He is a straight talker, a Bathurst 1000 winner and best of all, a light-hearted character.
Tomas Mezera has been one of the most popular personalities at Australian racetracks over the past 35 years.
From winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship and Bathurst to driving for – and managing – the mighty Holden Racing Team, Mezera has been there and done it all.
If you are looking for the Czechoslovakian today, you’ll likely find him on the golf course, which is exactly where we spoke to him in this week’s edition of Saturday Sleuthing.
What makes up a week in the life of Tomas Mezera these days?
I’ve got to work! Sometimes I work for Porsche running the driving school, and when I’m not working, I’m playing golf. I play in the Over 50s seniors tour, and I really enjoy it.
What’s the most success you’ve had on the golf course?
Oh, I don’t know. Just to make it onto the seniors tour was a great achievement because it’s not easy to get through. The best I’ve ever finished in a tournament is third.
The 1988 Bathurst victory came in just Mezera's second Great Race start
Let’s get into motorsport. After winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship and racing overseas, you came back to Australia, teamed up with Tony Longhurst and won the 1988 Bathurst 1000. Tell us about your memories of that event.
We arsed it in! I enjoyed that race. Tony qualified third, and we ran in the top three all day, but you need a little bit of luck on your side. Even these days, everything needs to go your way – pitstops and all of that.
We were actually quite lucky, because not everything went our way. In the last pitstops, one of the wheels wouldn’t come off, so I had to do my stint with the same tyre.
Mezera and Perkins had to settle for third at Bathurst in 1990
After that success, you joined Larry Perkins for a three-year stint together, including the 1990 Bathurst 1000 that you went very close to winning…
Yeah, we were a bit unlucky there. We were leading for most of the race but you need to have luck on your side.
They had those two Safety Cars – one at the bottom of the track and the other at the top to keep the field spread out. But we got screwed up.
Larry is a really top bloke. He helped me a lot. It was the first Holden drive I had, and he actually helped me get the drive with the Holden Racing Team for 1992 because he couldn’t offer me anything.
He made a few phone calls, put in a good word and I got that drive, which was really nice. He also helped me get the drive with Vern Schuppan’s Porsche for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Again, Larry was the one who picked up the phone and talked to Vern and arranged a meeting. I didn’t know Vern then, but he gave me a test drive in England.
That led me to doing the full 1990 Japanese championship, as well as Le Mans, which was a great experience.
Mezera finished fifth in the ATCC standings in 1995, his last full season with HRT
From 1992 to 1996, you drove with the Holden Racing Team, and there was even a short spell of team management in there too. You enjoyed some success. Tell us about your time at the factory Holden team.
When I joined the HRT in 1992, it was a tough time. They were not really that organised and it was a bit of a struggle and very hard to compete against the turbo cars.
When they started the V8 category, things started to get better, and finally we were heading in the right direction but when Craig Lowndes came, there was no room left for me.
And yeah, I did about half-a-season of managing the team because there were some disputes with Neal Lowe. When he left, there was no one there and I finished out the year.
Mezera ready to test his new VT Commodore at Calder in 1998
In 1998 you set up your own team that lasted for two years …
I tried. Jesus it was hard. I never had the finances or resources to do it. I was busting my arse to try and make it work, but it really was incredibly hard.
From there, you became an endurance gun for hire, and drove for BJR, the Holden Racing Team and, finally, back to Larry’s team …
Yeah, I drove with Bradley Jones in a Ford, and then HRT. I got a podium with Jason Bright at Bathurst (2002). It was alright.
Do you miss racing?
I don’t miss it at all. I was doing it long enough, but once you get a little bit older, it becomes more difficult. Once you get to around 40, you’re never going to pick up a top drive.
Mezera takes a diplomatic approach with then-HRT team-mate Wayne Gardner
When you left full-time racing, we still saw you at the racetracks when you were acting as the Driver Standards Observer for Carrera Cup and then the Supercars. It is a difficult role? How much did you enjoy it?
Yeah, I did Carrera Cup [as DSO] for five years and then they were making changes at V8s and I slipped into that role for five years.
You can’t keep everyone happy. Only one party is going to be happy and the other will feel hard done by. You know how it is when the boys are running into each other and they don’t accept responsibility.
Someone had to make a call and that was my job and I enjoyed it. I didn’t get any death threats, so that was a good thing!
If you think about your driving career, can you pick one race or moment that is a standout for you?
There were pretty good races where you are running good but you don’t end up winning. There were a couple, but the one that I think about is a race in the British Formula Ford Championship.
I could never bloody beat Eddie Irvine. So many times I would finish second to him. Finally, I got him on the last corner, last lap and beat him.
That was really satisfying, but only for two minutes because there was a huge accident behind us and they put out a red flag, so the result was taken from the lap before!
It was the one race that I’ll never forget. I finally got him, but that’s the way it is with racing.