INSIDE my full-face, racing helmet, I can hear my breathing getting heavier, as John Bowe trundles his Touring Car Masters stead, Mustang Sally, towards me down pit lane at Sydney Motorsport Park. Lucky me is about to head out on a hot lap around the Gardner GP circuit.
With a squeal from the toasty-hot brakes, the cantankerous ’69 Stang props to a halt. “Get in,” comes the instruction from my helper. That’s easier said than done thanks to the intricate roll cage; left leg in, burry my chin into my chest as I wedge my helmeted head down, under the top bar. Last in is my right leg, which requires a helping shove, to get up, over the side-intrusion bar. With my bum wedged into the fixed-back, racing bucket, a Synergy Racing crew member, sets about tightly-cinching the five-point harness.
Snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug, the door clunks shut, JB flips the on-switch and thumbs the starter button; braap. With the solidly-mounted engine and complete lack of sound deadening, you can pretty much hear and feel every cylinder of the 650-horse V8 erupt – I giggle at its awesomeness! Thanks to the undamped, racing clutch and clunky Detroit-Locker diff, Sally sets off with the most unruly shudder but smoothing out once underway. After grabbing a few gears and with some serious speed on board, JB jumps on the brakes and points the nose into Sydney’s tight turn two. Having lost so much tyre temp sitting in the pits, the rear end complains; squirming, squirming as JB tries to wind in a good portion of those 650 horses. In the end he lets Sally have her head and power slides out of the turn. Cannoning up over the bridge, JB gives the Muzzy the full neddies, winding it all the way up into its angry range. Wailing away at 7000-plus RPM, the 351 Windsor’s the ferocious raw out of the barely muffled exhaust is absolutely glorious!
Through the next few turns, corning G’s rise sharply as the tyres build temperature and grip. On the approach to turn six, JB’s well ‘n’ truly committed; bang, bang, down a couple of cogs and hard on the anchors. Thwack, my full-weight lurches forward, straining hard against the harness. Then whoosh, JB pulls the wheel and Sally sweeps left. I tilt my head to fight the effects of the growing G forces, as JB gets very busy at the wheel giving her all she’s got and then some – the sound of dirt and rocks flinging up into the wheel arch clearly indicating the right rear is out in the loose stuff as Sally catapults up the hill. Another sign JB’s pushing hard is the fact he’s attacking the kerbs, which Sally rides surprisingly smoothly. Man this is fun! The TCM TransAm Mustang might be an old-school stick shift, however JB gets up and down the gears with lightning speed. Sure it all happens in a flurry, however it’s never hurried, just swift and precise – these TCM guys really earn their money. For my benefit, I’m sure, JB allows Sally’s tail to wag lewdly out of a couple of the next series of turns, with equal amounts of steering coming from the load pedal and steering wheel – all the while those glorious G-forces getting ever higher. On exiting the final turn onto Sydney’s long, downhill, main straight, JB straightens up the old girl up and guns it. Up a gear, then another, 200-plus kilometres-per-hour and turn one here we come, yeehaa!
Alas it was not to be, JB stomps on the brake and directs Sally towards the pit entry at an unruly speed – nooo! After clearing the left-right tyre chicane, there’s another solid jab on the anchors to ensure we’re below the 40km/h pit lane speed limit. Sally bumps to a standstill and JB kills the howl of the raucous V8. I reach across, shake his hand and thank him for a great ride. Before I know it, I’m peeling myself out, to make way for the next lucky passenger. With my mind still buzzing, I think to myself, wow that was awesome, even if it was all over far, far too quickly. Nonetheless, my hot lap with JB is a memory that will not fade quickly.