Peter Brock and Larry Perkins race a Porsche 956 at Le Mans 1984
Given Australian motor sport fan’s love of endurance racing, you would have thought that the results achieved by Aussie drivers at The 24 hours of Le Mans would resonate more with local fans. After all, Aussies have won the event outright twice, with Vern Schuppan winning in a Rothmans Porsche 956 in 1983 and Geoff Brabham taking victory ten years later in a Peugeot 905 Evo.
Back in 1984 arguably Australias most loved racing driver, Peter Brock, teamed up with Larry Perkins for the first ever all Australian driver pairing at Le Mans. Called Team Australia and backed by Bob Jane T Marts , Brock and Perkins were looking to spring a surprise.
After bringing the car up through the star studded field to eighth, Perkins crashed heavily due to a non genuine rocker arm failing on the Mulsanne straight at 350km/h. After 18 hours and 145 laps it was all over and Brocky was distraught.
Legend has it that Brock could not forgive Perkins, who was running up to 4 seconds a lap quicker than him and the relationship between was never the same again. For an in depth story of The Team Australia Le Mans 24 hour campaign, check the full article at Wheels Magazine from 1984.
Of course not long after this Brocky went completely nuts and many observers believe the Le Mans campaign was a major turning point in his downfall. Less than 3 years after the race Brock had split from Holden after 18 years largely due to the “Energy Polarizer” which he came up with under the spell of Dr Eric Dowker.
Of the Energy Polariser Brock said:
“It’s a magic cure – it makes a shithouse car good.”
There is a good article from Wheels magazine in 1987 about Peter’s fall from grace, but specifically how he came to meet Dowker after the 1984 Le Mans trip and how this led to the idea of the Polarizer. Here is what Phil Scott wrote at the time:
“ZERO MINUS 32 MONTHS
Sunday, June 17, 1984
Brock was shattered. Mentally and physically. Living in the same chateau, sharing the same dinner table, it wasn’t hard to observe the effort Brock expended. The fraught Sarthe 24-Hour campaign with Larry Perkins had left him drained, and after all that build-up, all the publicity, the defeat hurt very badly. Brock had failed and he returned to Australia ailing, desperately in need of rest and relief from the unrelenting stress of the previous month.
His partner Bev introduced him to Dr Eric Dowker, a chiropractor and natural health wizard. Brock looked terrible. There were rumours he had cancer, others said he’d suffered fibreglass poisoning driving the Bob Jane Porsche 956.
Under Dowker’s guidance, Brock regained his strength, gave up the cigarettes, and seemingly returned to his old self. At work, it was business as usual at his burgeoning Special Vehicles Division. At home, Brock had a new friend. Dr Dowker had become more than a chiropractor and health adviser.”
NOTE: Good interview of Peter Brock by Andrew Denton here where he also probes Brocky on the Polarizer inident.