THE crew at Garry Rogers Motorsport loves a laugh – these photos of Michael Caruso’s Mazda 121 road car are testament to that.
The end-of year prank on Caruso came up during our recording of his episode of the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Timken.
Leading off our National Motor Racing Museum Couch Racer Questions segment, Luke Mac asked Caruso: “How did he like his Mazda ‘jelly bean’ car in full Bathurst wrap?”
The 2009 Bathurst 1000 saw GRM’s lead #34 car turn out in a special silver, red and blue Valvoline/Zerex livery which, as Caruso revealed on the podcast, was actually an idea that Holdsworth and himself dreamt up!
The pair raced the car to third place, and the livery proved so popular with Valvoline – then in their final year as the team’s primary sponsor – that it remained on Caruso’s car for the rest of the season.
And then at the end of the season, Caruso got back from an interstate trip to find a surprise waiting for him at the GRM workshop, courtesy of the crew.
“When we got to the end of that year we had a full sticker set left over – so they wrapped my (road) car,” Caruso told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.
“So I’ve turned up at the workshop (from the airport) at some ridiculous hour to go home, and here’s my Mazda 121 looking exactly the same as my racecar.
“I’m like, ‘oh, what have you done, boys.’ I’m driving home like this wanker: Caruso on the window, the #34…”
The prank did have a slight sting in the tail – it actually marked the end of Caruso’s little 121.
“I left the car at work (and) used Garry’s car for a while because I just couldn’t drive around in it! It was terrible,” Caruso said.
“So I thought, right, I better pull this livery off the car – but it peeled all the paint off!
“The car was stuffed! The thing was finished! I wasn’t going to get a full respray on this Mazda 121!”
He eventually let the car’s registration lapse and put an ad in the paper, with someone taking the little paint-damaged Mazda off his hands for the sum of $100.
The story is just one of many that Caruso tells from his long career in motorsport, starting with growing up watching his dad Mick racing Sports Sedans, through to his open-wheel years – including a stint in Europe sweeping floors at an Italian F3000 team in a bid to get a test drive! – along with his path to Supercars and eventual success at GRM and Kelly Racing.
Listen to the episodes below: