Jason Bright starts the Bathurst 1000 for the 20th time today unsure what his racing future holds.
The 1998 race winner is in his seventh season at Brad Jones Racing (BJR), but admits he doesn’t know whether he will be at the team again in 2017.
The 43-year old veteran has raced for BJR on a year-by-year basis in recent seasons and also co-owns the team’s third REC, which underpins the Team CoolDrive entry of team-mate Tim Blanchard.
“I have a few things on the go, I don’t know if I am driving here (BJR) again next year,” the Team BOC Holden Commodore VF driver told supercars.com. “[But] that’s the same as every year.”
“I am working on several different scenarios at the moment.
“This year there has been an approach from somewhere else, but also an opportunity to do something else, so I have a few irons in the fire.”
Bright said his preference was to stay in Supercars.
“I would like to but there are other categories out there in Australia that look pretty nice at the moment.
“But I still feel like there is a bit of work to do here.”
Bright knows one thing about today; he would love to break through for the Albury team’s first win at Bathurst and believes he and co-driver Andrew Jones have a car that can deliver it from 11th on the grid.
In his six years contesting the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with BJR, Bright and Jones have qualified/finished: 2015 3/7; 2014 4/14; 2013 3/5; 2012 12/21; 2011 18/5; 2010 8/4.
“It (a win) would be huge,” said Bright. “It is very rare that any one has taken up to Triple Eight, FPR (Prodrive) and a little bit of HRT over the last 10 years.
“But in saying that we have had great practice pace and we need to turn that into a result come Sunday.
“Pace-wise we are strong, I was very disappointed we missed the shoot-out,” Bright added. “I just didn’t get a good run onto Conrod in either of my last two qualifying runs and lost 0.2 to 0.3 sec on both laps.
“But in the Saturday morning practice session where we know a lot of guys ran greens as a shoot-out practice we were still in the top seven.
“I feel we are in the mix, I feel we are in better shape race-wise than we were last year. Then we really struggled early in the race. I feel we are better than that and hopefully we can have a strong run.
“If it comes down to a sprint I think we have the pace to mix it with most of them.”
Bright said he would have a “pretty good indication” around mid-race whether the car was up to the challenge of fighting for victory.
“Then you just have to make sure you are in the top five or six cars for those last two stints,” he said.
“But even then a lot can happen in the last two stints.”
Bright also conceded the competitiveness of team-mates Tim Slade and Ash Walsh in the Freightliner Racing entry – which is fifth on the grid – complicated strategy because of the potential double-stacking issues.
“Stacking cost us massively last year,” Bright conceded. “We queued all day and then another safety car would come and we would have to queue again. We seemed to be passing the same cars all day.
“Over a long race we will end up on the same strategy because the safety car will come and we will have to put at the same time. You can’t get yourself out of that sequence because you are really aiming at when the window home opens.
“That is the difficult part.”
Bright looks back fondly on the 1997 1000, when he was a late addition to co-drive a Ford Falcon EL with 1980 F1 world champion Alan Jones and American import Scott Pruett.
The American’s struggles to come up to competitive pace opened up the opportunity for Bright, who eventually completed around 30 laps in a car prepared by legendary Kiwis Ross and Jimmy Stone that finished 11th.
“I only came here as a learning exercise to do some laps in practice and they put my name on the door on Sunday morning,” Bright said. “Then I got to drive the car for the final stint of the race.
“It’s not every day you get to share a car with a world champion and that was pretty special. He was massive hero when I was growing up, so to semi be in a car with him at Bathurst was something special.”
Other highlights for Bright at Bathurst obviously include the 1998 win and strong outings in 2004 with Paul Weel Racing and 2006 with Ford Performance Racing. On both occasions he qualified second but could not convert speed into a result. Bright also went painfully close to winning the race with his own Britek entry in 2007.
“The last couple of years have been good too, because we have had very quick cars in practice but the races haven’t gone well for us though – not that they did in 2004 and 2006 either,” reflected Bright.
“That’s the funny thing about 1998; everything went right that day from 15th on the grid. We went through the pits a ridiculous amount of times, we got a drive-through and we still ended up winning the race.”