WHEN NEIL CROMPTON ALMOST SUBBED FOR MARK SKAIFE AT HRT

The #2 Holden Racing Team Commodore at Sandown in 2007. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

NEIL Crompton almost made an unexpected Supercars comeback with the Holden Racing Team in 2007, nearly five years after his final full-time drive.

In his new book, Neil Crompton: Best Seat in the House, Crompton revealed that he was asked to play the role of last-minute substitute within the factory Holden line-up at that year’s Sandown 500.

Star driver Mark Skaife was diagnosed with appendicitis on the Thursday of the event. He underwent emergency surgery and was subsequently ruled out of the event.

HRT was therefore forced to reshuffle its line-up, which had originally consisted of Skaife/Todd Kelly in #2 and Nathan Pretty/Glenn Seton in #22.

Kelly was shifted back into his regular #22 to share with Pretty, while Crompton was approached for what would have been a reunion with former teammate Glenn Seton in #2.

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Crompton was at the circuit preparing for his television commentary duties when Skaife’s issue became apparent and was beckoned to the HRT garage by its then team manager Rob Starr.

In addition to having raced for HRT between 1989 and 1991, Crompton had spent the years after his retirement as a driver for the squad’s ride car program.

Keen to take up the opportunity for an unexpected racing cameo, Crompton sought permission from then Supercars CEO Wayne Cattach and its head of television Murray Lomax to take the drive.

Tony Longhurst ended up sharing car #2 with Glenn Seton. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

“They said no, I wasn’t permitted to play race driver for the weekend,” explained Crompton, who was by that point entrenched as the ‘voice of Supercars’.

“They were well within their rights, but I was still cranky, especially given the many examples before and after when others in the broadcast team were permitted to put their microphone down for a weekend, or multiple weekends, and step back into a car.

“As I saw it, it was a chance to put ‘one of the team’ into the race for the weekend. But when I asked, they said, ‘Nah, you’ve got a job to do.’

“It pissed me off big-time. HRT ended up flying Tony Longhurst down from Queensland to fill in for Skaife.”

The Seton/Longhurst combination finished the race 13th, four places behind Kelly and Pretty, in what proved Longhurst’s final Supercars start.

Coincidentally, Crompton did get to drive a Walkinshaw Andretti United Commodore during a ride day at the Sandown circuit this year, which he credits with revealing his cancer and potentially saving his life.

Stefan joined V8 Sleuth in 2020 as Head of Content – Publications. A multi-award-winning journalist, he’s worked in the sport for more than a decade, including stints as editor of Supercars.com and Speedcafe.com.