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Why Fred Gibson is a Ford man at heart

THE first man to win Bathurst’s Great Race in a Ford V8 has given the 2023 Ford Mustang Supercar his tick of approval.

Fred Gibson, who co-drove a Ford Falcon GT to victory with Harry Firth in 1967, attended the launch of the new car on Thursday at the Repco Bathurst 1000.

The 81-year-old is a true Bathurst legend, who first competed at the venue 60 years ago aboard an MGA in a 6 Hour production car event that preceded the Great Race’s arrival the following year.

Although the driver turned team owner has been retired for over 20 years, he still enjoys heading to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 1000.

“It gets me excited when you see this sort of thing happening,” Gibson told V8 Sleuth at the launch of the new Ford.

“The car is amazing. It’s a real race car. I think it’s going to be great; it’ll make GM (General Motors) lift their game with their car.

“To have the involvement of Ford in America shows how much backing there is for the program and how much development has been done.

“Time marches on. Cars march on, models change, Ford has the Mustang, the Camaro will be the GM car and it’ll be great racing again in a new era.”

Gibson’s only gripe with the new Mustang is the clutter in the cabin.

There’s no place for a bag of cut oranges like he used to take with him for snacking on during the Great Race – and famously went flying when he rolled 50 years ago!

Gibson has seen every era on the Mountain. And many types of machinery.

His starts in the Great Race spanned Morris 850 and Cooper S tiddlers, to the booming Falcon V8s, an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV, an A9X Torana and Nissan’s Bluebird turbos.

Gibson’s eponymous team twice won the race with the four-wheel-drive Nissan GT-R in the early 1990s, and then a Holden Commodore at the end of the decade.

Fred Gibson at Bathurst in 1991 with the race-winning Nissan GT-R. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

When asked if he considers himself a Ford man at heart, Gibson said: “Yes, because I started off with Ford under Harry Firth. That was my first big opportunity in touring cars.”

Gibson was a Ford factory driver during the halcyon Falcon GT days during the late 1960s and early 70s – but it was his first outing with the Blue Oval that netted major success.

“I didn’t know Harry at all before we won Bathurst together,” reflects Gibson, who scored the drive after Frank Matich proved unavailable and recommended the then 26-year-old.

“I was looking after Ford Motor Company press cars in Sydney and Max Ward, who was the boss (publicity manager) there, rang me.

This replica of the Firth/Gibson Falcon lives at Bathurst’s National Motor Racing Museum. Pic: Dishan Marikar

“He said ‘do you want to go to Bathurst? Harry Firth wants you to drive with him’. I thought he was joking; I’d never met Harry before!

“The first time I met Harry was at the Abercrombie hotel (in race week). When I arrived at the room, Harry was in his pyjamas; he was getting ready for bed!

“He said, ‘alright cock, I’ve been watching what’s going on, people have recommended you, I think we’ll win the race’.

“Little did I know his plan was for me to do most of the driving. I think he only did one stint!”

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