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Thread: Peter Brock's retirement from Bathurst, 1974

  1. #1

    Peter Brock's retirement from Bathurst, 1974

    This was the race John Goss and Kevin Bartlett won. Dreadfully wet in parts, Bob Forbes and Wayne Negus were the other top contenders at the finish.

    But early on the Holden Dealer Team L34s of Peter Brock and Colin Bond had looked invincible. Until Bond pitted with oil leaks of a major nature (I think it was said that the sump had come loose...) and Brock was left to go solo with a 6-lap lead.

    But a lap and a half after Brock's pit stop he also suffered smoke pouring from the back of his car. A piston was holed and his race was run.

    Why?

    The engine was built by Ian Tate, the team was being run by Harry Firth, Brock had just won the Australian Touring Car Championship, scoring points firstly with the XU-1 and latterly in the V8-powered car. When the enduros came along there were weak links shown in the cars and Sandown saw lots of Holden V8s pouring smoke out on the straights. An electric-pump fed semi-dry sump arrangement was 'homologated' for the cars.

    And so on to Bathurst. Brock was the crowd favourite, they loved him and had done so since his 1972 win when he defeated the V8 Falcons with the little Torana. In 1973 they had ridden with him and agonised with him as he lost his substantial advantage when Doug Chivas pulled in too tight out of Murrays Corner and so washed off too much speed to coast right into the pits.

    Now they had him in the box seat again. The Touring Car Champion was in total command of what was potentially his second Bathurst win. Until half-way up the mountain the second time after his pit stop.

    Back in Melbourne after the race, Tate pulled down the engine to see if he could see what had happened. In the GM-H boardrooms there was no pleasure to be found as Ford had won. Phil Irving was also called in to look over the engine.

    "Detonation!" he told Tate.

    "But what could have caused it?" Ian replied.

    "I simply don't know..." was Irving's retort.

    But there is another side to this story. In 1973 Brock had become engaged to Karen McPherson. His first wife, Heather, had left him about 18 months earlier and was now with Bob Watson. McPherson, strangely enough, had no intention of marrying Peter. "I did it to get the ring," she said at the time.

    She wasn't the only woman in Peter's life at the time, either. The present long-time wife of a former driver and team owner had been with Brock on his trips to Sydney until the final Warwick Farm meeting, when Karen decided to enter her Torana for that meeting... "Just to come between them."

    And then came Michelle Downes. She was a Miss Australia, glamorous and in the public eye as a weather presenter on Melbourne television. Peter married her, but the marriage soon collapsed and it was publicly evident that Peter was not the perfect husband.

    In these circumstances, the GM-H executives with one eye on the team's racing successes, one on potential sales they fostered, and both on the public's view of their Firth-groomed star driver and the turmoil of his personal life, wanted him off the Dealer Team.

    But how? He had just brought home the ATCC for them, he'd won Bathurst in 1972 for them, he was acclaimed by the public and presented a very good image in TV interviews and public appearances.

    However, if he could be seen to throw away a certain win at Bathurst, wouldn't there be ample justification for him to not be offered a contract for 1975?

    Did Harry Firth make sure that happened without his most loyal crew members ever knowing?
    Last edited by Ray Bell; 06-18-2019 at 08:40 PM.

  2. #2
    I'm rather disappointed that nobody has commented on this...

    Does anyone have any suggestions of anything Firth could have dropped into a fuel churn to cause it?

  3. #3
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Bell View Post
    I'm rather disappointed that nobody has commented on this...

    Does anyone have any suggestions of anything Firth could have dropped into a fuel churn to cause it?
    Have the Chevron book on Harry and Brock - must check it out - may have an answer Ray !!

  4. #4
    I don't think it will be in a book...

    Harry said publicly that he was sorry to see Peter go, and remember that the next year started with him without a drive, but he was under instructions to get rid of him.

  5. #5
    Someone once said given the choice between a stuff-up and a conspiracy go for the stuff-up every time. Why not put this 'theory' to Ian Tate now. He is still very accessible and I'm sure his reply would be worth reading. As an aside, he would actually be a great subject for a biography in his own right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Bell View Post
    I don't think it will be in a book...

    Harry said publicly that he was sorry to see Peter go, and remember that the next year started with him without a drive, but he was under instructions to get rid of him.

  6. #6
    I got all my information from Ian Tate, naturally enough. He told me about Phil Irving's view of it, it was he who called Phil in to look at the engine.

    Certainly, Harry was still alive when Ian told me these things, so that might change how much he's prepared to say about it now.

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