Linking up with Mark Webber for an assault on the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour would be the ultimate motor racing experience for Hollywood actor Eric Bana.
The 45-year-old Bana returned to the once-around-the-clock classic for the first time in four years last weekend, finishing 13th in a Lamborghini Gallardo alongside long-time friends Peter Hill and Simon Middleton.
Bana told Speedcafe.com at the weekend that he is hopeful of becoming a regular at the 12 Hour, with plans to join Webber gaining momentum.
“As you know it started out as a bit of a joke with a Tweet but it gained momentum once I realised that Mark was actually serious,” Bana told Speedcafe.com.
“It would be an amazing thing for the event and I’m sure Mark wants to do it just for a bit of fun.
“My calendar isn’t always ‘bankable’, it isn’t always in my control, but it would be fantastic if I got to share a garage with him.
“To be a part of his ‘leisure drive’ would be amazing, just to experience his level of professionalism up close.
“I’ve been a huge fan of his all through his career and love the way he goes about it and conducts himself as a gentleman and a spirited competitor. I just think he’s fantastic.”
Never having seen Webber in action up close during his Formula 1 career is something that Bana says he regrets.
“I’m quite paranoid about getting in people’s way because of how used to it I am with my job and set visits, which are always a distraction,” he said.
“That’s why I haven’t pestered him to be in the garage. I’d just plaster myself against the wall and say ‘I’m not here, I’m not here’.
“Now though I wish I had gone to an F1 round somewhere along the way and annoyed him.”
Bana’s circuit racing appearances to date have been relatively few and far between thanks to his filming commitments.
He’s made one-off starts in Australian GT and the GT3 Cup Challenge, as well as state-level appearances using his only current race car; a 2004 Porsche Carrera Cup.
“I’d like to try and get to the Bathurst race every year and get to another one or two Australian GT rounds if I could,” he said of future racing.
“I don’t have huge aspirations about racing overseas to be honest because I know how much energy it would take to pull off.
“I spend a lot of time on two wheels as well, be it on dirt bikes or ride days, so this isn’t the be all and end all for me. That’s just as important to me as getting to these type of events.”
Although filming schedules will dictate just how much racing Bana can complete, he insists that there is no pressure from movie companies to restrict his outings on the grounds of danger.
“I’ve never had someone point the finger and say ‘can you promise that you won’t drive or ride your bikes for a month before we start’. I’ve just never had the conversation,” he said.
“But my record speaks for itself. I’ve never lost a day of filming to any sickness, illness or injury my whole career.
“When you’ve got that sort of score on the board there’s no reason for anyone to say anything.
“I self calibrate it a little bit as well. I won’t do a Phillip Island ride day five days before jumping on a plane. But I’d certainly do a car event, it wouldn’t phase me.
“When I’m shooting that’s different, I wouldn’t even get on a push bike, but outside of that all bets are off. The risk is mine to take.”
Don’t expect to see Bana re-appearing on the tarmac rally scene anytime soon, though.
Bana brought worldwide attention to some of Australia’s great tarmac rallies in 2009 with his film Love the Beast.
The self-produced film charted Bana’s relationship with a Ford Falcon XB that he bought at 15 years of age and had begun rallying across Australia.
“The car is repaired and beautiful and, in terms of engineering, it’s much better than when I was racing it,” he said of the ‘Beast’ today.
“It was really running pre-historic underpinnings when I was racing it, as amazing as it looked.
“These days I get a sweat up watching the TCM (Touring Car Masters) guys, I have so much respect for the standard of build on those cars.
“Some of them are years in the making and they’re just beautiful cars. The thought of them going out on the track does my head in.
“I’ve got no interest in going back to tarmac rallying. I had a really good time doing a bunch of events, Classic Adelaide, Rally Tas, Targa Tas, Perth, all of that was really good fun with my best mate navigating.
“But I know how dangerous it can be chasing a good time. I got to the point where I was just thinking about the guy next to me so I don’t really want to go racing doing that.
“I’d rather just put myself in harm;s way and no one else. I won’t do any more rallies.”