Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the death of Australian motor racing legend Peter Geoffrey Brock.
‘Brocky’ was killed whilst competing in the Targa West ’06 Rally in Western Australia at the wheel of a Daytona Sportscar.
Having struck a tree while negotiating a left-hand bend during a competitive stage, Brock died instantly while co-driver Mick Hone survived after first being hospitalised with serious injuries.
It was a Friday in September 2006 when the first reports of an incident involving Brock filtered through radio stations across Australia, with early reports simply stating that the ‘King Of The Mountain’ had been involved in a serious collision.
Fans held their breath in the hope that Brocky would pull through, but it wasn’t to be. The King was dead, aged 61.
For Australia, it was another unexpected reminder of the frailty of human life.
Just four days earlier, the country was shocked to learn that ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin had been killed while filming sea life underwater off the coast of Queensland.
As both Irwin and Brock were considered to be more than just ‘experts’ in their respective fields, some expressed difficulty in accepting that each should die while partaking in activities extremely familiar to them.
So close were the deaths of Irwin and Brock and the subsequent memorial services that then-Prime Minister John Howard was only able to attend Irwin’s service in Queensland, with then-Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp representing Mr Howard at Brock’s service.
The outpouring of public grief that followed Brock’s death was to be expected, and included a memorial service at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway along with a state funeral at the city’s St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.
The funeral was a case of standing-room-only for the fortunate members of the public who lined up for hours to get a spot inside the church. Other fans watched on a big screen outside the church or on television around Australia as the service was broadcast live.
Only a few weeks passed after the funeral service before the 2006 Bathurst 1000 got underway with no Peter Brock presence at Mount Panorama for the first time since the 1960s. Even with his on-again-off-again retirement from touring car racing that started in 1997, it seemed Bathurst wasn’t Bathurst without Brock.
The weekend was devoted to Brock and a then-record crowd graced The Mountain.
Peter’s famous race cars took to the track for demonstration laps, driven by various drivers, with ‘special permission’ granted to then-Ford driver Craig Lowndes to pilot Brock’s #28 Holden LJ Torana GTR-XU1 from 1972 - the year Brock won the first of his nine Bathurst touring car endurance crowns.
Grown men were reduced to tears with a simple mentioning of Brock’s name. But even as the weekend played out, fans were again forced to confront the dangers of motorsport when driver Mark Porter was killed as the result of a collision at Reid Park while competing in a support event at Mount Panorama.
While Brock was a resident of Hurstbridge in Victoria for much of his life, it would always be the New South Wales town of Bathurst that would have the strongest connection with the racing icon in the eyes of his fans.
As such, drivers in the annual 1000km touring car event at Mount Panorama have been competing for the ‘Peter Brock Trophy’ since his death in 2006.
The entire track became a memorial to Brock in the weeks following his death. Fans before, during and after the Bathurst 1000 wrote tributes on the racing surface and the concrete walls around the circuit - most notably at Brock’s Skyline which is the highest point reached by the roadway before it begins to descend and is named after Peter Brock to signify his image as ‘King Of The Mountain’.
Holden provided a VZ Commodore road car for fans to decorate with messages for Brock. The car didn’t see the weekend before all available surfaces had been filled.
Despite calls from the public to the contrary, Bathurst City Council announced after the 2006 1000km race that the fan tributes would be removed from the racing surface and that the circuit walls would be repainted.
In their place, Mount Panorama now hosts a statue depicting Peter Brock standing upon his race-winning #05 Group C Holden VK Commodore from 1984.
At this statue today, the Reverend Garry Coleman, brother Phil Brock and others have taken to the microphone to address a memorial service in Peter’s honour. Parked behind them is a collection of Brock’s road cars, and a message from Craig Lowndes has been broadcast on a big screen.
Lowndes said his victory at the 2006 Bathurst 1000 was his greatest motorsport achievement.
The ’84 VK is considered one of Brock’s most memorable race cars. After a brief negotiation fanned by the pending outrage of fans, ready to let loose should the car be anything other than an accurate representation, the statue was allowed to show a depiction of the tobacco sponsorship that the VK carried throughout 1984 despite laws now banning such displays.
