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When the Safety Car hit Ellery at Gold Coast

THE 1999 Gold Coast Supercars round proved the ultimate rollercoaster ride for privateer Steven Ellery.

It was then that Ellery scored the one and only pole position of his ATCC/Supercars career, across both championship and non-championship events.

Driving an EL Falcon (chassis AJR EF97-3) which Mark Larkham had steered to victory the previous season at Surfers Paradise, Ellery trumped a star-studded Top 10 Shootout field featuring Craig Lowndes, Russell Ingall, Mark Skaife, Tony Longhurst, Garth Tander and more.

“We selected the races that we would do that year because we didn’t have the funding,” Ellery recalled to V8 Sleuth.

“We were in discussions with Supercheap and things like that around the time for 2000, so that result for Indy couldn’t have come at a better time for us to be honest.

“To go and throw it on pole and just show that we had the speed and the team and everything around us to compete against the biggest and the best, it really gave us a lot of confidence.

“Even though the weekend didn’t necessarily go our way, it was nice to show the form and the speed.

“Pole position in a Top 10 Shootout anywhere is just a great thing. I have still got the trophy here, I love the thing.”

Ellery, who will feature on an upcoming edition of the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco, always relished the challenge of street circuits.

The breakthrough also happened to come on a major stage, given the eyeballs attracted by the Indy element – Dario Franchitti winning the main event that year.

Ironically, Ellery was beaten to victory in Race 1 by the man he co-drove with in that year’s enduros, Paul Radisich of Dick Johnson Racing.

“Paul showed me a bit that weekend in racing,” admitted the now 48-year-old.

Things took a turn for the worse in Race 2, when Ellery crashed on the final lap at the second chicane and was cleaned up by Lowndes and Tander, bringing out the red flag.

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Ellery was awarded second place on countback but neither he nor Lowndes would make the third and final race.

Despite the heavy impact, it wasn’t until when he was leaving the scene that Ellery faced a shock injury scare.

“I’ve come in a little bit hot and the second the inside wheels came off the ground it just threw me into the tyre wall on the outside and regrettably I spun and unfortunately took out Garth and Craig,” he said.

“It was a decent stack, they were right behind me so they had nowhere to go.

Ellery wound up third in the 1999 Gold Coast round points. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

“I got out of the car and I was actually just walking over to jump the concrete fence when I heard this car screeching tyres and I looked up and jumped out of the way and my arm hit the mirror of the Safety Car.

“I ended up getting taken to Gold Coast Hospital to get x-rays on my arm because I honestly thought I’d broken it, I was in that much pain and it had swelled up that much.

“It turned out it wasn’t broken… but I was literally only a couple of inches away from going straight over the front bonnet.”

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That still wasn’t the worst part, though.

“The worst part of it was afterwards having to go and see Craig and Garth and apologise for ruining their weekends too,” Ellery continued.

“You always feel like a bit of an idiot when you do something like that, and they were fast, so it was disappointing for them.”

The highs and lows were proof of why the three-time Bathurst 1000 podium finisher so dearly loved street circuits.

“You get the thrill and the rush about driving around a track like that for a reason and it’s because the risk is there,” he said.

“That’s what we love about street circuits the most, is that you’re treading right on the edge and it can go wrong very quickly and it does.”

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