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1979: Brock blitzes Bathurst

Submitted by on October 8, 2009

As aficionados of Australian touring car racing prepare for this weekend’s blue riband event, the Bathurst 1000 enduro at Mount Panorama, I am reminded of the great Peter Brock. It’s just over three years since the Aussie folk hero and nine-time winner of the Great Race was killed in an historic rally. I’d chatted to Brock at the Goodwood Revival Meeting just days before the tragedy. He was relaxed, chatty and in awe of the unique spectacle of the time-warp British event. He seemed humbled that the knowledgeable and passionate fans – me included – were very much in awe of him.

I reminded ‘Peter Perfect’ of my only visit to Bathurst, in 1994. Back then, I’d perched on the waist-high wall at the top of the Mountain for the Toohey’s Top 10 shoot-out – a one-car-at-time assault on the senses to decide the final grid positions for the race.

Later in the session, my hill-top treat reached its finale when the unmistakable Commodore with the trademark 05 number on its flanks blasted over the brow. Brock skimmed the wall in front of me and I gasped as the sweet aroma of cooking Mobil 1 and sticky Bridgestones wafted past my face and my knees reverberated on the wall.

Happy with my lot, I clambered back down to the paddock to soak up some of the post-qualifying banter. Using my go-anywhere-and-they-mean-anywhere pass, I slid into the Holden Racing Team garage to seek out Brock to thank him for act one, scene one on the Mountain. And for him to sign my programme, of course.

“It’s awesome out there isn’t it?” he said enthusiastically. “Where were you standing?”

“Oh, I headed straight up the hill and stood on the outside at McPhillamy,” I replied nervously, in case he might disapprove. “You got really close to the wall there!”

“Ha! I saw you,” he countered. “Next time, I’ll get a bit closer if you want mate?!”

One of my most treasured racing memories.

On the subject of treasured memories, this weekend’s Bathurst weekend marks 30 years since one of Brock’s most memorable wins – one well worth reminiscing over.

In 1979, Brock wreaked havoc on his rivals en route to his fourth victory in the Australian touring car enduro. Brock – sharing again with ’78 race-winning partner Jim Richards – and the Holden Dealer Team Torana were invincible. The combo led every one of the 163 laps to win by six laps.

This was Brock at his legendary best, eking out every last tenth of a second from the Marlboro-liveried A9X and thrilling the Holden faithful around the 3.8-mile Mount Panorama circuit. Fastest lap – under the lap record – on the very last tour must have rankled with the chasers, led by the up-and-coming Peter Janson and wily veteran Larry Perkins in a similar Torana. So too must Peter Perfect’s post-race summary up on the podium after his six-hour masterclass.

“An absolute dream run for us,” he admitted. “From the word go the car was really on the ball and we drove it fast all day. We didn’t have to slow down for any reason.”

Brock had stamped his authority on the meeting during practice and qualifying. Nobody got close to the 05 Torana, and his final qualifying blitz put him almost two seconds clear. The likes of Bob Morris, Allan Grice, Charlie O’Brien and Allan Moffat were expected to give chase in the early stages, but it wasn’t to be. The fastest of the Toranas disappeared up the road, pulling out a 5.2-sec lead after just one lap! After nine laps the advantage was stretched to 10 seconds. Rivals must have been pinning all their hopes on reliability trouble for 05.

The pattern of the race had been set, although the second HDT Torana of John Harvey and rookie Ron Harrop was making swift progress after qualifying woes. Harvey moved up to second after 22 laps to set-up the perfect HDT one-two. Sadly for the factory Holden squad, the dream result was not be: Harrop crashed the Torana spectacularly after brake failure at the top of the Mountain.

A rain shower failed to dampen spirits in the HDT camp. Just short of the two-hour mark, Brock pitted to hand over to Richards. After 45 seconds, during which the car was refuelled and fitted with four new tyres, ‘Gentleman Jim’ was on his way. It was simply a matter of keeping out of trouble on the drying-but-still-greasy track. Richards was faultless for 45 laps. Another slick pitstop put Brock back in the driving seat for the run to the flag.

It was a fitting end to the Torana’s career – the A9X racer had filled the top eight places in the world’s toughest tin-top race. For 1980, Holden’s all-new Commodore would take the fight to Ford and its rival Falcon. At Bathurst, Brock and Richards would do it all again.

Hardie-Ferodo 1000, Bathurst, September 30 1979

1st Peter Brock/Jim Richards – Holden Torana A9X, 163 laps

2nd Peter Janson/Larry Perkins – Holden Torana A9X, 157 laps

3rd Ralph Radburn/John Smith – Holden Torana A9X, 155 laps

4th Allan Grice/Alfredo Costanzo – Holden Torana A9X, 155 laps

5th Garry Rogers/Bob Stevens – Holden Torana A9X, 152 laps

6th Allan Taylor/Kevin Kennedy – Holden Torana A9X, 151 laps

7th Barry Seton/Don Smith – Holden Torana A9X, 148 laps

8th Charlie O’Brien/Garth Wigston – Holden Torana A9X, 147 laps

Pole position: Brock, 2m20.5s

Fastest lap: Brock, 2m21.1s

Henry Hope-Frost

Videos:

1. Hardies Heroes Pole Lap

2. The start of the Great Race

3. The last 3 laps

Also check this cool 8mm moview from the ’79 event here

More feature stories here

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