Have-a-go hero: Brad Jones

The Aussie tin-top star ac­cepted an un­likely, last-minute sportscar call-up

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - STE­FAN BARTHOLOMAEUS

“THE ADRENALIN AND EX­HIL­A­RA­TION, EVEN TALK­ING ABOUT IT NOW, I CAN TASTE IT”

Held on New Year’s Eve at Ade­laide, the 2000 Amer­i­can Le Mans Se­ries fi­nale, dubbed the ‘Race of a Thou­sand Years’, is per­haps best re­mem­bered for the ‘croc­o­dile’ liv­ery sported by the win­ning Audi R8.

Al­though driv­ers Al­lan Mc­nish and Ri­naldo Capello swept to a 21-lap vic­tory in the 5h45m race, se­cur­ing Mc­nish the ti­tle, the car’s Aus­tralian con­nec­tion went be­yond its scaly paint scheme.

On the eve of his last start for Audi be­fore mov­ing to a For­mula 1 test role with Toy­ota, Mc­nish twisted his back on the Fri­day – re­port­edly while step­ping out of a kilt af­ter a me­dia event. With the Scot in doubt for the race and no time to sum­mon a sub­sti­tute from Europe, Brad Jones – a then 40-year-old V8 Supercars driver – re­ceived a sur­prise call-up.

Jones’s epony­mous team had run Audi Super Tour­ers in Aus­tralia dur­ing the 1990s, but as a long-time tour­ing car driver he faced a big step up to the R8.

“When I first got the phonecall, it was about 6am on the Satur­day and I thought it was a joke,” he re­calls. “It took a sec­ond call for me to book the flights to Ade­laide!

“Dur­ing the seat fit­ting at the cir­cuit, [Audi head of mo­tor­sport] Dr Wolf­gang Ull­rich asked how I fit­ted. I replied ‘per­fectly’, even though my head stuck out a fair way and my legs were up to my armpits. I drove in two prac­tice ses­sions and it was just amazing. The adrenalin and ex­hil­a­ra­tion, even talk­ing about it now, I can taste it. It felt so fast.”

Al­though within five sec­onds of the pace af­ter a ten­ta­tive 25 laps of prac­tice, the lo­cal hero didn’t ac­tu­ally con­test the race, as Mc­nish elected to power through his dis­com­fort.

“The emo­tions were up and down all day,” re­flects Jones. “At one point I was go­ing to drive for the fin­ish, but in the end the team thought it was too risky when the car was lead­ing and go­ing to win.

“They wanted me to get on the podium and I wouldn’t do it, which in hind­sight was stupid, but I felt like with­out driv­ing the car you didn’t de­serve to be there.

“But it’s some­thing now that I look back on with a lot of fond­ness.

It was just such a spe­cial thing to be able to drive that car.”

Jones (r) and Ri­naldo Capello wait for Mc­nish

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