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"SCARED" GARDNER QUITS FOUR-WHEELED CIRCUS

Spooked by last year's frightening crash on Mount Panorama, former 500cc World Motorcycle champion Wayne Gardner has quit motor racing.

The 43-year-old released a statement yesterday confirming his decision to retire from four-wheeled racing. While he left the door slightly ajar for a Bathurst return, reports today suggest he won't race again.

Gardner told The Australian his high-speed crash during practice for last year's Bathurst classic influenced the decision.

A brake failure meant Gardner was a virtual passenger in the incident, destroying the Stone Brothers Racing Falcon and his long-held dream to win Australia's greatest race.

"It shook me up and that did scare me," he said.

"I found I didn't have the passion to go racing and if you don't have that fire in the belly, there is no point in doing it."

The Wollongong Whiz has been a regular on the V8 Supercar circuit since retiring from motorcycle racing in 1992.

He ran his own Commodore team for six years beginning in 1994. The Bathurst title cruelly eluded him on a number of occasions; a round win at Calder Park Raceway in 1997 one of few highlights.

"It was a really hard grind running your own team, and always worrying about budgets, sponsorship and trying to keep everyone happy, as well as driving the car," Gardner said in his statement. "I learned a great deal, but it was tough."

In recent years, Gardner has driven successfully in the All-Japan Grand Touring Championship, only returning to Australia to tackle the V8 Supercar endurance races.

"I've been racing since I was 14, and doing it professionally for 23 years," he said. "That's a long time, and it has been very good for me, but I think it's time for a change.

"I felt exactly the same when I retired from bikes. I just knew it was the best time for me to move on."

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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