Launceston apprentice mechanic Adam Garwood proved to be a sensation at Bathurst last weekend with some stunning performances in the three, six-lap races that made up round seven of the Australian Touring Car Masters series.
Driving his father’s V8-powered Ford Capri Perana the 18-year-old was up against 20 fellow Australian drivers, and 26 invited New Zealand drivers in their highly modified muscle cars that run under a different set of regulations than the Australian cars.
It was only his second time at the mountain and the first time he had driven the Perana, but he finished 14th in the first practice session, and ninth in the second which became his grid position for race one when qualifying was cancelled due to fog.
Garwood quickly made his way through the field to fourth place behind Glenn Seton in the Mustang, John Bowe in the Torana and Steve Johnson in the Falcon GT HO, and with time running out, he made an outside move on Johnson at turn two at the top of mountain straight.
Unfortunately, he got caught out by the rubber marbles and rubbish on the outside of the track and spun backwards into the concrete barrier causing minor damage to the right rear of the car.
He finally crossed the line in 11th position, having recorded the fastest lap of the race, but the real test of his skill was to be race two, which was a complete reverse grid of race one, and that meant Garwood would start way back in 35th position.
In a storming drive, which had the huge crowd on their feet and chanting his name, Garwood worked his way through the field to finish an amazing sixth and the honour of being the first Australian home.
For race three the Australian cars were all lined up on the left hand side of the grid and the New Zealanders lined up on the right hand side, in what was effectively a Trans-Tasman challenge.
Garwood started from row nine in position seventeen, and in another stirring drive came home to finish seventh and earn the applause of the crowd and the congratulations of his fellow drivers.
As a measure of his popularity at the circuit, across over the four days Garwood had more than 34,000 hits (no mistake) on his Facebook site!
During the week I spoke with Jim Richards who also competes in the TCM series in his AMC Javelin, and he was full of praise for Garwood’s efforts.
“I think he did a fantastic job at the weekend and he has demonstrated that he is really talented driver,” the seven time Bathurst 1000 winner said.
“There is no question he has a great future and I’d love to see him progress further in his career.”
Richards went onto say that while TCM was a great class with close racing, he wondered if Garwood should consider at some point moving into another category.
“He has already raced a Porsche and demonstrated he has the ability to compete in other categories of the sport.
“My suggestion would be to look at something like the Porsche GT3 Challenge series and then subject to the inevitable funding question a move to Porsche Carrera Cup.” the eight-time Targa Tasmania winner said.
He added that he had no doubt Garwood was one of the most exciting talents he had seen for a long time.
Garwood started his motor sport career as a five-year-old in junior motocross winning a Launceston Junior Motocross Club title at one point before switching to cars with a run at the Legerwood Hillclimb when he was 14.
At just fifteen he started competing in club sprints at Symmons Plains in a Nissan R32.
Since then, he has moved onto circuit racing driving cars such as a Subaru WRX, GT3 Porsche Cup car, GT2 Porsche and A9X Torana.
Apart from his TCM commitments, Garwood still has a run in Karts to keep himself sharp, and next month will compete in Targa High Country in the Perana.
This week, Garwood indicated that he would do another year in the TCM series, but has set his sights on the possibility of getting a drive in the Bathurst 12-hour GT race in the future.
“I would really like to do the 12-hour GT race at some point and maybe progress to the Australian GT series if the chance came up,” Garwood said.
“Porsche Carrera Cup could well be an option as would a drive in the second tier Dunlop development series for Supercars.”
With one round of the series to go in Sydney, Garwood has already wrapped up the Pro-Sports class after a dominating performance that sees him with an unassailable lead of 334 points.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world at Magny-Cours in France Hobart’s Alex Peroni has all but wrapped up the Monoplace Challenge Formula Renault championship by winning all three races in the penultimate round.
This brings his series stats to 11 wins and 16 podiums from 18 races.
The 16-year-old took pole position on his way to the clean sweep, and at 833 points now has a 155-point lead going into the final round at Estoril in Portugal. His nearest challengers are Frenchman Gilles Heriau on 678 and Alexey Chuklin from the Ukraine on 572.5.
With a maximum of 180 points on offer, he only needs one tenth place finish to clinch the title.
Tasmanian competitors are certainly kicking goals at the highest level and it’s great to see.