On the rear of the statue is a list of Brock’s ten Bathurst endurance crowns. The tenth and final win came at the wheel of a specially-prepared Holden Monaro which competed in the 2003 Bathurst 24-Hour and which Brock shared with drivers Todd Kelly, Greg Murphy and Jason Bright.
While the fans standing below the podium shouted “number ten!” at the conclusion of the 2003 24-Hour race, it seemed something of a consolation prize, knowing at that stage Brock was unlikely to score the elusive tenth victory in the annual touring car enduro (let’s call it the Bathurst 1000 for a 2016 perspective…).
Brock’s record of nine Bathurst 500/1000 crowns still stands today. Next-best is Jim Richards on seven, followed by Mark Skaife, Larry Perkins and Craig Lowndes with six each.
Of the active competitors in the Australian touring car championship, it seems only Lowndes could challenge Brock for the title of ‘King Of The Mountain’ at this stage.
Under the current and enduring format, Brock was the final driver to win the race solo. His famous 1979 domination of the race with co-driver Richards, in which the #05 Torana A9X claimed victory by six laps - leading from start to finish and setting a new lap record on the final lap - is unlikely to ever be bettered.
Away from Bathurst, Brock’s 1979 Repco Trial victory with Noel Richards and Matt Phillip was considered by many to be his greatest racing achievement.
Besides his outstanding motorsport career, Brock was awarded the Member Of The Order Of Australia medal, an Australian Sports medal, and an induction into the V8 Supercars Hall Of Fame among other off-track achievements.
Brock was never usually far from the public eye when he wasn’t competing. His famous #05 racing number (now officially ‘retired’ from Australian motorsport by CAMS) came about in 1975 as part of the ‘Class Driving’ campaign to push for better driving standards and a reduction in alcohol-related road trauma.
In retirement, Brock established a charity called the Peter Brock Foundation.
Brock’s private life also made for headlines at times, with the driver married and divorced twice before meeting long-term partner Beverly Brock (who changed her name as the pair never married). Only months before his death, Brock split with Bev to commence a new relationship with Julie Bamford.
The Holden Dealer Team road car business under Brock’s leadership built cars that were revered at the time, and which are valuable collectables today. But it also brought about the infamous ‘Energy Polariser’, which, among other things, led to the falling out between Brock and Holden in 1987.
It didn’t take long for Brock and Holden to settle their differences however, and Brock was soon back as the main face of the brand from 1991 until his death in 2006. Mobil and Bridgestone were well associated with Brock for much of his career, and Brock was also involved with Ford, Lada, Volvo and others along the way.
Brock was unlikely to have faded into the background following his death, and an ongoing saga over his estate along with his famous name and identity (and all that comes with it) has played out ever since.
Siblings, Brock’s children with mother Bev, Bamford and others often appeared divided over such things as the Peter Brock Foundation, rights to the Brock name for commercial purposes, Brock’s estate, his racing memorabilia (such as trophies) and the belief that three last wills existed for him.
Merchandise has also been an issue following Brock’s death, with plenty of companies (authorised or not) keen to secure a piece of the sales-pie with all manner of prints, posters, model cars, clothing, biscuit tins and much more.
As the tenth anniversary of Brock’s death is marked today, a telemovie will shortly air depicting his life on and off the track.
Bev Brock has previously criticised the movie, stating her fears that the script will focus on the perceived “five percent” aspects of Brock’s life and other rumours that Bev says are “absolute rubbish”.
Despite a television deal coming from several books penned by Bev around Peter’s life, Bev said the production company behind the Brock telemovie set to air this year had acted alone.
The 2016 Bathurst 1000 will relive many of the events from the same weekend in 2006, with all nine of Brock’s race-winning cars expected to be there. The memory of Brock is sure to be a key focus as the weekend plays out.
Will we still be talking about Peter Geoffrey Brock in 2026? All signs point to ‘yes’.
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