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Kiwi legend turned down drive in ’87 Bathurst-winning car

WE can add another driver to the list of unlucky racers who missed out on competing in the 1987 Bathurst 1000 aboard the car that went on to win the race.

The driver at the top of the list is Jon Crooke; the reigning Australian Formula 2 champion and future founder of Hyperstimulator racing simulator setups was supposed to share the winning #10 Mobil HDT Commodore with Peter McLeod but missed out on a drive come raceday.

McLeod drove the first stint before the retirement of the team’s #05 car led to #10 being commandeered by Peter Brock and David Parsons for the remainder of the race, leaving Crooke sidelined in what was his sole ‘Great Race’ appearance.

Next on the list is Neil Crompton, who was supposed to share the car with Crooke at Mount Panorama but – as he tells in detail in his recently-released autobiography – was unable to secure the necessary licence to take part in the race, which served as a round of the World Touring Car Championship that year.

The latest issue of Australian Muscle Car Magazine has revealed that another driver was in the frame for the seat: legendary New Zealand racer Leo Leonard.

“Brocky, while he was in Europe (racing his Commodore at the Spa 24 Hour) offered me a drive in the second Mobil Commodore,” Leonard told AMC.

“He rang Bev who rang me and offered the drive. I said I had decided to retire, but I thought ‘it’s with Brock’ so I had a think about this.

“Then she said it would cost $50,000, and I said ‘I’m not into that…’

“She rang back the next night and said ‘I’ve been speaking to Peter and he said he can get the $50,000 from Air New Zealand if I would drive.

“But I had made my mind up and said ‘no, thanks all the same.’ Of course that car won the race…”

It was actually one of two plum drives that Leonard was offered for the ’87 Great Race.

He had already turned down a seat alongside Johnny Cecotto in the CiBiEmme-run BMW M3 being purchased by Mark Petch – the car that technically won the Bathurst round of the world championship among the cars that were paid-up entrants to the WTCC.

The revelations come amid an extensive profile of Leonard’s decorated career for AMC’s regular Muscle Man feature.

The cover story for AMC Issue 127 is the restoration of Pete Geoghegan’s Craven Mild Holden Monaro Sports Sedan, along with features on the Ford Falcon XC Cobra, Holden Commodore VN SS Group A and the late Bruce Hodgson.

Click HERE to buy Australian Muscle Car Magazine Issue 127.

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