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Ripping Yarns: Cleland’s Bathurst baptism

V8 SLEUTH is celebrating the festive season with a series of great racing tales from the Motorsport News archives.

Today’s story was told by John Cleland for the 400th edition of MN in 2010.

I have talked about, a number of times, what happened on my first visit to Bathurst.

I was sharing the car with Peter Brock, after Alan Gow locked up the deal for me to drive with the Icon of Australian motorsport.

Peter Brock and Alan Gow at the 1993 Tooheys 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Some people were saying that it would be, “Don’t do this, don’t touch that, you will be told when you could drive it,” and so on.

Further from the truth that couldn’t have been; he is great. Really generous, a real great guy.

Off he went in the #05 car for the first stint. There were cameras all over the car, we were wired for sound and whatever Brock or I said, was heard by Channel 7.

He comes in, I get in and after one and half laps, on Mountain Straight, there’s a vibration. I radioed the guys; “I think it may be a tyre, maybe a bearing, or something”.

Channel 7 heard this and, unknown to me, they decided to go live to the car.

Over the top of the Mountain, the vibration gets worse, and down Conrod, sixth gear, over 160 miles and hour, the propshaft broke at the rear coupling, and the propshaft comes through the floor like a big snake!

Of course, I said, “Holy shit! What was that?” Then, I am sorry to say, I used the F-word.

So, I coast back to the pitlane, and the guys say that they are going to fix the car and get us back in the race. I look down and see a hole I could have climbed out through!

Then the camera moves and the radio crackles into life. It’s Channel 7’s producer who says, “We want to talk to you again but please John this time, don’t swear!”.

That was the first time I knew that they had picked up my bad language, throughout Australia!

John Cleland, pictured in 2000. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

So I said, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I would like to apologise if I may have used a quaint gaelic word that sometimes get used in Scotland!”

That was my introduction to V8 Supercars, but I had let all my Australian relatives know that I could swear.

PODCAST: Brock’s Bathurst winning cars

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