Touring Cars Rounds, 1985 - John Bowe Diary 405

By: John Bowe

bowe volvo bowe volvo

JB looks back on the Sandown and Bathurst touring cars rounds from 1985

Doing the Past Blast feature in Unique Cars issue #405 on the 240T Volvo race car was special. Competing in that car was a door-opener to my subsequent career.

I first met Kiwis Mark Petch and Robbie Francevic and their Volvo at a race meeting at Barbagallo in WA in 1985. On the strength of winning a street race in Wellington they had decided to come over and take on the Aussies.

After I won the Driver’s Championship Gold Star in successive years 1984 and ’85 in the ‘Lucky Nuts’ Ralt RT4 open wheeler, my sponsor Chris Leach had decided to call it a day. So I was looking for my next opportunity, which came with the offer to co-drive the Volvo with Robbie in the 1985 Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 events. It turned out to be a really lucky break. It’s not as though proving yourself in open wheelers guarantees you opportunities in tin-tops. But the timing was right because I got this chance at a time when everyone was still coming to terms with the new Group A competition, including the seasoned touring car drivers. Although we DNF-d in both of those events with car issues I demonstrated that my skills were transferable from open-wheelers to touring cars. The Volvo had a good turn of speed and I was able to do justice to its potential.

| Video: JB reunited with Group a Volvo touring cars 30 years later

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We copped a bit of Volvo-brand grief, the ‘Swedish taxi’ stuff and so on, but it was good natured. I copped some too, coming from open-wheelers. Alan Grice reckoned ‘open-wheelers were for sheilas’. But it was Gricey who took the trouble to teach me the way round Bathurst. I arrived at Bathurst with the Volvo never having driven the Mt Panorama circuit before, and to be honest I was struggling to come to terms with it. There was no Chase then to take some of drama away from Conrod Straight. Then, at the end of the day Gricey took me around in his road car and gave me the benefit of all of his expert knowledge about how to put together a proper lap. The next day it all fell into place for me.

Despite our DNFs in 1985 I had impressed enough to be signed on to drive for the newly formed Volvo Dealer Team run by John Sheppard in 1986.

The die was cast. I became a fully fledged Australian Touring Car Championship driver.

Coming up: Pete Geoghegan's Mustang

Way before John Sheppard signed me up to the Volvo Dealer Team in 1986, the same man built a very special car for a very special driver back in 1967.

It's 50 years now since John built the all-conquering Mustang for Ian 'Pete' Geoghegan.

The combination of 'Black Pete's' remarkable driving ability and the Mustang's performance was awesome. He drove it to victory in the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1967, 68 and 69.

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Pete was an amazingly talented driver, a big man, too big to fit comfortably in single-seaters. But he was very much at home in the Mustang.

I still remember seeing him racing the Mustang at Longford when I was a kid.

Now David Wall has restored the car to its former glory.

Watch for my special feature on the Mustang, a very fast car, in a coming issue.


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