Hall of Famer John Bowe says he regrets staying loyal to Ford for his final Supercars season, instead of taking a seat at Perkins Engineering for his farewell season.
Bowe has reflected on his career in the latest episode of the Rusty’s Garage Podcast, released to coincide with his 65th birthday.
The Tasmanian is most famous for his 11-year stint aboard Dick Johnson Racing Fords from 1988, which netted Bathurst 1000 wins in ’89 and ’94 alongside Johnson, and the ‘95 Australian Touring Car title.
He spent the rest of his Supercars career at Ford squads, driving for CAT Racing/Briggs Motorsport in 1999-01, Brad Jones Racing from 2002-06 and Paul Cruickshank Racing for his retirement season.
“I had an opportunity to drive two places; Paul Cruickshank and Larry Perkins, with Jack [Perkins], to mentor Jack,” Bowe told podcast host Greg Rust of 2007.
“In hindsight I should have gone and driven for Larry.
Bowe chasing a Shane Price-driven Perkins Holden in 2007
“But Ford was still actively involved, and I had a Ford road car and you know, your alliances sometimes to motor companies are probably built on sticky foundations.
“Personnel change in the companies all the time, so someone that might have loved you goes somewhere else and the next bloke doesn’t love you.
“In hindsight, I should have driven for Larry in that last year, because I like Larry and I like Jack, but I decided to stay with a Ford car and drive Paul Cruickshank’s car.
“It was not a bad car, he had a really good little team of people, but it was not a good car either.
“It didn’t have the latest engine spec and it wasn’t particularly sensitive to change and all that.
“I don’t know the real reasons for it all, but it was a bit of a sad way to leave, I thought.
“I didn’t get to leave like Craig Lowndes winning Bathurst, which would have been nice!”
Bowe suffered depression during and beyond that 2007 season as he grappled with the prospect of life after Supercars racing.
In recent years he’s gone public with his depression battle in a bid to help others.
Declaring he's “lucky I survived” the 2007 season, Bowe recounted a particularly tough moment following his farewell Supercars event at the Phillip Island Grand Finale.
“Phillip Island, it was nice, I was in tears on the grid, they had a big banner thing, it was really nice, it meant you were appreciated a bit,” he said.
“[On] the Monday we had a ride day for the sponsors of PCR and on that Monday, this woman from Ford rang me up and said ‘you have one of our cars, it’s a Ford Territory’, which I did have, I’d had a Ford [company] car since 1992.
“I’d done quite a lot in the Ford world, including development stuff, she said ‘we’d like you to bring it back by the end of the week and I go ‘are you serious?’ and she said ‘yes’.
“I was so shattered. You’re in a fragile state if you’re depressed and it was just, wow, like kicking you while you’re down, it felt like.”
John Bowe's TCM Torana
Racing in other categories, most prolifically the Touring Car Masters, helped Bowe get on top of his depression.
He won three TCM titles in a Ford Mustang before circumstances triggered a switch to a Holden Torana in 2015, which Bowe says still draws significant feedback from Blue Oval fans.
“To me, it doesn’t really matter, it’s not like I’m now associated with Ford, I’m not really,” he said.
“[But] I’d love to be, I’ve got a Ford heart, it’s just that I’m racing a Torana.
“If I had the money, I’d build another TCM car out of an XC Cobra coupe... I reckon an XC Cobra would make an awesome TCM car.”
Bowe will be behind the wheel of another Holden-based product this weekend, co-driving a HSV GTS in the Bathurst 6 Hour.