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THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH: INGALL CHASES FORD CONTRACT
V8 Wire (Jason Whittaker)

Russell Ingall will drive for Ford in 2003, it was reported last week.

Ingall has come to terms with Ford and will make the switch at the end of the season, according to sources quoted by Motorsport News, in a three-deal believed to be worth $1.5 million.

Ingall has previously denied a deal was in place, insisting he was considering offers from both Holden and Ford.

His seven-year assignment with the Larry Perkins-led Castrol operation is all but over. Perkins is yet to offer him a contract for 2003 and Ingall has given every indication his "stale" relationship with the veteran owner/driver was drawing to a close.

Ingall would be contracted to Ford Australia principally and assigned a team closer to the start of the new season, according to the report. He would join Craig Lowndes and Marcos Ambrose as drivers directly contracted to Ford.

Four Ford teams would be in contention to snare Ingall: Bob Forbes' 00 Motorsport outfit, Dick Johnson Racing, Stone Brothers Racing and John Briggs Motorsport.

European racing specialists, Prodrive's reported interest in 00 Motorsport may sway Ingall's decision. Should they become involved, Ingall could partner Lowndes at the team next season.

Earlier reports linking Ingall with the Briggs stable and the team's CAT-liveried entry have been denied by Briggs, who was quoted as saying he was happy with existing CAT driver Simon Wills.

A move to Dick Johnson Racing is also unlikely, with Paul Radisich contracted for next season.

Stone Brothers Racing may become a viable option, with the team quickly positioning itself as Ford's leading player. Ambrose is tied to SBR through next season, though teammate David Besnard's position is tenuous.

Holden appears powerless to stop another defection from its ranks. With the out-of-contract Jason Bright expected to be retained by the Holden Racing Team, spare top-line Commodore seats are thin on the ground.

Ingall has said he hopes to have a deal in place by July.

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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