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Wood opens up on 2021 Bathurst injury struggle

FOR Dale Wood, the 2022 edition of the Repco Bathurst 1000 brings both peace of mind and considerable excitement.

He was forced to limp through last year’s Great Race, having suffered a knee injury in the lead-up.

He and Nick Percat still combined for sixth place; 10 months later Wood is back in the Brad Jones Racing #8… but now paired with in-form Andre Heimgartner.

“I can probably talk about it a little easier now than what we could last year, but I went in there in a pretty poor health condition,” Wood reflected to V8 Sleuth.

“I don’t feel like that hurt anything on-track but it definitely was a poor lead-up.

“I mean, I was having some pretty close discussions with Rick (Kelly) about ‘would he fill my shoes?’

“This is literally days before Bathurst, so there was a lot going on behind the scenes that was really ugly and just not ideal.

“There was talk that I had been going out and doing some silly stuff before the round – I wasn’t – I’d had a run which I do all the time and I had been at the gym and things just didn’t work out unfortunately and my knee gave way.

“So there was a lot of things going on then, which made for a not ideal lead-up and it probably put Brad (Jones, team owner) in an awkward position as well.

“We’re not there this year; I’m super fit and pumped to be doing what we’re doing.”

Wood. Pic: Brad Jones Racing

Wood revealed Kelly had agreed to sub in last year if required.

As it turns out, the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner still has not raced a Supercar since the 2020 Mount Panorama enduro.

“He wasn’t rapt with the whole idea,” said Wood. “We’re really close so he said, ‘if you are absolutely not right for this, I’ll be there as an option’.

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“Actually, at that point it wasn’t even a discussion that I’d had with Brad. I just needed to know that at least if things went wrong, I had done everything I could to come up with an option, because for a time there it was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this’.”

There’s been no such dramas through the preparation this time around, with Wood fully fit and displaying race-winning form during the ongoing Porsche Carrera Cup Australia season.

Better yet, Heimgartner is in career-best form, coming off a double podium last month at Pukekohe.

“I was a fan boy on the couch during the Pukekohe round,” he said.

“I love the way Brad operates and I’ve really enjoyed all of my dealings with Brad and the team.

“I have never been more excited to be going there with maybe what the possibilities are this year.

“Over my time I have been so lucky: for a couple of years I got to drive with a close mate in Rick but this has been a different feeling again.

“I get on really well with Andre, he’s just such a neutral, humble dude that you can work really easily with.

“And in terms of working with the crew – the mechanics right up to Brad at the top, it’s just a really good environment.”

BJR’s other three Repco Bathurst 1000 pairings are Bryce Fullwood/Dean Fiore in Car #14, Macauley Jones/Jordan Boys in Car #96 and Jack Smith/Jaxon Evans in Car #4.

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