‘Difficult and unrewarding’ are the words Paul Radisich uses to describe his relationship with Bathurst. Two second-place finishes in the Bathurst 1000 and two horrific crashes were the highlights and lowlights of Radisich’s racing career around Mt Panorama.
Despite the hits and the near misses, Radisich is looking forward to reliving some of his memories at this weekend’s 4 Guys Autobarn Legends of Bathurst festival at Hampton Downs (January 13-14).
“It’s great fun to see the old cars out there running around the track,” says Radisich. “I had a 25-year career in motorsport and an event like this brings back great memories. Close but no cigar is my story around Bathurst. I led the Great Race on many occasions but unfortunately, I never got to win it. It’s a track that’s been full of heartache and drama for me but it was always exciting to race there and I always enjoyed going there regardless of the outcome.”
Radisich finished runner-up in the Bathurst 1000 in 1990 and 2000 but he reckons 1999 was the one that got away.
“1999 should have been my year,” he says. “We led the race all day and with 15 laps to go we got a puncture and didn’t finish. In 2000 I finished runner-up again. We had the quickest car but things kept going wrong for us and I couldn’t quite catch Garth Tander at the end of the race.”
Radisich broke his ankle and sternum in a major crash during the 2006 Bathurst 1000 but it was a crash during practice for the Great Race in 2008 that ended his professional racing career.
“It took a couple of years to get over that one,” says Radisich. “I pretty much broke everything from my feet up to the vertebrae in my back. It took me a long time to recover and I have to manage some of those issues for the rest of my life.”
Radisich will race a replica of Dick Johnson’s famous Tru Blu Ford Falcon XE in the Legends of Bathurst Invitational. The car is owned by New Plymouth accountant Philip Macey who is looking forward to sharing driving duties with Radisich at Hampton Downs.
“Hopefully Paul can give me some advice on how to set the car up properly,” says Macey.
Since he retired from professional racing, Radisich has been the Managing Director of Aegis Oil, the family business. Apart from occasional events like the Legends of Bathurst, Leadfoot and the Goodwood Festival in the UK he does very little racing. That may change this year with Radisich considering running a GT3 car in the New Zealand Endurance Series. This weekend at Hampton Downs, however, is all about sharing memories with some good mates.
“John Bowe and I raced together for many years and I took his seat at Dick Johnson Racing in 1999,” says Radisich. “He’s a fierce competitor but a fair one. Catching up with guys like John Bowe and swapping stories is a big part of what a weekend like this is all about.”
Radisich and Bowe will join other Legends of Bathurst at Hampton Downs this weekend including Jim Richards, Allan Moffat, Steve Richards, Fred Gibson and John Goss. They’ll be available for autograph signing sessions as well as racing in the Legends of Bathurst Invitational and the Archibalds Historic Touring Cars category. The other categories include ENZED Central Muscle Cars, Historic Formula Ford and Matos Formula Libre.
The Car Club Cruise will allow members of local car clubs to have a chance to drive on Hampton Downs International circuit while there will also be a massive Show ‘n’ Shine exhibition.
The Legends on Stage dinner on Saturday evening at Hampton Downs Pavilion promises to be another highlight of the weekend. Revisit some classic moments from Bathurst on the big screen and hear Jim Richards, Steve Richards, John Bowe and Paul Radisich talk about their favourite Mt Panorama memories.