On this day: Peter Brock's first Championship win

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/05/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

PeterBrock holds a permanent place in the history books of Australian motorsport and today, May 20, is a special date in his career not many people will have stopped to realise.

It was on this day, 42 years ago in 1973, that the Brock won his very first Australian Touring Car Championship race at the now defunct Surfers Paradise Raceway in Queensland.

Brock's first win came in his first season of contesting the ATCC under the hand of the late Harry Firth with the Holden Dealer Team.

He'd won the Bathurst 500 the previous October but things had changed in Aussie touring car racing for the 1973 season with the creation of what became known as 'Group C' rules.

Previously heavily modified 'Improved Production' cars like Bob Jane's Camaro and Allan Moffat's Mustang contested the ATCC, leaving Bathurst and the long distance races to more standard 'Series Production' vehicles.

The rule books were amalgamated as the Group C rulebook for '73, meaning Brock was contesting the ATCC for the very first time after a one-off round start at Calder the previous year.

Head-to-head with Ford star Allan Moffat's Phase III GT-HO Falcon, Brock had finished runner-up in the opening round at Symmons Plains and then a few rounds later at Wanneroo in Perth.

Round five came in May and was held at Surfers Paradise International Raceway, a 3.219-kilometre circuit notoriously hard on tyres and with a very high average speed - not to mention its tendency to flood and often cause race meetings to be postponed!

The circuit formed a big part of Aussie touring car racing history in the 1970s and early 1980s before being closed in 1987 and destroyed in 2003. Its former site is where the Emerald Lakes canal estate now sits on the Gold Coast.

But in 1973 it saw Brock nail pole position, taking advantage of some special Bridgestone tyres recently-imported from Japan to lap nearly two-seconds faster than local Torana privateer Dick Johnson (who would achieve fame some years later driving Fords!) and Moffat's Falcon.

The three cars shared the front row of the grid given the old Surfers Paradise circuit regularly lined cars up for the start in a 3-2-3 formation.

In those days the on-track racing program was packed with multiple races and the ATCC cars took part in a five-lap preliminary 'warm up' race which Brock won over Moffat and Ian Geoghegan's Charger.

Moffat took the lead early in the 24-lap championship race, using the power of his Ford V8 to lead Geoghegan, Brock, Johnson and Fred Gibson's Falcon GT-HO.

Brock tried to pick off Geoghegan quickly but slipped off the road after a touch with John Goss' Falcon XA GT and dropped three spots as Johnson, Gibson and John French (Bryan Byrt-backed Falcon) slipped by.

The young Holden gun was then forced to mount a comeback mission. He was helped by French heading to the pits before he picked off Johnson and Gibson to take third position.

Moffat had been undefeated in the first four rounds of the championship that year, so the Surfers crowd was keen to see him toppled with plenty of cheering for the chasing pack.

Geoghegan waved Brock by into second place and from that point on it was a private fight between the two greats, Moffat and Brock.

Lights showers hit the circuit and the two traded places more often than they did laps. In fact, Racing Car News magazine reporter Des White reported in his account of the race that they changed the lead 12 times in seven laps!

By the time lap 17 arrived Brock got by Moffat under brakes and was never headed with the Falcon driver having a spin in his pursuit - similar to the circumstances in which their dice at Bathurst in 1972 ended!

Brock crossed the line 12.1s clear of Geoghegan with Moffat third from Gibson, Goss, Johnson (who was crowned Queensland Touring Car Champion for '73 by being first Queenslander across the line) and Murray Carter.

While his win the previous year at Bathurst was considered his major break-through, Brock's win at Surfers on this day 42 years ago opened up his account in terms of the ATCC.

He won the next round at Adelaide International Raceway, was excluded from victory at Oran Park for his HDT Torana having an oversized exhaust manifold and won the final round at Warwick Farm (the last ATCC race held at the Sydney horse racing venue).

Moffat scored enough points to claim the championship, though Brock returned in 1974 to claim the first of three ATCC crowns.

He'd go on to win a total of 48 ATCC/V8SC races with 19 of them coming aboard Holden Toranas and six of those in the six-cylinder XU-1 model in which he really made his name.

But it was on this day, May 20, in 1973 that Brock won his first ATCC race and provided him with added momentum in his inaugural championship chase.

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