1987 ASCC Round 1 - John Bowe's Diary 407

By: John Bowe

Presented by

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John Bowe looks back on the first round of the 1987 Australian Sports Car Championship (ASCC) at Calder Park

 

FIRE IN THE HOLE

At the last Sandown 500 meeting long time motor-racing enthusiast Frank Martinek came up and introduced himself to me. I enjoyed meeting him and the students he brought along to see the event, and then Frank caught me by surprise. It turns out that many years ago he was on the spot with camera in hand to capture a pretty spectacular moment in my career.

On that fateful day I was competing at Calder in the first round of the 1987 Australian Sports Car Championship in the Veskanda, the car with which I had dominated the class the previous year, taking out the championship. Hurtling down the back straight I was blissfully unaware that a fuel line had developed a split. Because the V8 Chev engine was fed by a high-pressure Lucas fuel-injection system, similar to the Formula 5000 cars, that leak started a serious engine compartment fire. It was only when flames started licking through a tiny gap between the roof panel and the engine bulkhead that I knew I was in trouble. I pulled up in a hurry. Because it wasn’t an easy car to get out of, in my panic I more or less fell out on the track and then started running around the car, not quite knowing what to do about this surprising new development. Fortunately officials arrived with extinguishers and put out the fire. But enough damage was done that the meeting was over for me.

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My other exciting fire moment was in a Ferrari F355 at Phillip Island in the late-90s, that I raced with Ross Palmer in GT Production. That time I decided to head straight to a marshall point so they could get the extinguishers on to it quick smart. Thinking back I’m not sure that the marshalls reckoned I was doing them a favour by arriving on their doorstep in a flaming car loaded with high-octane fuel. But anyway they sorted it out.

The Veskanda was a fantastic car. It was built for Bernie Van Elsen by Dale Koennecke and the K & A Engineering team in Adelaide. It had a ground effects set-up that really worked. All credit to K & A. My first test in the car at Adelaide International Raceway didn’t go entirely to plan, though – I ended up in the fence after a wheel self-destructed.

The Veskanda had heaps of grip, and in the wet in particular the grip was unbelievable. The downforce was so strong that heavier springs were needed to keep the car off the ground.
Many of the lap records I set in the Veskanda survive to this day.

 

COMING UP

I'm really looking forward to the Historic Sandown meeting that's coming up on this weekend, November 10-12. A great meeting at a track that I really value. Sandown with its rich motor racing heritage, is an asset to Melbourne and to motor racing in general.

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I will be driving my good mate Joe Calleja’s lovely 1974 March Formula 1 car at the meeting. Driving it is always a treat. I can’t get enough of it. I’m excited to be also driving a Brabham BT31 at Historic Sandown. It will be my first time in the cockpit of this car, thanks to a generous offer from its owner Peter Strauss. This Brabham was driven by the great man himself, Sir Jack, in competition here in 1969. It was also a Bib Stillwell car.

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I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to drive so many different amazing cars at these historic events.

 

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