Tribute to a King... Brock-05

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Tribute to a King... Brock-05

Postby Gordon Hayes » Mon Sep 11, 2006 3:39 am

Phillip Island Victoria, January 28th 1968...

I am 11 years old and standing on top of an old esky, I'm leaning forward over a wire fence straining to see who will appear first around the distant corner.

Along with my older brother and father we are at the annual Phillip Island Auto racing club race meeting. The motor race meeting was a favourite activity of the summer school holidays. I loved watching the cars and to the 11 year old me it was all excitement, colour, speed, noise and just plain great fun. I looked upon the guy's who drove race cars like they were latter day gladiators, heroes all, young men who walked 10 feet tall.

But back to the race, my young eyes are still focusing intently on the far corner, distant engine sounds are building in volume as the distinctive sound of unmuffled race engines howled across the grassland and then onward and outward into the face of the mighty Pacific Ocean that lay beyond.

Two cars come belting around the corner, but I do not notice them much because just behind came a Mini cooper "S" and there right beside the mini and on the outside of the corner, running right into the "marbles" (the dirty and dangerous side of the race tack) swept a similar size car. Driving at the limit was a blue Austin A30, the small A30 blows up dust and circuit dirt as all 4 wheels break loose into a precarious slide, but the small car is not out of control, instead it has all 4 wheels skating across the surface in a glorious precision 4 wheel drifting slide. The crowd gasp just as the small car catches lateral traction right on the border between track and grass, the summer holiday crowd are all now a single entity leaning across the fence and all are realising that they had just become witness to the brilliant car control of a marvellous young master. The small ungainly car that was almost as wide as it was long pulls back onto a straight course and spears up past the long Phillip Island pit lane, in no time the car was before me and then in almost the same instant it flew past the checked flag to finish third.

The young driver had his name on the side of the car ... it stated simply "Peter Brock".

I was a kid but I clearly thought "what a driver... that 4 wheel slide... amazing... wow that was just incredible..." I was as excited as only an 11 year old boy can be, because after all ... I had just seen a genuine hero in action.

Peter Brock back then was a young Melbourne man. But a man who had so loved motor sport that he had constructed and converted virtually in his back yard the humble Austin A30 shopping trolley into a serious racing machine. The small car carried an incredible set of weird and wide running board flares, because Brock had no access to the technology required to shorten the Holden axles Brock had adapted big wheel arch flares in order to keep the car "legal " for racing. Further more Brock had removed the wheezy Austin 4 cylinder motor and shoehorned in a potent Holden six cylinder engine. The young Peter Brock was already well aware that the best way to make a car go fast was to have a lot of power and not much weight. It is THE motor racing axiom that is still true today.

The Austin A30 was a car that only ever Brock was to master, as Peter Brock moved forward the Austin was sold through a secession of owners yet none were able to understand how the small and almost impossible to drive car had gone so fast.

Fast forward 29 years... it is the late 1990's.

Now I am in my 40's but still an avid motor-sport fan, now I have moved across the country to live in Perth so I am at Perth's Wanneroo race way. In my hands I have a poster of Peter Brock and Larry Perkins standing alongside the 956 Porsche they had raced at Le-Mans back in 1984. I am looking to get both Peters and Larry's signature onto the poster so I could frame it. Peter Brock was now in the twilight of his stellar career, but he had done it all, 9 times winner at Bathurst, and 9 times winner of the Sandown 500 endurance race. Three times Australian touring car champion. It had been a career that had spanned many era's of motor sport from the early Holden Monaro's, to the giant killing XU1 Toranas, the fast but fragile SLR5000's, to the awesome and legendary A9X hatch backs. It was the A9X of 1979 would become Brocks signature race car because it was the car that gave Brock his greatest Bathurst win of all. Then came the Group C cars, horrendously fast machines with big wheels and bigger flares, ferocious looking race cars equipped with deep wind spoilers and powerful V8 engines. To Group "A" and the era of fearsome turbo charged Sierra's, and finally the current V8 Supercar era comprising of 600 horse power purpose built race cars that can reach close to 300 KPH down the famous conrod straight at Bathurst..

Through all the years Peter Brock had mastered each and every one.

Now I saw Peter Brock strangely alone and walking across the quite Friday afternoon pit area of Wanneroo raceway, I start to move toward him and suddenly I am 11 years old again, I realise that gosh I am almost too frightened to ask him to sign my picture. Frozen to the spot I am thinking this is stupid I am an adult I have a lot of miles in. I have had both success and failure in my life there is water under the bridge. As an athlete I raced alongside National and even world champions I was never ever daunted or intimidated. Yet here I was wondering how to approach an idol of my childhood.

I took the plunge.

"Hey Peter I have a picture for you to sign" I held out my poster and my felt pen but Peter already had a felt pen.

