Today, 37 years ago, on Sunday July 29, 1979, the Australian Touring Car Championship was decided in favour of Sydney privateer Bob Morris after a classic ‘winner take all’ fight with defending champion, the late Peter Brock, at Adelaide International Raceway.
The two went lap-for-lap, move-for-move, in a classic finish to the 1979 championship that had been dominated by Holden Torana drivers in the wake of Allan Moffat’s Ford Dealer team losing its backing from the ‘blue oval’ at the end of the previous year.
The Adelaide championship finale of that season remains in the history books of the ATCC and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship as one of the finest final races in the history of touring car racing in Australia.
To try and create a parallel with the achievement in today’s modern world, it would be similar to Brad Jones Racing beating Triple Eight for the championship in the last race of the season.
On the one hand back then sat Morris, a privateer driving for Sydney Holden dealer Ron Hodgson. His green #7 Torana A9X had proven more than a match for Brock’s familiar #05 Holden Dealer Team entry throughout the course of the season.
Torana drivers had dominated the entire championship since Brock’s HDT teammate John Harvey won the ’79 season opener at Symmons Plains.
Brock won at Calder, Morris at Oran Park and Sandown and then Brock fought back by winning at Wanneroo and Surfers Paradise.
Coming into the last race the points were evenly poised, Morris in front by five points and riding the momentum of winning the penultimate round at Lakeside in Queensland.
However, under the rules of the period all drivers could drop their worst score of the year, meaning Brock was really just three points behind his 1970 Bathurst co-driver.
Brock, the 1974 and 1978 and therefore defending champion, was aiming for his third championship crown and he started his weekend in style.
He grabbed pole position over Morris by six-tenths of a second, setting up essentially a one-on-one fight for the race win and thus the title.
Morris won the initial start down the long front straight at AIR but Brock swept around to assume command. But pretty soon his Bridgestone tyres started to struggle and Morris seized his opportunity.
“I followed Brock for eight laps until his tyres appeared to go ‘off’,” wrote Morris in his post-race column for Auto Action magazine.
“I was able to pass him at the end of the straight and move away to a small and uncomfortable lead. I had not planned to lead until later in the race but I had to take the opportunity as it may not have had a second chance!
“Midway my tyres started to overheat and Brock once again was on my rear bumper but was unable to pass.
“The last five laps were nerve-wracking because the best of my tyres were gone, then two three-litre cars became entangled on the oval just in front of me and a sump full of engine oil was in the esses – as if Brock was not enough to contend with!”
In the end Morris ran out winner in the 34-lap (82-kilometre) sprint race by just six-tenths of a second, he and the chasing Brock finishing over half a minute in front of the second HDT Torana of John Harvey with the Toranas of Garth Wigston and Gary Cooke rounding out the top five.
The victory for Morris gave him an ATCC crown to add to his memorable Bathurst victory from 1976, where British co-driver John Fitzpatrick limped their ailing Torana L34 to take victory.
His victory on this very day back in 1979 was the result of being sharp, focused and executing to perfection, in the process beating an ‘at the top of his game’ Brock, who would go on to claim the Sandown and Bathurst endurance races to avenge his loss in the championship.
But there was no doubt that Morris was a worthy champion. His 1979 title victory and his Bathurst win remain in the history books forever as the crowning achievements of his touring car career.
Morris retired from motorsport at the end of 1984 and was inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame back in 2004 in the same year as 1967 Bathurst winner Fred Gibson.