Well, I’m a racer and I go for the win,” Ambrose flatly explained.

“The hole was there (and) I was way past the B-pillar …  I’m here for the fans and I’m here for Ford and I’m trying to win races.”

Stone Brothers Racing’s strong start to the weekend came unstuck at the first corner of the opening Sunday race when Ambrose tapped Ingall into a spin, sending his teammate to the tail of the field and earning himself a pitlane drivethrough penalty.

The full report on the race meeting featured in Issue 284 of Motorsport News, which can now be read in full online as part of AN1 Media’s work to digitise the publication’s archive.

This story is the latest in our series of Ryco Rewind stories as we take a look back through Australian motorsport history and explore the great races, drivers and cars from the past on the relevant anniversary.

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