11 years on: we remember Peter Brock's 5 best Bathurst triumphs
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It's a cliche, but it's true — everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Peter Brock had passed away.
Today marks the 11th anniversary of that day, and for many the wound is still a deep one. Brock was one of those characters who transcended their profession to strike people on a much deeper level. Within minutes of talking to him you'd feel like firm friends, and that level of interest always felt reciprocated. Craig Lowndes is one of the few drivers of today that have the same impact.
Brock backed it up with incredible speed on track — his nine wins at Mount Panorama still unrivaled. He achieved across many areas, but his exploits on that race track are still regarded as his most noted and memorable. Here are five of the best.
1972 was an interesting year for several reasons. It was the last time that Bathurst ran a 500-mile race, as opposed to the 1000-kilometre sprint of today, and it was also the last time that teams were allowed to have single-driver entries.
But, neither of those elements was why the '72 edition became one of the most iconic in Bathurst history. No, what ensured that was a lengthy battle between Brock and Canadian Allan Moffat. As people they were both different; Moffat being meticulous and a little introverted, Brock being more relaxed and 'popular'. And their cars were different too.
Moffat pedaled a Ford Falcon XY GTHO V8, and Brock the tiny little Holden Torana XU-1 GTR six-pot. For lap after lap after lap, they dueled nose to tail. Brock would get Moffat through the corners in his nippier Torana, only for Moffat to blitz him on Bathurst's long straights. There was an expectation that Moffat, having won the previous two races at Bathurst, would be the more fancied driver to win in his rumbling V8. But it didn't work out that way.
Moffat spun his car and promptly got stuck, allowing Brock to take his first win on the mountain as the quintessential underdog. The win didn't just cement his spot as a name to watch, but it also helped forge the rivalry between Holden and Ford.
Brock's time with the Holden Dealer Team factory squad was big highs intertwined by a series of lows, one of which came at the end of 1974 after he was accused of rough-housing the team's lead car at Bathurst. Having led the race by multiple laps, he had been instructed to button off and preserve the car ... an instruction duly ignored. Leading the race by six laps, the car suffered a comprehensive engine failure and Brock was shown the door.
This triggered three years racing for privateer teams, the most fruitful of which was his 1975 campaign with Brian Sampson. The duo took on and beat the factory efforts from Holden and Ford in their privateer Torana L34 SLR5000.
Three years later, and Brock was back with HDT.
The Torana A9X was what followed the SLR5000. It was sleeker, with its hatchback roofline (yeah, Holden racing a hatchback in the Australian Touring Car Championship, go figure). And people loved it.
It won Bathurst for two years in a row with Brock and Kiwi Jim Richards at the helm. And while the 1978 win was satisfying for its own reasons (for coming off the back of Ford's most dominant win at Bathurst ever, mainly), the '79 win is considered far more memorable.
Here, arguably, was Brock's peak as a driver. He and a sublime Richards were unstoppable, and led every single lap of the race. Brock even had the tenacity to push hard on the final lap and reset the lap record.
It was a stark constrast to Moffat and Ford's Bathurst win two years prior, where Moffat coasted for the last lap in order to preserve his rooted brakes. That kind of lairy, aggressive driving was what Brock became known for.
By the late '80s, Brock's relationship with HDT and Holden had soured. The cars were being outgunned by some of the other, more developed European Group A machinery, and Brock was making headlines for all the wrong reasons away from the track courtesy of his 'polarizer' invention. But that's another story.
The point is that, entering the 1987 race Brock was at rock bottom. Adding insult to injury, the Mobil Holden team's second car had been cobbled together in a rush using whatever parts happened to lie around the workshop, because Holden had cut down their funding.
Brock and co-driver David Parsons looked decent nonetheless, until their car expired early in the race. Having cross entered their names into the team's bucket-of-bolts second car (No. 10), Brock and Parsons simply took over the controls from Peter McLeod and pressed on in the hopes of a top five.
What subsided was rain. Lots of rain. Enough to cause chaos for many of the European teams that had flown over (remember, this doubled as a round of the World Touring Car Championship). Around this time, it was also being discovered that the leading duo of Texaco Ford Sierras were running a differing fuel blend and different wheel arches.
Brock and Parsons brought the car home in a stellar third place, thanks to an unforgettable drive in the wet from Brock. Then a few months later, the dominant Sierras at the front of the field were disqualified and the win was handed to the Holden heroes.
By this point, Brock had been cut from Holden. But, the win must have felt sweet.
1997 was Brock's last year racing in the Australian Touring Car Championship (it had just been renamed the V8 Supercars...) on a full-time basis before retiring. The year was mixed, though Brock was still able to take a win at Barbagallo Raceway.
For Bathurst — a race that everyone had hyped to the moon with Brock farewell mania — Brock was paired with Mark Skaife, who at the time was a bit of a Supercars refugee, and a world away from the massive success he was about to encounter.
Skaife, himself in the middle of a bit of a recovery tour, took pole for the race, and Brock started. For someone primed for retirement, being handed the keys to the pole sitting HRT Commodore was a tall ask under all the pressure and talk.
But, Brock's opening stint is probably the best of his career. Winning the start, he batted off a fired up Larry Perkins, before doing the same to young Kiwi hot shot Greg Murphy in HRT's second Commodore. He led every lap in convincing fashion, before handing the car over to Skaife at the first cycle of pit stops.
The fairy tale didn't exactly come to fruition, with Brock and Skaife's Holden expiring well before halfway with engine problems. The pair had been well on their way to snatching victory, and a 10th for Brock.
But, the game of racing isn't always about the raw, hard numbers. And, Brock at least got to exit the sport while being on top of his game.