Archive: Peter Brock's Bathurst win at Mt Panorama

A9X Peter Brock

First published in the December 1979 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's best car mag since 1953.

In a Wheels exclusive Brocky provided a first-person account about how he claimed his fourth Hardie-Ferodo 1000 victory at Mt Panorama.

The day after he won the Hardie-Ferodo for the fourth time, and the second year in succession, Peter Brock went fishing for a week. Well, almost a week. He had to come back to Sydney on the Wednesday night for the presentation of trophies and prizemoney, and he had to appear in Melbourne on the Friday afternoon to play a role in a GMH film, but his three closest friends, who act as filters and buffers against the demands people make on him, took him into smoke the rest of the time.

The black-eyed Diamond Valley kid had been in the full glare of the spotlight since before the end of the Australian Touring Car Championship, through the Repco, the Sandown Hang Ten 1-2, and now Bathurst. It had been an incredible year, perhaps best expressed by the wife of one of his toughest rivals: "You know, he's amazingly arsey, but by God he drives like a genius."

Before he went fishing, the man who is now the hottest property in Australian sport – of any category – a bare 10 years after he first stepped up to stage centre, told Wheels how he did it:

In Brocky’s own words

They reckoned I didn't have my mind on the job at Adelaide in the last round of the championship, that I was too busy thinking about the Repco, but that wasn't right.

I'm not like that. I guess the two problems were that our car and Bobby's car were very close and he got in front and you can't pass anyone at Adelaide if you don't have the extra grunt. And he was sort of super-determined to beat us because he hadn't won a championship before and I had, and halfway through the race I thought: ''Well, I'm not going to get through him unless I do a terrible desperate and that's not really my style."

I didn't get fully caught up in the Repco until George Shepheard arrived down with the cars mid-week and we all got together for a chat. That was the first time the whole team had had a talk. But I was relaxed, because it was all a bit of a game really.

Bathurst -in -race -interview -podiumI mean, here was I being paid for going like a blur on public roads. I think a lot of people thought my entry was a publicity stunt and they didn't take me seriously. ·

At the start at Melbourne Showgrounds I even brought along my fishing rod and stuck it up on the roof of the car, telling all the press petrol-heads that if I broke down I'd go fishing. It wasn't until we got to Townsville that I thought we could win – but all along I'd been deadly serious about winning. I always am.

After the Repco I took a long time to come down. I used to have nightmares and wake up at strange times and yell like crazy for someone to get out and change a wheel or open a gate.

A few people had warned me about the anti-climax, but what about getting a one-two-three and me winning it!

John Sheppard got a bit tense about it because he felt that the Repco was over and that was terrific, but he couldn't really care a stuff now because his job was to win Sandown and then Bathurst. So he wasn't really 100 percent on me having to do all the appearances and speeches and filming and everything that comes after a big win. There was no lowness, mind you, just a few words to bring me down to the next job in hand.

Sandown? Sandown was a funny race – I don't mean funny ha-ha, I mean it didn't go to plan. It was a bit hectic for the first dozen laps or so, you know, having a bit of the old look inside on corners and "Slug" Harvey back behind me was leaning on Gricey a bit, as I heard later.

After Moffat blew up and left oil all down Pitt Straight I decided there was no need to stay involved in the heavy scene up front, and went back to fourth spot.

Then the old kid went off song. If I put the power on hard it would fluff and carry on, so I had to feed the fuel in gently. Then the others had their problems and Slug and I came home one-two. The really interesting thing was that we didn't change tyres – they changed tyres and wore them out and broke trying to catch us.

A lot of people came up to me afterwards saying things like "Your luck's in" and "When you're hot you're hot" but I don't subscribe to that. When everything's running well and everybody is up to the mark you know you feel good and you're confident and you don't even think of losing. That's how we felt when we went to Bathurst.

Sheppo had worries getting the cars there because the new pantech had electrical problems and the floor buckled … things like that. We couldn't claim sabotage or anything, mind you.

In the first two practice days – Wednesday and Thursday – the cars were spot on … doing it easy. After all this time you get into a routine and you know the things to look for, the things you have to check and test.

Sheppo says it's making sure that all the little things are done, and I think he's right. Anyway, we had no worries.

Chevrolet -Camaros -BathurstThen it got all dark and gloomy on the Friday, just before our 45-minutes timed practice session. We had the usual thing about looking at the sky and talking about whether to put wets on, but the rain was taking its time and when we went out the road was dry.

It started to drizzle on about the second lap. I was up in the first four or five and I thought: "Brockie, you know your way around here; let's try and put in a big one before it gets properly wet."

So I did. Harvey was about eight or 10 cars behind me on the road, and got held up a bit, and didn't get the same chance. It drizzled away steadily for another few laps and we all had to start tippy-toeing a bit, particularly from Skyline down to the Elbow.

A lot of the press guys came up later and told me that Moffat had done two laps with a lot of smoke coming out the back and his last lap had been entirely on the fast line, even down through the esses. I don't know if that's true or not; all I know is that I started seeing rainbows on the bitumen instead of in the sky, and that's when you get right off it.

If he did do a lap without getting off onto the edge of the circuit then he was deliberately ruining practice for everyone else.

