John Bowe - Australian Motorsport ChampionCareer Highlights:
- Competitive Motor Sport career spanning 4 decades
- 5 x Australian Championships in 4 Categories - only driver to achieve
- ABC Sportsman of The Year
- Caltex Sportsman of The Year
- Motorsport News Motor Sport Champion of The Year
- Motorsport News Circuit Racer of The year
- Record 225 V8Supercar Race car starts
- Most race car starts for one manufacturer – 215 (Ford)
- Longest driver pairing in Australian Motorsport – 11 seasons DJR
- Australian Touring Car Champion 1995
- 2 x Winner Bathurst 1000 – 1989/1994
- 2 x Winner 12 Hour Production Race 1995/2010
- 2009 V8 Supercars ‘Hall of Fame’ Inductee
- 2011 TCM Champion, 12 race wins, 19 Podiums, 4 round wins & 3 lap record
- Defending TCM Champion in 2012
A legend of Australian motor sport, John Bowe is a multiple Australian Champion, having twice won the Australian Drivers' Championship during the Formula Mondial era and securing an Australian Sports Car Championship, before winning the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1995. JB, as he has become affectionately known, is the only driver in Australian motor sport history to win five National Championships in 4 categories – a feat unlikely to be equalled.
Bowe’s stellar career started in 1971 at the age of 16, when he raced a Formula Vee car he jointly purchased with his father Brian. Bowe won the Tasmanian title on debut, and went on to win the Formula Ford title the following year.
Like most racers, Bowe spent his early racing years honing his craft in open wheelers, his talent was recognised and he moved onto the National stage. He drove in the Australian Drivers Championship (Gold Star) in the late 70's, racing an Elfin Formula 5000 for the most prestigious team of the era, Garrie Cooper's Ansett Elfin Racing.
During his dynamic Formula 5000 career Bowe was runner up in 1979, 80, 82 and 83. A highlight of his story was driving one of Cooper's Chevrolet V8 powered Elfin MR8s at the Australian Grand Prix. Bowe broke through for his first Australian Drivers' Championship in 1984, backing it up the following year in a Cosworth powered Ralt RT4 with his second title.
In 1985 Bowe joined Mark Petch’s backed Volvo 240 Turbo team during the Endurance season as well as making his touring car debut at the Sandown 500, co-driving with New Zealander Robbie Francevic. Bowe’s driving prowess was noted and he was subsequently promoted to lead driver after Francevic left the team. In 1986 Bowe quickly asserted himself as a first class driver and earned his first full-time touring car drive. Qualifying on the front row at his first meeting and taking pole in only the second round, the motor sport community realized Bowe was certainly one to watch.
Bowe was signed by the Nissan Motorsport team for the 1987 Endurance season as a co-driver with Glenn Seton. The pair finished fourth at Bathurst in the Skyline that was later promoted to second after the Texaco Eggenberger Sierra’s was disqualified.
Bowe’s now famous association with Ford started in 1988 when he joined the Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) team. The partnership was instantly successful, delivering second place in the Touring Car Championship (ATCC) in their fast Ford Sierra RS500s.
Bowe won his third race for DJR at Winton and would go on to win again at Amaroo Park, finishing second in the championship behind Dick Johnson. The pair finished runners up at Bathurst in their first year together, and also contested the British Tourist Trophy at
Silverstone in 1988, taking pole position and smashing their opposition until their car experienced a mechanical failure.
Now a Ford hero, Bowe again claimed second spot in the 1989 ATCC, and it was more of the same, finishing runner up to Johnson in the championship after taking victories at both Amaroo Park and Wanneroo. The Bathurst 1000 was added to the list of triumphs for the duo, seeing off all challengers on their way to victory in the prestigious event
DJR’s and Bowe’s fortunes changed in 1993 with the introduction of the V8 based regulations. The ‘new’ Ford V8s returned to the front with Bowe winning the first round under the new regulations at Amaroo Park. Bowe went on to only narrowly miss second place in the championship that year.
