BARGWANNA CELEBRATES TEN YEARS IN V8 SUPERCARS
This weekend's Betta Electrical 500, round eight of the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship, at Sandown International Raceway marks a significant moment in the career of WPS Racing's Melbourne-based driver Jason Bargwanna.
He will be celebrating his tenth year in V8 Supercars.
In the corresponding race in 1997 a vibrant, baby-faced, 24-year-old Bargwanna made his debut in Australia's highest profile motor racing category.
"My debut in a V8 Supercar at Sandown was an exciting experience, I was paired with Mark Noske as a part of the Young Lions program and actually set the third fastest time during qualifying," said Bargwanna.
"The race didn't quite go to plan as my inexperience caught me out a couple of times but we still finished ninth in my very first crack at it. At that stage I wouldn't have thought 10 years on I'd be sitting here thinking about another Sandown race."
In the nine 500 kilometre endurance races he has contested so far in his career Bargwanna has finished on the podium on three occasions and only finished outside the top ten twice. His co-drivers during this time have included Mark Noske (1997), Garth Tander (1998 -- 2002), Mark Larkham (2003), Mark Winterbottom (2004-2005). He is paired with New Zealander Craig Baird for this year's race.
The current WPS Racing driver has taken to the start line on 291 occasions aboard a V8 Supercar.
"As a young guy you simply put everything on the line to make the big league, you don't really consider trying to mark milestones of 100 rounds or whatever else, you just want to do it," said Bargwanna.
"You live from race to race, you go from one event to the next event and you just want to be successful at that and all of a sudden you've been in the sport for ten years.
"Something I've really noticed is the way the sport has changed over time. It has become a lot more professional and there is a lot more money involved these days and the fan base has grown significantly."
Since the Sandown endurance race in 1997 Bargwanna's career has had a variety of highlights but the 'jewel in the crown' is his victory with Tander at the Bathurst 1000 in 2000.
"I've had some great races and battles over the years have been pretty special which makes it hard to pick out one race that stands out the most but obviously winning Bathurst has been the ultimate so far," said Bargwanna.
"The dream of any young Australian motor racing driver is to stand on top of the podium at Bathurst. To win the race and stand of top of the podium is something very special and something I'll remember for a long, long time to come."
Determination is one of Bargwanna biggest traits, such utter passion to succeed has ensured he is continually striving for success. His determination was highlighted with a podium finish at the Bathurst 1000 in 1998.
"Bathurst in 1997 didn't go according to plan, we achieved a lot throughout the course of the weekend and made a mistake on the Sunday morning. I'd been to Bathurst a couple of times and raced there in a production car but it was a mistake in the race warm up that put us out of the race," said Bargwanna.
"To come back 12 months later and finish on the podium was certainly one of the highlights of my career at that point in time. I'd won my class in 1992 but to be able to get on the podium as an outright contender was pretty amazing."
Bargwanna first got involved in motor racing through his father, Harry, and Uncle, Alf, both of whom remain supporters of the V8 star's career today but there are a number of people who have helped him along the way.
"There has been no one person that I've looked up to over the years, there has been a lot of people who have contributed, many of which are still involved in a lot of ways," said Bargwanna.
"I was first involved in racing around my father and probably got the bug off him before getting involved with the Toyota team through my cousin Scott and a good family friend John Smith, who was an experienced racer. There were also some good friends who worked hard during my Formula Ford career which helped me get to where I am today."
While he may have already achieved a significant amount during his 10 years in the sport Bargwanna believes he still has a lot more to achieve in V8 Supercars.
"While I've got some good achievements on the board I don't feel that I've ticked all of the boxes in my motor racing career yet. There are certainly many things that I still want to be able to achieve," said Bargwanna.
"Being a front runner in this championship is the first and foremost goal that I'm setting myself at the moment. We've got a lot of work to do at WPS Racing but I think that there's some potential there and the team can be right up the front in the next few years."
During today's practice session Bargwanna and Baird set the 13th fastest time around the 3.16km circuit. Team-mates Max Wilson and David Besnard finished fifth fastest, a mere 0.26 seconds behind the quickest time set by Craig Lowndes.
Qualifying will be contested tomorrow with the 500km feature set to start at 1pm on Sunday.
-credit: wps racing