Peter looks at the poster "Ho Ho 1984 and the 956 Porsche what a machine that was" then he added opening his eyes wide in mock fear "400 kph along Mulsanne straight, wow it was the best thing... just a great race car". Peter signs my picture then moves to walk away.

Just as he turns to leave I say, "I grew up watching you at Phillip Island along with Richard Knight, Ted Brewster, Peter Woodward, Lionel Ayres, Bevan Gibson". These were names from a long distant time and names that only some one who had been there could have so easily rattled off. Peter turned back to look at me and then spoke again. "That was a while back" and I added "yea it was Peter... you raced the A30".

Peter laughed a bit "What a little beast that car was! You know my son is restoring that little car, (in fact he built a replica) we are taking it up to Bathurst this year to be part of the celebrations".

And so the conversation went on, Peter recalled the racing at Phillip Island so long ago, and like me, the names I had mentioned were not names he had heard much in the recent years. He remembered fondly Phillip Island and his early years in the sport. And after an all to fast few minutes had past I congratulated Peter on his magnificent career and let the conversation end. In spite of Peter's relaxed conversation and very at ease "I am in no rush" style, I personally was still struggling with the fact that I was talking to a motor sport God.

After the meeting with Peter I had a great day at Wanneroo, it WAS like being a kid again... walking the pit area and looking at the immaculate and very professional race cars, then I took my picture home, I put my Peter Brock signed picture into a frame and proudly hung it on the wall.

Fast forward a few more years... it is about 2005.

Peter has now long retired from motorsport but to keep him occupied in his retirement Peter has been... what a surprise ... competing in motorsport! Well I suppose it was at least "lesser" motorsport because so great was Peters skill and so eternal his popularity that he had been sailing through his retirement by doing all kinds of "fun" events.

He would turn up in the UK at the Goodwood speed festival and you would read of him capturing the English fans with his sparkling form as he punted his 1984 day glow V8 commodore up the Goodwood hill climb course. Then next he would appear in a desert race someplace, and then he would turn up at the Targa Tasmania, then another place, then another place. Where ever there was motor sport there was Peter, living the dream, living with his passion and telling the world to do the very same with their lives.

By this time I had seen Peter many times at Wanneroo, he would be the driver with the line of fans encircling him, and endless parade of posters, small cars, clothing, and books for him to sign. Yet each trinket was carefully signed and handed back to its smiling owner.

Go forward again.

Now... It is September the 8th 2006.

At 8:30 in the morning I had a tooth filled and it was a staggering epic to get the tooth to go numb so I was filled with anaesthetic. After my poor tooth had been murdered I trudged back to work. By late morning the anaesthetic was dispersing and I felt worse so by about 12:00 and feeling very second hand I went home for the afternoon.

Two painkillers later I was settling into the couch, just about then I got a phone call from my wife... She asked if I had heard any news, I said no... then she added that Peter Brock had just been killed, my blood ran cold.

I did not so much speak as I thought...

WHAT?? No... no ... not....Peter Brock..... When do I wake up...? Brock is immortal... a poet of a driver... a legend... This can't happen, hero's live forever, they do not... THEY DO NOT get killed in some good fun motorsport event that is more of a game to them than a race.

Gosh in the 1980's the man raced the big 956 Porsche ground effect cars reaching 400 KPH in the dark at Le-Mans... Mr Dead was sitting right in his pocket back in those days, but no longer... not now... how can I be told that for Peter Brock it has all ended, at less than 100 KPH... and just out of Perth?

Then another thought hit me .... Right now... today... Australiana is dying before my eyes... Steve Irwin first and now Peter Brock... in these last few days a part of Australia ... A part of what we are... a part of our culture both here and across the world... has died, and it is gone forever. To me it feels like some big chunk of Australia has split off the land mass. And in that instant Australia felt very empty.

I put the phone down and fall back into the couch... In my minds eye two images are strongest, moments frozen forever in time. They are the A30 coming onto the front straight Phillip Island so long ago, and the TV image of the mighty A9X lifting both inner wheels as it powered through the Bathurst dipper on that last record breaking lap of 1979, Gosh Brocky 6 laps in front and you break the lap record on the very last lap what a superlative race, day, driver, car ...

And that last brilliant breathtaking A9X last lap of 1979 Brocky ... indeed a lap of the Gods.

For those like me whose life's co-existed in time with Peter Brock, and also the many, many others who picked up and followed him through the years... Well... against that tree on that road we each and all died just a little bit.

At times in our lives we witness great sporting events, then with the passing of time the memory of the day fades. But with the fading memory the event once witnessed undertakes a magical journey as it transforms from a memory into a legend.

(I am crying as I write) Long live the legend of "Brocky" and 05.

Rest in Peace... Peter Geoffrey Brock.


From OZ

Gordon Hayes
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Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2000 6:09 pm

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