Season 1994 saw DJR initially off the pace until the Sandown 500 where in a race of mixed fortunes, Bowe and Johnson came out with the win, marking the team’s first Sandown 500 success. Four weeks later, in one of the most dramatic Bathurst 1000's of all time, Bowe and Johnson held off a pursuing pack of five Holden’s late in the race to take the chequered flag. Bowe had memorably fought for the lead with teenage debutante Craig Lowndes and brought it home in the final laps.
Bowe and DJR carried their good form into season 1995 - not even the destruction of the Dunlop factory during Japan’s earthquake could stop Bowe from winning the Touring Car Championship. He won at Symmons Plains and Winton, and held on under immense pressure from Glenn Seton and Peter Brock in the championship finale at Oran Park. In a display of supreme domination he claimed pole and two race wins at the final round of the 1995 championship. Bowe had secured the ATCC crown at Oran Park, beating his noted rival, Peter Brock. Bowe and Johnson had also joined forces to win the 12 Hour event at Eastern Creek the same year.
Bowe raced with Dick Johnson Racing for the next three seasons, taking a second sprint victory at Bathurst in 1996, and wins at Lakeside in 1997 and Winton in 1998. Bowe also finished runner up in the 1996 Touring Car Championship and the Bathurst 1000, both to his young rival from two years prior, Craig Lowndes. Bowe was consistently a front runner at the pinnacle of Australian motor sport, and was again runner up in the 1997 Touring Car Championship.
At the end of the 1998 season Bowe announced he was leaving Dick Johnson Racing, ending the longest driver partnership in Australian motor sport history, bringing eleven successful years to a close.
In 1999, Bowe joined the newly formed PAE Motorsport, a West Australian Caterpillar Ford team and despite a change of ownership to Queensland car dealer John Briggs, Bowe produced many strong performances during his time in CAT colours.
Brad Jones Racing (BJR) provided Bowe with a new direction and opportunity when the Albury-based team expanded to a two car operation in 2002. Bowe immediately transformed the team with outstanding results. Always a threat at Bathurst, Bowe and Jones finished third in 2004 as Bowe continued to show plenty of speed and a deft touch in improving his cars.
Announcing his retirement from the V8 Supercar series in 2007, Bowe raced his final season with Paul Cruickshank Racing (PCR), a relationship that re-united Bowe with Cruickshank, his former mechanic from DJR.
In March 2007 Bowe broke the record for most championship races starts (previously held by Peter Brock) when he started round two at Barbagello Raceway in WA. He finished his V8 career with a record 225 race starts, being one of only five drivers to have achieved the 200 race start milestone.
After 22 seasons John Bowe had amassed a list of achievements that is unlikely to be surpassed. He is universally considered the “drivers driver” as Mark Skaife recently said “Bowie can drive anything”. John Bowe retired in 2007 with his championships, round, race and Bathurst wins, with pole positions and lap records still standing at circuits around Australia. He has been the most loyal driver for a manufacturer, notably 218 race starts with Ford and a partnership of 11 years with Dick Johnson being among his achievements, these will likely stand forever.
In season 2008 Bowe joined Jim Richards in the Touring Car Masters Series for pre 1974 built cars. Bowe dabbled a little in the GT Series, winning races in a Lamborghini. He was runner up in both the 2008/9 Touring Car Masters series, despite not completing all rounds.
It was at the 2009 V8Supercar Gala Dinner that John Bowe was inducted into the “V8Supercar Hall of Fame” a fitting reward for a driver who’s been at the top of his sport for over two decades and has always been giving of his time to Australian motor sport, continually encouraged younger drivers, providing advice and mentoring to many current and future champions.
