When Craig Lowndes crossed the line to win the 1996 Bathurst 1000, motorsport fans and the media anointed the new Australian Touring Car Champion as teammate Peter Brock’s logical successor. But a decade earlier there was a driver who can lay claim to being Brock’s first fresh-faced understudy. His name is David Parsons and the similarities to Lowndes are uncanny.
Everyone remembers how Lowndes, in his first year with the Holden Racing Team, almost stole the 1994 Bathurst 1000, ultimately finishing as runner-up. Ten years earlier, and in his first drive with Holden’s flagship team at Bathurst, Parsons was able to chase down the Alan Jones-driven Kmart Commodore to secure second and help Brock’s Holden Dealer Team to a resounding 1-2 in the last of the ‘Big Banger’ Commodores.
Here’s the rub. While Lowndes was a pioneer in the professional era – where inexperienced young guns were hired purely on ability, Parsons career commenced when paid works drives didn’t exist and most competitors were experienced owner/drivers. Parsons’ frontline career extended to 18 years, but he only competed seriously in the ATCC twice, and with a budget that wouldn’t cover the HDT’s catering bill.
Parsons’ long career is testament to one thing – his raw speed. Year in, year out, he was able to match the times of the lead driver, often without much testing behind him. In another era he could have won multiple championships and many Bathursts instead of the one victory as Brock’s offsider in the explosive 1987 World Touring Car Championship round at Mount Panorama. He did come very close eight years later in another of those dramatic moments that only seem to happen in the Great Race.
This outwardly laidback dairy farmer was the ‘Captain’s pick’ for plum drives in the Bathurst enduros for Peter Janson, Larry Perkins, Peter Brock and Glenn Seton right into the V8 Supercar era. ‘Skippy’ outlines his memories of racing for the HDT and explains how a long-term debilitating condition curtailed a stellar career.
He also reveals he wasn’t always the easygoing co-driver the racing public largely perceived him to be.