A tribute to Peter Brock

A tribute to Peter Brock

Say “Peter Brock” and several million Australians will knee-jerk respond: “Holden”.

This feature first appeared in the November 2006 edition of MOTOR

That’s how strong the glue has been. However, Brock lost his Holden Virginity many times over the years. His first road car was a 48-215 Holden (which later became nicknamed the ‘FX’), his first race car the famous Austin A30 with a 179 Holden engine.

But until he died in the replica Shelby-Chevrolet north of Perth, he raced, variously, Ford, BMW, Porsche, Chevrolet Monza GT, Birrana Formula Two, Renault R12 – even a Volvo 850. He drove the street circuit of Macau, competed in three Le Mans 24 Hours, raced at Spa in Belgium, Monza, Hockenheim in Germany, the Osterreichring in Austria, Silverstone and Donington (UK), New Caledonia and New Zealand.

Peter brockIn his first full year (although a part-time employee) with the Holden Dealer Team in 1970 after his 1969 Bathurst debut third in a Monaro, his boss Harry Firth produced an amazing GTR Torana sports sedan for the then-new sport of rallycross – a combination of bitumen and mud at circuits such as Calder and Catalina Park. Brock won the series to become the first Australian Rallycross Champion, and regained the crown in 1971 and 1972.

He got his first overseas race in 1971 when Firth took him and one of the team’s old XU-1 Toranas to Macau. In the near-stock standard mule Brock qualified on the front now between German gun Dieter Glemser in a factory Ford Cologne Capri and local Albert Poon in an Alfa Romeo GTAM. Brock finished second to Glemser.

In those days, Brock really wanted to drive one of the big and angry Formula 5000s, but could only afford a South Australian-built Formula Two Birrana with Ford Cosworth engine. With his father Geoff on the spanners, Brock and the Birrana won nine races in four meeting, so he upgraded to a new Birrana chassis.

Brocks mobil sierraBrock's Mobil Sierra at Oran Park in the last round of the 1989 ATCC. He started from pole and led the race from start to finish.

His best result in three more meetings was second to hotshoe Leo Geohegan at Oran Park, but without any real sponsorship, a lack of power and poor tyres, he decided to sell the car.

However, he soon got his taste of big V8 grunt. There was a lot of prizemoney sloshing around in the sports series, so Firth mated an old XU-1, stripped and beefed, with a Repco-Holden Formula 5000 engine developing 490bhp (365kW). It was christened 'The Beast' - an apt name, because it ran standard HQ brakes and was as predictable as a dog with rabies. But it won him six races.

When Brock was named one of the nine drivers in the 1979 Repco Round Australia trial, most shit-canners derided it as a PR stunt. They forgot that Brock did his first rally in 1972 - the Sunraysia 250 in a mate's XU-1.

Venomous 179 Holden engined roller

Brock exiting the venomous 179 Holden-engined roller skate that only he could tame. He sold it to skilled sports car drive Ross Bond who sold it after two months because it was so wicked.

That year, he ran in three Victorian championship rounds in a Firth-prepared Torana, and then the Dulux Rally from Brisbane to Melbourne - a rich mix of rallying, circuits and hillclimbs. Brock finished second behind Colin Bond in the other HDT car. Later in the year, he shared an old XU-1 with Colin Bond in the New Caledonia Safari.

The next year he partnered Matt Philip in a near-standard HDT Kingswood in the Sunraysia 250, finishing fourth, then in 1974 the Don Copasco with Fred Gocentas in the left seat. In 1978, as preparation for the Repco, he had Noel Richards with him in an HDT Gemini in the 2700-kilometre Ready Plan Rally in Victoria, then the Alpine International, finishing fourth again. The Repco brought a famous I-2-3 for the MHDT, Brock winning with the help of Philip and Richards.

At the end of 1974, unhappy with Firth's iron-fisted rule, Brock broke away and formed Team Brock with Norm Gow and Bruce Hindaugh, running a Torana SUR5000 for 1975 on a shoestring budget. But before he won his second Bathurst 1000 with co-driver Brian Sampson in that car, he ran two races (Oran Park and Sandown) in a Porsche 911 owned by Melburnian Reg Mort.

Brock Unveiling a carBrock and Erik Dowker unveil the controversial Director at a black tie function in Melbourne on February 20, 1987.