There was a lot of confusion afterwards. I was fastest with a 2:26.8 and Gricey, who was close behind me on the road, 2:27.5. Harves was 2:33.9 and Bobby Morris, who definitely doesn't fancy the wet at all, was 12th fastest on 2:35 something … tenth when you took out the two duplicate entries.

Moffat's best was 2:43.0. The organisers used the rule book to say that they accepted the eight fastest for final qualifying and their discretion to put Moffat into the 10, so Harves got bumped out and he went right off.

Mate, he was livid, and so would I have been in his place. I thought it was morally wrong, and I agree with Harves that they did it for the television, not for the race. But Harves copped it sweet.

It fined up for the Saturday top 10 qualifying … who were they? ... Oh, they drew us out of the hat and the order we all went off was Cooke, Charlie O'Brien, Colin, Marvin, Perkins, Dick Johnson, Grice, Rogers, Bobby Morris and me.

I was dead happy to get Number 10 marble – of course I was. Who wouldn't be? You could stand there and listen to the other guys' times and see how the track was and how hard you had to go.

When I got out there Morris had been quickest on 2:23.8 and the track was gritty and a bit slippery because the rain hadn't cleaned off the track – it had just spread a film of grit from all the spectator cars driving around it that morning. So I knew I would be quicker than Bobby on that surface, and I felt good all 2:21.2 – and I wasn’t hurting the car I wasn't using big revs or anything.

Then they all went out again – Bondy had gearbox trouble – and Morris was quickest again with 2:22.4. So I thought: “I’ll have a go at the 100 mph lap – that’s 1:18.8.”

But into the Cutting my foot slipped off the edge of the brake pedal and I had a lose and then down Conrod my packet of Marlboro started slipping up out of my sleeve pocket.

I didn’t want it floating around under the pedals, but you try stuffing a cigarette packet back with thick gloves at 150 mph down Conrod.

Anyway, we got 2:20.5 and pole, which was just a bit slower than last year, and the car was still really strong.

We we got out on the grid the next morning I was feeling really trick, very confident and relaxed. So was Slug. I wanted to drive the old 1969 350 Monaro around on demo laps but they wouldn’t let me, so I didn’t ask anybody again and got in beside Noel Richards, who drove our Repco Commodore around for three laps. He gave it plenty – 200 km/h down the chute and it was like old home week.

I don’t get screwed up before start, just a bit impatient. It took a long while to get us away; maybe it only seemed that way because we started 30 minutes later this year.

I really wanted to do the start right and get out in front because I knew I could run the first laps in around 2:23 and not hurt the car and the others couldn’t.

When I got up to the top of the mountain, with Morris behind me, I could see that the track was just like Saturday – gritty and a bit loose – and I knew then that Bobby couldn’t hang on to me just because doesn’t like the loose stuff. For me it was like a special stage in the Repco.

So I gave the car plenty and told Sheppo over the radio that she was sweet and away we went. If you want the story of the race, that’s it. The car was a dead-set shell. Jim Richards got in it and was there when the little showers came over a few times, but he just ran the laps like clockwork without a moment’s drama.

When he got in the car I went off with Harves to have a shower and a cup of tea and it was then that we heard that Slug’s co-driver Ron Harrop had had a big one going up the mountain.

]Harvey had started getting pad knock-off around about the third lap but worked out a system of giving the pedal two good strokes – like half a hard brake -  and he would have plenty of pedal for the corners. He reckoned the car would finish the race and he got up to second behind me doing that.

He told them all about it in the pits but on Harrop’s fourth lap or somewhere the car wouldn’t stop for Ronnie and he really wrote it off.

Nothing much else happened for us. I knew the Camaros were no problem, and we got a good enough early break on Morris and Grice and Moffat to forget about them unless the car had problems and it showed no signs of that.

Then they had all their problems, and we were six laps clear a long way before the finish.

I first knew Gricey was in trouble when I caught him going down Conrod and from behind I could see his right-hand front wheel pointing out about a foot. I got up alongside and started pointing and making signs and he told me the same way that he knew. Moff stopped out on the circuit, so I knew about that.

When I came down for the last lap I decided I wanted the lap record and would have a go. The car was fine, like a Swiss watch, and even if it stopped up at the top I could bloody-near coast to the bottom and push it home and still win.

So I gave it heaps, mate, heaps, and she gave me 2:21.1, as I found out later, which was a good feeling, because I didn’t have to do a desperate to get it.

Some journo asked me at the presentation whether that was demonstrating my killer instinct, but even if it looked like I was sticking it up to everybody, I wasn’t. It was because it was the last Bathurst for Toranas and I wanted my name in the books.

When I finally got to the Marlboro tent it was jammed for the disco and every now and then the mob would start singing “Up there Cazaly”. That was a bit of aggro for me because Collingwood lost the day before and they really deserved to win.

We went on to dinner, but around nine o’clock I decided to crash. The mechanics carried on till dawn I think, by the look of them at scrutineering the next day, but they earned it. After the Repco and Bathurst you have nothing but admiration for those guys.

Gets boring, doesn’t it?

The result of the of the 1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 was P Brock/J Richards (Marlboro Holden Dealer Team Torana A9X) 6:38.15.8, first.

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