Season 2010 has seen the dawning of a new era for Bowe with the birth of John Bowe Racing. Armed with his 1969 Ford Mustang Trans Am “Sally”, the WesTracCAT/Wilson Security ‘Stang is the first race car Bowe has owned in nearly 30 years and only the second race car he has owned during his decorated career. The early betting has placed him as one of the favourites for yet another racing title.
February 14th 2010 saw Bowe returned to ‘The Mountain’ for the first race of the season – the Bathurst 12 Hour. Driving with Paul Morris (V8SC Supercheap Team Owner) and Garry Holt in the Eastern Creek Karts twin turbo BMW 3351.
Fighting through one of the most eventful races in many years, Bowe/Morris/Holt greeted the chequered flag in the rain to take Bowe’s second 12 Hour win, his first at Bathurst against a field of all wheel drive Mitsubishi Evo’s in the wet was very spectacular – but typical of Bowe’s metal.
John Bowe's story continues, in 2010 Bowe has driven a BMW TT 335i to victory at Bathurst, a 1970 Porsche ST at the Phillip Island Historic meeting (setting a class lap record), an Ascari at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix, and his Mustang Trans Am at the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar event, a win in the NSW Sport Production 1 Hour Teams race in a GT40 replica and a Class win in the 6 Hour event at Eastern Creek in July. Bowe was contracted to drive san historic Brabham Climax open wheel throughout the year.
A further testament to the esteem John Bowe is held within V8 Supercar circles, the sport’s most successful team, Team Vodafone, have long respected Bowe’s knowledge and sought early season advise for their champion drivers Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup. Team Principal Roland Dane described Bowe as “a visionary who has shaped the way motor sport has developed in Australia. His command of motor sport is held in the highest regard, his commitment to Australian motor sport has been both invaluable and immeasurable and we look forward to his experience and passion continuing”.
Since his retirement from V8 Supercars, John Bowe maintains his involvement with many leading Australian companies in an Ambassadorial capacity. In this role he represents many companies including WesTracCAT, Wilson Security, Dunlop, Coateshire, Apex Steel, Rare Spares, Doric Products, AstronTech, V8Race Experience, ssMEDIA, SAVY Motorsport, Liqui-Moly, Meguiar’s MotorEx, Protech Developments (VBOX Australia), Sinclair Ford, Unique Cars, Flamestone, Penske Racing Shocks, Australian Pure Water – Splitrock/Tiro, STI Lilyfield Group and of course John Bowe Driving.
John Bowe’s expertise has never gone unnoticed by car manufacturers – he has been Ford Performance Vehicle’s factory test driver since 2003 working with the Engineering Team on FPV development. He also commits time to his driver education programs with John Bowe Driving and a private Ferrari owners group, a role he finds himself at one with. His knowledge and understanding of race cars and the required set up has him regularly at circuits assisting race car owners with their race car set up, and guiding tomorrow’s young racing talent.
JB has regular assignments with Australia’s leading motor sport publication for all matters motor sport and continues to provide expert opinion to publications including Unique Cars, Australian Muscle Car. In 2011 John Bowe accepted the role of Judge on Drive Car of The Year DCOTY, he joined a distinguished panel of judges and delighted with his insight and understand of vehicle dynamics showing why his is considered one of the best motoring minds in the country.
In 2011 Bowe won the Touring Car Masters Championship (TCM) exhibiting a sublime display of driver talent delighting motor sport fans throughout Australia. In the process he won 12 TCM Races, was on the Podium 19 times qualified on Pole 5 times, had 4 Round Wins in the season, set 3 new lap records during the season, not a bad effort for a guy who is ‘doing what he loves’.
In 2012 Bowe successfully defended his title in winning the Touring Car Masters Championship again, but this time with an even more dominent display of pole positions and podiums.
Look for the familiar name of John Bowe in the winners frame for years to come, you can be sure his smiling face will long be seen around pit lane at Australian racing circuits. In the view of many experts, John Bowe has achieved the ultimate status of ‘Australian Motorsport Statesman’.