THEY say life begins at 40 and while Jason Bright’s record in this year’s V8 Supercars championship goes a long way to backing that up, the Team BOC driver could not quite snare a podium finish in Sunday’s Bathurst 1000.
As the race drew inside the final 10 laps he was sitting in third position, but in the end Bright had to settle for fifth after an entertaining battle with Garth Tander and Craig Lowndes.
While Bright was a relative newcomer when he partnered Steven Richards to glory in the 1999 edition of the Bathurst 1000, these days he ranks among the more experienced drivers in the championship.
But with age comes experience and wisdom as well as some impressive results.
The now 40-year-old produced one of the big surprises in pre-season testing when he bettered Craig Lowndes old record and he has extended that form into the season proper.
He arrived at Mount Panorama sitting eighth in the championship and with two wins to his name – one of them helping him to claim the Jason Richards Trophy at Pukekohe.
Driving the Brad Jones Racing Commodore with Andrew Jones, Bright was desperate to get his name on the Peter Brock Trophy.
“For BJR to win a Bathurst and for the Jones name to be on the trophy would mean a lot to everyone there I’m sure,” he said prior to the 161-lap showdown at Mount Panorama.
“Brad tried very hard to get a win there; it’s the one thing that’s missing from his career. He probably cared a lot more about that than the championship and he’s certainly always put a lot of emphasis on it.”
Bright gave himself a good chance of success as he was third in qualifying and third again in the Top 10 Shootout.
It was that same spot Bright occupied as the race drew towards it conclusion.
Jones had handed him the car in a top 10 position and the former Great Race winner picked his way through the field in an impressive triple-stint.
But Red Bull Racing’s Lowndes and Holden Racing Team’s Tander – on newer tyres – came at Bright as they battled for a podium finish.
He held them off for 15 laps before a lunge from Tander saw his Commodore momentarily go into the gravel. It dropped him from third to fifth.
The move was one which left Bright disappointed.
“We had got strengths onto the straights and excellent braking, so no one could get us. Tander just had a lunge and took us with him off the track. He cost himself a position and me two. There was no way he was going to get us without making a mistake like that,” Bright said.
“Lowndes was behind me that previous stint and I was able to hold him off and pull away before pitting. With fresh tyres I knew it was going to be harder, but we held him off and I think we had his measure enough that he wasn’t going to be able to pass us.
“I felt like Tander was getting weaker all the time. His braking is nowhere near as good as ours and he stuffed it up.
“When we got to the last seven laps I was getting more confident that we would be able to hold them off unless someone did something stupid, which proved to be the case.”
Though missing out on the podium, Bright improved to sixth in the championship and is on track for one of his best finishes since placing third in 2004.
He also drew praise from Andrew Jones for his effort.
“Brighty did an incredible job I reckon. I take my hat off to him. He fought very, very hard,” he said.