THE SURPRISE BATHURST 1000 DRIVE JOHN BOWE TURNED DOWN

John Bowe revealed to the V8 Sleuth Podcast that he turned down a drive in a Super Tourer at the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000. Pics: an1image.com

JOHN Bowe is the latest driver to reveal that he turned down a plum drive in a Super Tourer for the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000.

And it wasn’t with just any team: Bowe was all-but-signed to drive a Renault Laguna run by the Williams Formula 1 team’s touring car squad, which had just romped to the British Touring Car Championship title.

That year was the first of two years when two separate Bathurst 1000s were held due to a political schism in the sport.

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The creation of V8 Supercars and its alignment with broadcaster Network Ten led to a split with the traditional Bathurst 1000 weekend, run by the Australian Racing Drivers’ Club with the Seven Network.

It resulted in V8 Supercars running its own Primus 1000 Classic a fortnight after the ARDC event, which became a race for two-litre cars from both the Australian Super Touring Championship and the British series.

While the retiring Peter Brock brushed aside the political pressure to take a seat aboard a Triple Eight-run Vauxhall Vectra, other V8 Supercars stars – including Larry Perkins, Russell Ingall and the Dick Johnson Racing-contracted Bowe – were unable to do so.

“There was an offer to drive the Renault, but I didn’t,” Bowe told the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco.

“Graham Moore wanted me to drive and I was going to get paid for it.”

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, because I did.

“I had gotten to know Alain Menu and he was a super bloke, so I was really keen to do it but I thought that it would just make my life difficult.

“We agreed on the terms, money and everything, I just pulled the pin on it.”

Bowe’s seat in the second Williams Renault was taken by Alan Jones. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The Williams Renault team had dominated the 1997 BTCC and brought newly-crowned champion Alain Menu and teammate Jason Plato down to Australia to race in the lead car.

Bowe’s spot in the second car alongside Moore was taken by Alan Jones in a reunion of sorts; his 1980 Formula 1 World Championship had come driving for the Williams F1 team.

The Moore/Jones car lasted 38 laps before a crash ended their day, while the lead Menu/Plato Renault soldiered on until lap 114 when the diff broke in their Laguna.

Bowe lined up with DJR a fortnight later for the Primus 1000 Classic, but only made 17 laps before a mechanical failure put him into the fence and out of the race. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

This was not the first time that Bowe had turned down an opportunity in Super Touring due to politics.

“Early on, Ross Palmer bought two [Ford] Mondeos from Andy Rouse and Ross wanted me to drive one,” Bowe said.

“There was a big anti-Super Touring [mentality] amongst the Supercars teams; Dick, Larry and Freddy Gibson hated them because they felt threatened by them.

“So I chose not to do it because I liked being part of DJR and Dick was a friend and I also knew how difficult he could be if I did the wrong thing, so I thought I would give this a miss.”

Jordan Treloar is an emerging motorsport reporter who graduated from Charles Sturt University with first class Honours in his Bachelor of Exercise Science (Honours) degree. He has interned at The Western Advocate and joined the V8 Sleuth team for its coverage of the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000. He continues to report on various categories for V8 Sleuth in 2022.