HOW A ‘GOOD LIE’ KICK-STARTED BARGWANNA’S CAREER

Jason Bargwanna celebrates on the podium at Bathurst in 2000. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

The struggle for aspiring young drivers to find the funding to make the next step in their motorsport career is as old as the sport itself.

Making it to the big time usually requires a few lucky breaks and help from others, as well as taking chances and backing yourself.

When it came to the latter, Jason Bargwanna went all-in… and admits he had to stretch the truth to secure the Formula Ford that really launched his career in the mid-1990s!

“The first race car that I really owned was courtesy of the ANZ bank and a good lie!” he told the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2020.

“I did pay them back, but I managed to talk my way [into the loan]. I think it was before the internet, so it wasn’t so bad then. They couldn’t search anything!”

Bargwanna driving the Reynard at Oran Park in 1995. an1images.com / Graeme Neander

As for what he told the bank he was buying, he added: “A ute. I took an ad out of the Trading Post [to show the bank] and ended up buying a race car!

“That was the Formula Ford, the old Reynard that many people may remember.”

By that point Bargwanna had already been racing for several years, dabbling in Formula Vee, production cars and touring cars wherever he could get an opportunity.

But racing a 1988 model Reynard wheel-to-wheel against the likes of Jason Bright and Mark Webber in much newer machinery in the 1995 Australian Formula Ford Championship put Bargwanna on the map.

“We got an old car because I didn’t come from a family full of big money,” explained Bargwanna, whose father Harry raced cars and ran a small automotive services business.

“There was obviously a small business and it was ok, but in terms of some of the numbers we see these days and the way motor racing works… I had to work three jobs myself.

“I worked at the McDonald’s, worked at the service station, selling newspapers, and then got a job straight out of school, borrowed some money and went and bought a Formula Ford.

“In those days I think we paid probably half the value they are now. I stretched myself every way possible to get to the very first race meeting.”

The Formula Ford class of 1995. Bargwanna is middle-row, second from left. Next to him is Mark Noske, while Jason Bright and Mark Webber are in the centre. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Bargwanna’s performances in the ageing, self-run Reynard created an opportunity in one of Mike Borland’s emerging, home-grown Spectrum chassis, finishing runner-up in the 1996 championship.

That led to Formula Holden in 1997 and selection in the four-man Holden Young Lions squad, although to secure his place with the V8 Supercar team he had to employ an old trick…

“Again, I had to find a way to lie to the bank and borrow some more money… we tried a different bank this time!” he said.

“I can’t remember [what was said], but we ended up borrowing a bit more money. We had to pay $25,000 each or something to be part of it.”

Bargwanna and fellow HYL recruits Noske, Todd Kelly and Stephen White in 1997. Pic: Supplied

The rest is well-told history; Bargwanna showed stunning speed at Bathurst in 1997 in the HYL Commodore only to crash out in the Sunday morning warm-up.

An out-of-the-blue phone call from Garry Rogers in the aftermath of the event led to a full-time drive with GRM in 1998 and the heights of a Bathurst 1000 win in 2000 alongside Garth Tander.

Bargwanna’s V8 Supercar career ended a decade ago but he continues to race, driving in a GRM-run, two-car Peugeot TCR Series effort alongside 19-year-old son Ben.