John Bowe is the latest Australian racing legend confirmed for the NZ Festival of Motor Racing at Hamptons Downs from January 13-14. The 4Guys Autobarn Legends of Bathurst will celebrate all things Bathurst and Bowe, a two-time winner of the Bathurst 1000, will be reunited with the #44 Volvo 240 GT car he raced around Mt Panorama in 1986.
“The Volvo was known as The Flying Brick and Dick Johnson used to call them the Swedish taxi but I find them quite attractive cars,” says Bowe. “I only did two races in the car, the Bathurst 1000 and the Sandown 500 but I’ve got fond memories of the car and of Bathurst in particular. I qualified in the top ten and we were running second in the race when we were forced to retire.”
Car #44 is owned by New Zealander Mark Petch, who ran it as part of the Mark Petch Motorsport team in the mid-1980s.
“It’s a unique car that was built from a 1980 Volvo 240 GT car that I first drove on the roads around Sydney,” says Petch. “We made the decision to strip the car and convert it into a full spec GpA car, just prior to the start of the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship.”
The rebuild was completed just in time for the first endurance race of the season at Sandown. Unfortunately, the car arrived too late for official qualifying and was forced to start the race from the rear of the field. Bowe carved his way through most of the field and was soon lapping faster than the race leaders. However, the team was forced to retire the car due to a structural fault. Another retirement at Bathurst saw Volvo pull out of GpA racing in Australia and the #44 was sold and shipped back to Sweden where it won the 1987 Swedish Touring Car Championship.
By 1989 the Volvo 240 cars were no longer competitive and car #44 ended up in a garage in Spain where it stayed for 20 years until a Norwegian Volvo enthusiast bought it on the internet in 2012. He spent the next three years restoring the car to an ‘as new’ condition. In 2015 he trailered his newly finished pride and joy to a Volvo festival in Sweden. Mark Petch was at the festival and met the car's owner, Thor Rustad.
“Shortly after returning to New Zealand I received an email asking me if I was interested in buying the car and the rest is history,” says Petch.
John Bowe was reunited with the car at the Muscle Car Masters in Sydney and he also drove it at the Phillip Island historic car meeting in March 2017.
“It was like meeting an old girlfriend, but a nice one, not a bad one,” says Bowe. “It’s quite special to have the original car, the original owner, and the original driver back together again. A few moons have aligned to make this happen.”
“We had a fiddle with the car over the course of the weekend at the Phillip Island Classic and it went well. It handled well, it goes well and it’s a beautiful restoration in the original livery. I’m really looking forward to coming over to Hampton Downs and being reunited with the car and some old friends. I’m especially looking forward to racing against Jim Richards again. If I had to nominate the most challenging driver and the best bloke I’ve ever raced against, it would be Jim. We’re both still quite competitive but we’ll have a bit of decorum about us because the cars we’ll be racing are quite valuable.”
Richards will be behind the wheel of the Group C BMW 635 CSi in the classic John Player Special black and gold livery and Bowe and Richards will be part of a 24-strong field in the Archibalds Historic Touring Cars category. Other categories at the festival include ENZED Central Muscle Cars, Matos Formula Libre, and Historic Formula Ford. The Car Club Cruise will allow members of local car clubs to have a chance to drive on Hampton Downs International circuit while there will also be a massive Show ‘n’ Shine exhibition.
The Legends on Stage dinner on Saturday evening at Hampton Downs Pavilion promises to be another highlight of the weekend. Motorsport fans will get the opportunity to revisit some classic moments from Bathurst on the big screen and hear from Jim Richards, Steve Richards, Paul Radisich and John Bowe about their favourite Mt Panorama memories.
“The wins stand out for me,” says Bowe. “I came second in the Bathurst 1000 in 1987 and ‘88 I finally won it in 1989 with Dick Johnson. We won again in 1994 and like everybody else who races there I love the place.”
“It’s the track that makes Bathurst special. It’s an old-school track on a public road with masses of elevation change and it’s genuinely challenging even after racing it every year for 32 years like I’ve done. You never go to Bathurst and treat it lightly.”
“I’ve never been to Hampton Downs before but I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Volvo again and I’ll learn the track as I go. Kiwi motorsport fans are second to none and it promises to be a great weekend.”
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.co.nz
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