Shepparton’s Garry Jacobson lives life in the fast lane as a racing car driver, but he feels just at home driving a bus. Tyler Maher talks to one of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the V8 Supercars Championship about taking time out, slowing down and life away from the track.
For a man who hurtles at great speeds around a racetrack for a living, Garry Jacobson loves spending plenty of time in 40 km/h zones.
Shepparton’s fastest bus driver — as the moniker goes — embraces life in the slow lane as much as possible despite his calling as a full-time V8 Supercars driver.
When the roar of the engine subsides and the blur of the grandstand dissipates, Garry finds himself drawn to a different type of vehicle back in his home town.
“I suppose I’ve always been known as the Supercars driver who drives buses, and I find that actually a really nice job to do,” Garry, 27, said.
“You wake up at about 6 am and you start the bus at about 7 and you inspect it, walk around it, kick the tyres and make sure that it’s safe to drive and pick up kids, so that’s the first thing in terms of a lifestyle thing that I do to wind down.
“It’s work in a way but it’s also really a nice way to drive around and see the local kids at Verney Rd special school and all the parents involved and things like that.”
Connecting to the Goulburn Valley community is high on Garry’s list of priorities when he is back home from race meetings, a trait he developed as a child and nurtured upon his return to Shepparton in his early 20s.
“I was always a kid that was quite sociable at a young stage,” he said.
“In primary school my interests were just hanging out with my mates a lot, so I was into footy growing up as a kid because you saw it a lot on TV, I was into basketball, I was into tennis and things like that.
“I just liked to be involved in what everyone else was doing.
“It’s at the forefront now because after I finished high school at the Goulburn Valley Grammar in Year 12, pretty much the day after I finished my last exam I moved straight to Bayswater North in Melbourne, and that was more of a learning curve for me in terms of branching out of Shepparton and seeing what other communities are like and towns are like.
“What I found was I broke my arm when I was 21 and I came back home and I started driving the buses again, I got my heavy rigid licence and that was like a gateway opportunity to really get to know everybody from a broader spectrum.
“You’re picking people’s kids up to take them to school and you’re young, but people had started to see me race on the TV and stuff like that and it was like the golden days in a way for me because I was starting to get trophies for the first time and I was starting to get recognised a little bit for the first time, and that’s when I started getting involved a lot more in what the community was getting up to in terms of things like charity events for the first time.
“I loved that part of being back home and getting to know everyone, and I think it’s at the forefront of my mind now, talking about everything and reflecting on everything.
“We’ve probably had businesses behind me now locally in Shepparton for about eight years. There’s been no fly-in fly-out sponsorship deals, they’ve been people that have come on board and we’ve built together the profile of the local businesses and we’ve built my profile as much as we can locally to get me involved as much as we can.”
Garry’s growth — both professionally and personally — has seen him rise from a young kid “walking around the back of Speedway circuits”, as he puts it, to one of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the V8 Supercars Championship.
But throughout it all the Shepparton product has never forgotten his roots.
“Now I can train with some of the greatest people in Shepparton and it motivates me quite a lot,” Garry said.
“I can go and train with Sammy Rachele who teaches taekwondo and kickboxing, who’s an elite fighter and great at training young people and people that want to stay fit for lifestyle.
“Cher Hetherington from Fix Muscle Performance, it sounds like I’m doing plugs but it’s just the truth of it, I wanted to learn how to strengthen my back and things like that in longer races and she was getting me into Pilates and things like that.
“Then like local F45 places, just having the luxury of racing on the weekend and then turning up Monday morning to train with the locals at F45 where it’s like really social, things like that it’s quite motivating for me when you can go and train in Shepparton and you know nearly who everybody is.
“You can just go and get a coffee — I’ll get encouraged from the locals at Lemon Tree Café about, you know, great job in the wet weather racing on the weekend and things like that and that puts a real pep in my step and you don’t really get that feel or vibe in Melbourne.”
Garry is always pushing to get the best out of himself while also making sure he touches base with that slow lane every now and again.
“I do tend to get a little bit addicted to my training and that’s more just a thing that I get up to where there’s so much you can do in Shepparton,” he said.
“You can ride your bikes with the local Coodabeens group on the road bikes because the roads are so quiet around Shepparton.
“I like to go and catch up with those guys, but lately I’ve had a different course of training on the bike — I actually get involved with the mountain bike tracks that are just based near the river underneath the bridge that takes you from Shepparton to Mooroopna.
“There’s a mountain bike track that takes you from there all the way to the bus depot actually, so there’s a good 30 km loop out there that I like to do.
“I suppose like anybody you have relationships back home, I’ve got a lovely girlfriend Naomi that I’ve been with nearly for 10 years and obviously spend a fair bit of time with her when I am home, because you do tend to travel a bit more now that I am in the top category.
“We love going to local wineries around Dookie and things like that and there’s actually a mountain bike track there around Mt Major.
“In terms of apart from training and that, I actually enjoy doing a bit of fishing with Ross Threlfall obviously from Trelly’s Tackle World, those guys are really great for me because they take me outside and take me fishing.
“If it’s the summer time we’ll go skiing up at Bundalong, I enjoy a bit of water-skiing, if it’s winter time we tend to catch cod if we can.
“Another thing that comes to mind lately is that I’ve actually been getting a little bit more into yoga and meditation as a way to quieten the mind.
“It’s really hard sometimes, you’ll get home on a Sunday night — we had a race at Darwin and you get home at 3 am and you’ve got to shut your brain off sometimes — and whether you have a good result or a bad result, I think part of my performance is learning how to quieten the mind, so I’ve actually just started doing little things like that in Shepparton.”
And as for Garry’s advice to the next generation of Shepparton products looking to make it on the biggest stage of all his motto is quite simple — just ask him.
“Hassle as many people as you can and not be worried about taking up their time,” he said.
“I’ve had some kids that contact me nearly once a week on Facebook messenger asking for that help and support and the biggest thing that I love about it is their determination to keep asking for help and support.
“It’s not annoying, it’s just sometimes you get carried away with what you’re doing and you’re away for a long time, you don’t see them, and then the same message you see gets repeated six or seven times … and eventually there comes a stage in the calendar where it does fit up.
“I think I didn’t do enough of it when I was young, and I’d always be scared that I’d be taking up their precious time and things like that; but for me, I don’t know, it just seems to make sense to me.
“You don’t know everything and it’s a cliché thing, you’re always learning every day, but I think it’s just more about having as many mentors as you can.
“It’s funny how much you learn from people that are involved in the sport. Keep encouraging them to keep asking me for help and, hopefully, if I can give back once every now and then I’d hope that I can make a difference for young karters.
“Because everyone’s afraid of stepping on people’s toes and getting in people’s way and it’s not like that. You might get a couple of people that reply like ‘mate, bugger off’ sort of thing, but I find it’s a lot less now these days, like, people can get contacted quite easily through Instagram and Facebook.
“So even though we have messages that are repeated like 10 or 15 times I actually like the fact that they’re persistent and it shows me how hungry they are and they’re not just going to say ‘ahh he didn’t reply so I’m not going to ask any more’.
“They keep going and keep hassling and I think that’s great to see the motivation that they have.”