In October, 1975, Brock heard of a team about to run in the nine-hour race at Kyalami in South Africa with a BMW 3.5 CSi they were willing to sell. Brock jumped on the first plane, saw the car and talked with the BMW Motorsport execs. They assured him of full support if he campaigned the car in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, so he bought it, along with a heap of spare parts.

However, then came a kick in the comics; the BMW brass changed its privateer policy and Brock was in the financial poo again. Melbourne Holden dealer Bill Patterson, the main sponsor of the Team Brock Torana, agreed to spend on an attack on the Le Mans 24-Hour with the car. The mechanics pulled apart the big Bimmer, lightening it considerably and re-designing the electrical system, brake system and gearbox.

Expatriate Aussie Brian 'Yogi' Muir, who had Le Mans experience, was co-driver. But Brock broke a driveshaft during the rolling start, and ended with brakes only working on three wheels.

Volvo driverBrock flirted briefly with a Volvo 850 along with co-driver Gary Scott in the infant two-litre Super Touring series.

Before the CSi retired after I8 hours with a blown head gasket, they set the fastest BMW lap of the race. Three weeks later, with a new 3.4- litre Australian-built engine installed, they contested the 1000km enduro race at the Osterreichring in Austria, but an oil pump fault retired it from fourth.

Two months after Le Mans he co-drove with Gerry Marshall in a works Vauxhall Magnum at the British Tourist Trophy at Silverstone, but limped home with rear brake failure. They ran the car again in the Spa 24-Hour the following year, finishing an astonishing second place outright in a downpour.

Australian Porsche distributor Alan Hamilton organised a factory-built 924 Turbo for Brock to run in the 1981 Le Mans with Bond and Jim Richards. The green-and-gold 'Spirit Of Australia' had fearful engine, gearbox and turbo problems during qualifying and missed the cut.

Torana XU-1Brock punts the HDT XU-1 on its way to his only Bathurst solo win.

The next year brought Bob Jane's beautiful and spectacular orange Chevrolet Monza GT for the Australian GT/Sports Sedan Championship's nine rounds, and while Brock adored the car he couldn't get near Alan Jones in Hamilton's works 935 Turbo, who won all nine, with Brock finishing fifth after making only three rounds. Brock would later have a huge crash in the Monza at Adelaide International Raceway when a driveshaft broke, sending him into a wall.

Brock returned to the MHDT in 1978 under John Sheppard. Winning Bathurst in 1978·79·80 with Jim Richards, then in '82 and '83 (after taking over the John Harvey car) with Perkins and Harvey, and in '84 with Perkins again (only his first-ever win, 1982, was a solo drive).

In 1984 Bob Jane T-Marts went to Le Mans as Team Australia, Brock driving with Perkins, who also prepared the ex-John Fitzpatrick Porsche 956. However, wearied by the strain of only a two-driver team, the Cowangie Kid put the car into the crash fencing at 2.00am, and retired.

Peter brock relaxingThe winning 1979 repco crew at Kununurra, almost halfway around.

Back in Australia, Brock embarked on the unpopular Energy Polarizer path that ended in February, 1987, when he and his mysterious chiropractor partner, Eric Dowker, unveiled Brock's new HDT Director. This was the final straw for Holden, which for two years had tried to get Brock to understand that it could not warranty any cars claiming Energy Polarizer improvements.

So Brock took his Mobil sponsorship with him as a Commodore privateer, and won the 1987 Bathurst with David Parsons and Peter McLeod after taking over their racecar when his own broke.

For the 1988 touring car season, Brock switched to the BMW M3, running as a two-car team with Jim Richards. Richards finished the series fourth and Brock sixth. The next year it was Ford Sierra time for Brock, which was winning everything. Dick Johnson dominated the series again in his red Ford, with Brock finishing third.

Brock in the targa tasmaniaBrock in the Targa Tasmania 'very special' Monaro.

The man they called Peter Perfect was seldom a major force in touring cars after that. He drove again with the Holden Racing Team from 1995 until he retired in 1997. But he never really threatened, especially against his young team-mate Craig Lowndes.

There was a brief flirtation in 1997 with the Volvo Racing Team in an 850 for the new two-litre Super Touring Car Championship that was superceded by the AVESCO invasion. Brock officially retired in October, 1997, but did a series of Melba returns until his last.

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