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HomeNewsBathurstHow production car ace came to co-drive with F1 champ

How production car ace came to co-drive with F1 champ

PETER Fitzgerald has revealed the deal which saw him land a Bathurst 1000 co-drive with a Formula 1 world champion – and it’s perhaps the best $5000 he spent.

Well established in the Australian production car scene, Fitzgerald contested the Great Race with Brad Jones, then Colin Bond, then Peter Janson in 1985-87 before missing the next several editions.

His return in 1991 came alongside Denny Hulme in a Benson & Hedges-backed factory BMW M3.

Fitzgerald helped Hulme, New Zealand’s first and only F1 champ, to a class win and outright fourth.

“There was some rule that came out about the (Bathurst 1000) that required the use of production car drivers,” Fitzgerald recalled on the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Castrol.

“And I had word with (Frank Gardner), ‘why don’t you just grab some of the good drivers out of prod cars and put them in your BMW?’

“They obviously thought about it because they offered me the run, at a cost I might add, but it wasn’t much, it was like $5000 and he was going to give me a guernsey with Denny Hulme.

“It was like, ‘I could make that happen’. I agreed to that and I was to do Bathurst.”

As it turned out, Fitzgerald also got to contest the preceding Sandown 500 in Alan Jones’ BMW after co-driver Tony Longhurst was struck down by food poisoning.

Jones and Fitzgerald finished second at Sandown despite some unusual circumstances.

“Alan in those days was doing the telecast for Formula 1 with Channel Nine,” said Fitzgerald.

“So normally I would have started and he would have finished, but it turned out he started and I was to finish (to allow Jones to fulfil his broadcast duties).

“The bugger, in his first stint he had a bit of an off on a kerb and disconnected the rear sway bar; it was knocked off so it wasn’t doing its job, so the thing was an understeering pig.

“He came in and he pitted a little bit earlier than he was expected and said ‘there you go Fitzy, it’s all yours’.

“I struggled around for the rest of the race, history says we finished second, but I ended up with blisters after it. It was interesting. I loved it, driving with him, he’s a good bloke.”

Fitzgerald also opens up on his cancer battle in Part 1 of the podcast.

Part 2 is due to be released today.

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