News: Mount Panorama 2004
A weekend to remember...
It's known as "The Great Race" and it rarely fails to disappoint. The 1000km trek around the breath taking Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales always seems to attract it's share of seat edge racing, thrills and spills, hero making performances and disappointment.... 2004 was no exception.
The meeting attracted a record 172,000 fans over the 4 day event and the victory again went to Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly in the K Mart Commodore. Craig Lowndes and Glenn Seton took the second spot and Brad Jones and John Bowe took a hard earned third step of the podium in the black Ozemail Falcon.
The story of John Cleland and Andrew Jones' white #21 Ozemail Falcon is a different story. John was 4th quickest in the 30 minute co-driver practice session on Thursday, which looked good for the race. “I’m really pleased. There was just 3 one hundreds of a second between Andrew [Jones] and I and my times were considerably faster than they were last year. The OzEmail Falcon feels good and will be a potent race car.”
Having qualified 15th, John and Andrew were set for a steady and patient drive to the front on race day.
John drove from the green flag and was steadily settling in to working his way toward the front, putting in lap times comparable with the top ten. On lap 26, Jason Plato, driving the 05 Brock Commodore, struck the armco at Big Pond (Murrays) corner resulting in a puncture, just after the entrance to the pitlane. He struggled round the 6.2 km circuit at a very slow pace, trying to get back to pit road for service. John entered The Chase at the back of a group of cars led by Jason Bright, appearing to be looking for a way round the sister K Mart car of Tim Leahey. Way too far in the middle of the track for a wounded car travelling so slowly, was the stricken Plato Holden. John hit the rear quarter panel of the Commodore, flipping the Ozemail Falcon onto it's roof and slid almost 100 metres down the track.
Luckily John was unhurt apart from a stiff neck.
"I did not expect him to be faffing around on the race line," John said. "I just don't understand the guy. He's been racing a long time and I would have expected better than that. It was the worst possible thing that could have happened."
Plato has managed to alienate the bulk of Peter Brock's fans by taking the Holden out of the race before Peter Perfect could get behind the wheel and also Ford fans for removing the Cleland/Jones Falcon from the fray. Maybe the first man to be disliked by Ford and Holden fans alike.
John was in good humour after the accident but was obviously feeling for Kim and Brad Jones who needed the car for Brad in the upcoming Gold Coast meeting.
"I'm a car dealer and I was valuing the car as I slid down the road" John quipped.
John later restated his irritation with the Plato incident.
"I don't know what he was doing in the middle of the track travelling so slowly," a furious John said later. "It was a big hit and Plato should have been well off to the side of the track. "This is the not the place to be friggin' around like that."
“I couldn't believe that he was in the middle of the track on the fastest part of the circuit and doing 40 kph, it's just ridiculous behaviour”
The car was very badly damaged and would not be repaired in time for Bradley to drive it at Surfers Paradise.
Copyright : Dave Willetts 2000 - 2005