WE GET A SNEAK PEEK AT THE HECTIC LIFE OF ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S MOST SUCCESSFUL RACE DRIVERS
I ENJOYED being close to the action at Bathurst for the Liqui- Moly 12-hour event and having the chance to catch up with some of my favourite industry people and some good mates and some Unique Cars readers. But it was hard not to feel a bit disappointed, actually quite frustrated at not competing. But when you’ve done your best to put together all the arrangements to be on the track, but haven’t managed to get it all across the line, you have to make the most of the opportunity to enjoy the spectator role.
I was very pleased for Maranello Motorsport, which I feel a part of, and the Triple Eight team.
They’re a top bunch of people. That strong combination of team and drivers gave the Ferrari a well-deserved win this year. Congratulations!
It was a pity about Shane van Gisbergen’s crash, but the best of us can make mistakes.
And I have to say that it must have been a bit like racing with one hand tied behind his back when Shane didn’t get a new set of tyres at his final pit stop. And you’ve got to feel particularly sorry for the guy in the Porsche that he shunted off the track.
Being on the sidelines at a meeting that I regard as a special event, I found myself wondering about things like how long you can stay competitive as you get older. It’s a question that’s hard to answer. But I don’t really doubt that I’m still competitive. While I was in that frame of mind I thought back to my start in the 12 Hour. I was a very happy man when Mazda’s Alan Horsley offered me a place on the team he assembled to drive his RX-7s in 1992.
My co-driver that year was Gregg Hansford, a talented driver and a great bloke. Along with everyone else I was really shocked when he died tragically at Phillip Island.
Our car had some issues that kept us out of the running in the 1992 event, things like turbo hoses coming adrift.
My first 12 Hour win, in 1995 sharing the lovely SP version RX-7 with Dick Johnson, was memorable for more reasons than the win. I was behind the wheel for the last stint looking pretty well set to take the win. That was going well until I started to suffer from strong cramps in my legs. When I got on the radio to let the team know about my problem, Dick came straight back to me saying: “Don’t be a sook, John. Forget about the cramps. Just win the race.”
AN INTERESTING component of my competition in the coming year is our plan to compete in the 2017 CAMS Australian GT Championship. The arrangements are coming together nicely for me to take part driving the Heretic Autosport Bentley GT3, an impressive race car that I shared with Peter Edwards and David Brabham in the 12 Hour race in 2015.
An exciting part of the plan is that the former V8 racer Melinda Price will be my co-driver in the Bentley.
The current plot is to compete in four sprint rounds involving two one-hour races at each event, as well as four endurance rounds.
Watch this space...