BOWE’S LAPS

JB'S DIARY

JOHN BOWE

WE GET A SNEAK PEEK AT THE HECTIC LIFE OF ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S MOST SUCCESSFUL RACE DRIVERS

April 1996

DICK JOHNSON and I were at Wanneroo, WA, with our Ford Sierras, during what had been a real up and down year.

In the first three rounds, Dick had two firsts and a DNF, while I started the season with a DNF (not good!) but followed up with a second and first.

At this round Dick got the prime spot, I got third, with Colin Bond in another Sierra sandwiched between us.

The 10 Sierras entered that year were only outnumbered by 16 Commodores, a mix of VLs and VKs.

Dick ended up winning the season, with me in second and Colin third.

When I was invited to drive for Dick Johnson at the end of 1987 I was star struck. DJ was my hero.

I always say to people I was in the right place at the right time. Dick’s team were about to discover the secrets of turbo technology and I had kicked a career goal without knowing it!

The first time I drove the Sierra Cosworth RS 500 as it was known, I thought “what the hell have we got here?!”

I did 5 years racing the Sierra with DJR and have great memories.

The team was the first in Australia to get a grip of engine management systems.

A bloke called Neal Lowe was the brains behind that but, let me tell you, Dick was only a metre behind every day because he loves engines.

Driving the turbo Sierra was a challenge – remember this was the time of mega turbo lag and throttle response that was relative to next week!

The cars had 600 horsepower, though there was much more in qualifying when the management system allowed short-term overboost.

Looking back at it now, it’s clear they were ahead of their time.

I look back on the Shell DJR Sierra in the similar way to how I remember an old girlfriend: rose-tinted glasses at times, but no wish to revisit!

Flat Out

LAST MONTH kicked off with Touring Car Masters round 1 in Adelaide, and I ended up second overall to Greg Ritter in his Chev Monza with a 350 Chev engine, which you could get back into 1974. It’s got a good power to weight ratio and Greg drove well.

I clipped the tyres in race two, trying to get those extra few millimetres, and was fortunate to get home with bent steering.

We’ve got a really impressive array of cars this year. Let’s start with the iconic: a few GT-HOs, several Falcon coupes, three or four Torana SLRs, a host of Mustangs a few Camaros, Jim’s Javelin and a few Porsches. It’s a really eclectic mixture.

Next round is Sandown, just a few days away as I write this.

Midway through March I went to the Phillip Island Classic. This year there was an incredible 540 entries and it’s become Australia’s answer to Goodwood, without the costumes.

I got to race Joe Calleja’s 1974 F1 March F1 car, powered by a V8 Cosworth and his 1973 2-litre March sports car, which runs a fourcylinder Cosworth.

In the end I scored four wins in the F1 car – it’s only a shame I got to it 40 years too late! It’s a beautiful thing to drive and I love it. That it goes so well is a reflection of the dedication Joe has put into the thing.

While it looked great when it arrived from overseas, a forensic check-over by the local Synergy race prep crew revealed cracks in a lot of critical components, which wasn’t a complete surprise as these cars were only intended to last a matter of months, not decades.

I’ve posted some Phillip Island VBOX footage on my Youtube page and you can see a couple of galleries at TradeUniqueCars.com.au.

Just to round off the month, I went racing at Bathurst, for the 6 Hour production race. I like this shorter format a whole lot better – it’s about the right length for the cars and the spectators.

This time I partnered David Wall (that's him taking the mickey above, while I have a little snooze in the pits), a mate and former V8 Supercar driver, in his Mitsubishi Evo IX. In the end we rolled up in third place, which was a great result since we were a long way from being the fastest car in a straight line.