Saturday Sleuthing: Brock's First HRT Winner

  • 16/08/2014
  • By V8 Sleuth
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Todayon Saturday Sleuthing we're building up to next weekend's Sydney Motorsport Park 400 by profiling a car that was driven to a very special victory at the track 20 years ago.

This week's featured car is Peter Brock's Holden Racing Team VP Commodore, which the great man clean swept the weekend with back in 1994.

Back then, the circuit was known by its original name of Eastern Creek Raceway and it was the scene of a vintage Brock performance.

He qualified on pole position and led Mark Skaife and Wayne Gardner away when the lights went out in Race 1 before driving away to a convincing and hugely popular victory.

In Race 2, Brock out-dragged Skaife into Turn 1 and once again went on to control the race, this time heading home Alan Jones who was a lone Ford driver among the front-running Holdens.

It was a historic result for a number of reasons. Brock, who was 49 at the time, was nearing the twilight of his career and the round win at Eastern Creek was his first in four years, his first in a Holden since he won at Surfers Paradise way back in 1986 and the first ever for the Holden Racing Team.

The car he drove that day is our featured car today and actually started its life three years earlier, when it was built by HRT as a Group A VN Commodore ahead of the 1991 Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst.

Percy, Bathurst 1991

Allan Grice and Win Percy drove it to an excellent second place on debut behind the mighty Nissan GT-R of Skaife and Jim Richards. Percy also drove it in the end-of-season support races at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide.

What races this car contested during 1992 is a little hazy, but from our research we presume it was Tomas Mezera's #61 car, possibly during pre-season testing and possible the Sandown round (this was a year where HRT did only a handful of Championship rounds).

Our V8 Sleuth suspects this car became a test mule upgraded to winged VP specification later in 1992 that formed the basis of the cars that would race in the endurance events later that year before their full-time introduction the following season.

It laid dormant in 1993 as a spare, but would be pressed back into service for 1994 after two of HRT's other VPs were badly damaged - Mezera wrote one off in testing and Percy crashed heavily at Bathurst in 1993 (a car which we still believe has somehow disappeared into thin air), while another was sold to a privateer in Western Australia.

Our feature car today became Brock's #05 for the 1994 ATCC where he finished third overall in his return season in the factory fold, and was then numbered #015 for Sandown and Bathurst with Brad Jones and a young debutante named Craig Lowndes sharing the driving duties.

Lowndes, Bathurst 1994

Lowndes turned heads at Sandown when he was the fastest of the four HRT drivers during the race, while history showed this car finished a stunning second at Bathurst when Lowndes took the fight to John Bowe in the race's closing stages.

While Lowndes created the headlines at Bathurst '94, the hard work was done by teammate Jones who hauled the car through the field during his stints after Lowndes had crashed it in the morning warm-up and later had a spin - unseen by TV cameras - at the top of the Mountain mid-race.

Mezera drove this car in the Grand Prix support race at Adelaide in 1994 before it was updated to VR specification and became the expat Czech's car for the opening rounds of the 1995 ATCC.

Mezera, Bathurst 1995

A new car was debuted in Round 4 at Phillip Island but Mezera crashed it heavily in the wet, and so this chassis was recalled for a few more rounds while the new car was repaired.

During 1995 the car was sold to Peter McLeod - one of Brock's 1987 Bathurst winning co-drivers - who pulled most of the HRT and Harrop-built mechanicals out of it and replaced them with the internals of an ex-GIO Racing VP Commodore purchased from privateer Stuart McColl.

McLeod and his son Ryan teamed up for the 1995 Bathurst 1000 with backing from Enzed but failed to complete a lap when the car broke a tailshaft on the starting grid.

McLeod, Bathurst 1995

McLeod Snr then ran it in the Grand Prix support event at Adelaide and one-off Peter Brock Classic event at Calder. He returned in 1996 for a handful of ATCC rounds and Bathurst, where Ryan partnered him again.

It was sold to Simon Emerzidis in 1997, who raced it in selected rounds of the privateer-based AMSCAR Series, while Garry Willmington and Bill Sieders drove it at Bathurst.

Willmington and Emerzidis shared this car during the ATCC in 1998, with Willmington being involved in a multi-car accident at Sandown that broke a photographer's leg when the Commodore struck a guardrail on the main straight.

Emerzidis, Oran Park 1998

Emerzidis parked this car midway through 1998 after securing an ex-Glenn Seton Racing Falcon, but the Commodore reappeared at Phillip Island in 1999 with Willmington driving. This was the car's last race in V8 Supercar competition.

Willmington, Phillip Island 1999

It was later sold and spent time as a ride car at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway in the early 2000s.

We understand that the chassis still exists in Melbourne, but has been heavily modified from how it was during its time at HRT and is a long, long way from the specification in which it raced in 1994.

It's a car that had a long racing life, racing in no less than four different Commodore guises over time (VN, VP, VR, VS).

This car might not have won the races or Championships that its HRT successors did, but as a twice Bathurst runner-up, HRT's first ever Championship round winner and a pivotal car in the career of Craig Lowndes, it is definitely a significant car in the history of Holden's factory team.

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Saturday Sleuthing takes a break next weekend for the Sydney Motorsport Park 400 but will return on August 30 with a very special story on a famous Nissan car of the 1980s.

If you have a suggestion for a car story, some information or want to give some feedback, contact the V8 Sleuth via the following methods:

Email: aaron@v8sleuth.com.au
Twitter: http://twitter.com/v8sleuth
Facebook: www.facebook.com/v8sleuth
To visit the V8 Sleuth's website: www.v8sleuth.com.au

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