They remain two of the biggest stars in the history of the sport and it was on this day 43 years ago – Sunday June 24, 1973 – that the late Peter Brock and Allan Moffat faced off in a classic Holden and Ford contest at the old Oran Park Raceway in Sydney.
It was a race that ended up bathed in controversy too in the aftermath as the on-track result was changed five days later when it was finally printed as the official results sheets.
Officials excluded Brock’s race-winning Holden Dealer Team XU-1 Torana for oversize manifold castings, elevating Moffat to victory and, thus, into an unbeatable position for the Australian Touring Car Championship with just one round to go.
This was the year of these two motorsport icons fighting for the ATCC in the first year of Group C regulations that replaced the more highly modified cars of previous championship seasons.
These rules also brought into alignment the rulebook under which both the ATCC and the October Bathurst endurance race were contested.
Oran Park hosted the seventh round of that year’s championship with Moffat and Brock the only drivers to have won a race.
Moffat had claimed the first four rounds at Symmons Plains, Calder, Sandown and Wanneroo before Brock broke through for his first-ever ATCC win at Surfers Paradise and backed it up in Adelaide when Moffat’s car was stolen overnight by a joy-rider and he was forced to borrow Murray Carter’s Ford.
Moffat held a solid points lead heading into the Oran Park round but by no means had the championship trophy in safely his keeping with two rounds to go.
His big thumping GT-HO Falcon took pole position on the short Oran Park layout (the longer Grand Prix layout was not yet constructed), two-tenths of a second in front of Brock’s six-cylinder Torana with the similar cars of Bob Morris and Brock’s HDT teammate Colin Bond on row two.
Charger ace Ian Geoghegan lined up fifth alongside Sydney Falcon ace Fred Gibson in a field featuring Falcons, Toranas, Chargers, Escorts, a Mazda RX3, Fiat 128 and even a Mini Clubman GT rounding out the 21 qualifiers.
Moffat’s Ford V8 sent him catapulting into the lead when the signal to start the 40-lap race was given with Morris’ Torana leap-frogging Brock’s front-row starting XU-1 to take up second spot.
Brock soon worked his way by Morris and latched onto the tail of the Falcon, eventually seizing his chance to take the lead with nine laps to go, zapping to the inside when Moffat was delayed trying to put a lap on Paul Gulson’s Fiat over Oran Park’s infamous ‘dog leg’.
Brock crossed the finish line just under two-seconds in front of Moffat to score 13 valuable championship points (nine for winning his class and four for winning outright under the points structure of the time), but post-race scrutineering completely turned the result on its head.
Officials ruled five days later that the manifold castings in Brock’s XU-1 engine were non-standard and booted the #15 Torana from the results, handing victory – and therefore the championship – to Moffat.
Bond – reportedly nursing a sick engine with a broken rocker - was elevated to second in the other HDT Torana from Gibson’s Ford, Morris’ Torana and the privateer XU-1s of Lakis Manticas and Bryan Thomson.
Brock’s Torana wasn’t the only car excluded from the results that day; Graham Ritter (father of former Supercars enduro driver Greg and Sonic Motor Racing team chief Michael) had his Escort Twin Cam wiped from the results sheet when he reportedly refused to allow his car to be scrutineered post-race!
But the result gave Moffat an unassailable lead with one round at go at Warwick Farm in Sydney, thereby handing him his first of four Australian Touring Car Championship crowns.
“After contesting this series for four years now, we have learned that it is points on the board that count in the final analysis,” Moffat wrote in his Auto Action magazine column in the wake of the Oran Park round.
“The Holden Dealer Team chose to play a waiting game, expecting out Falcon to break under the strain.
“By the time they realised that this just wasn’t going to happen it was too late. We had just that too many points scored.
“Those other years of experience really paid off against a team having its first run in the drivers’ series.”
Despite winning plenty of races in his famous Coca-Cola Mustang, the ATCC had eluded Moffat during his glory era of competition with that special car in the preceding years, so victory in 1973 was an especially sweet success.
Later that season he also went on to claim victory in the Bathurst 1000 in the Ford factory team’s new XA GT Falcon, making for a marvellous year for Moffat and ‘blue oval’ fans across the country.