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HomeNewsBathurstBathurst Peugeot emerges after 18-year hiatus

Bathurst Peugeot emerges after 18-year hiatus

A PEUGEOT 406 Super Tourer that once raced as a factory entry in the Bathurst 1000 is back in action after sitting dormant for 18 years.

Owner Chris Smerdon returned the car to the track at the recent Adelaide Motorsport Festival, where it proved an eye-catching attraction in its stunning green and gold colours.

This car was one of two campaigned by Motor Sport Developments for Peugeot Sport UK in the 1997 British Touring Car Championship.

The Watts/Crompton entry in the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Both were dispatched to Australia for that year’s Great Race, with this machine believed to have been the one driven by Neil Crompton and Patrick Watts.

Tony Newman then purchased it for use in the Australian Super Touring Championship and Bathurst 1000, sharing it with Mark Williamson in the 1998 event.

Newman eventually onsold this car to Bryce Peter-Budge, who raced it in the Australian Motor Racing Series’ Touring Car Challenge during 2005 and ’06.

Those to compete against it included Smerdon, who was driving an ex-Stone Brothers Racing AU Falcon V8 Supercar in the eclectic field

While the South Australian has a long history campaigning V8s, including across three tiers of Supercars competition and V8 Utes, he took a liking to the French machine.

“I watched Bryce Peter-Budge just throwing this car around,” Smerdon recalled to V8 Sleuth.

“At some tracks he was super-quick and then at horsepower tracks we’d be whizzing past, but it was an awesome car to watch.

Peter-Budge in action at Oran Park in 2006. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

“I went and had a look at it in the pits and it was full of carbon, beautiful engineering, and I just loved the tech in it. It was for sale, we got chatting and I ended up buying it.

“It had a red paint job on it and I wanted to restore it back to original, so I made contact with Patrick Watts, who had two cars that he was restoring.

“He was very helpful and supplied all the graphics for the car from the UK. I had a local guy paint the car based on what we could pick up from the original photos.”

Smerdon’s machine in Adelaide. Pic: an1images.com

That was 2006 and the car had not been seen again in public until the recent Adelaide Festival. So what happened?

“We took it out to Mallala after restoring it,” says Smerdon.

“My son had a drive, he did a great job, and then I jumped in it. First of all I thought ‘shit, it’s a bit weird to drive this thing’, just the feel of it with front-wheel-drive.

“I was whizzing down the back straight and got the (sequential) gears mixed up, it’s the opposite of the Supercar – in this car you push it away from you to go up a gear.

“I went ‘bang, bang’, through the gears the wrong way and just gave it a big over-rev and started blowing smoke. It’d dropped a valve.”

While Smerdon had purchased the car with a comprehensive kit of spares, the lack of a second engine meant it was pushed to the corner.

Smerdon has raced a succession of V8s since – an ex-SBR BA and FG followed the AU, before a brief time with an ex-GRM VF Commodore – while the Pug was parked-up.

A closer look under the bonnet. Pic: an1images.com

That motor was recently rebuilt by Peter Wallace, who looks after Smerdon’s Supercars engines, enabling the Adelaide Festival outing.

Smerdon indicates that he’s now likely to sell the restored machine.

“It should go to someone who wants to race the thing and lives and breathes it,” he said. “It’s a beautiful car, it’s all there in one piece. It needs to be enjoyed.”

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