Saturday Sleuthing: Brocky's 50th Birthday Commodore

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 21/03/2015
  • By V8 Sleuth

Nextweekend the V8 Supercars Championship heads to Tasmania, to Symmons Plains, so this week on Saturday Sleuthing we thought we'd recall the round there two decades ago when Peter Brock claimed a race victory on his 50th birthday at the same venue.

Then in his second year driving for the Holden Racing Team after a successful return to the factory team the year prior, Brock and the V8 pack arrived in Tasmania for the second round of the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1995.

Race day - Sunday February 26 - just happened to be Brocky's 50th birthday. His rivals stopped on race morning to sing him Happy Birthday - and he even copped a congratulatory letter from Prime Minister Paul Keating!

But once the cars hit the track it was all business and, after hometown hero John Bowe won the first race in his Shell-FAI Falcon, Brock's selection of a set of hard compound Bridgestones played into his hands as he snuck past and sealed the Race 2 victory.

It was a popular win and not the first time a Holden Racing Team driver would claim victory on his birthday given Todd Kelly won Bathurst in 2005 on his birthday too!

Brock's great rival and friend Allan Moffat was also a winner on his 50th birthday too. In November 1989 he claiming victory in the Fuji 500 in Japan and chose to quietly retire after the race.

So what happened to Brock's 50th Birthday Bash Commodore?

Many V8 Supercar fans will remember that HRT cars of the era received nicknames.

This Symmons '95 car (chassis HRT 030) was dubbed 'Beth' and had made its debut the previous year as a VP model at the Sandown 500 in the hands of Brock and Tomas Mezera.

It had received a wide range of pre-race publicity for being something of a 'Supercar' and was the start of a new era of cars being computer designed at HRT.

It was the car Brock crashed in the late stages at Bathurst that year while chasing a 10th win and $100,000 winning bonus.

Upgraded to the new VR body specification for 1995, Brock drove 'Beth' for the majority of the Australian Touring Car Championship that year.

It was the car he was on board at Symmons Plains to win on his 50th birthday and he also turned in a brilliant drive at Mallala to charge from the back of the field after a lap one spin to finish second.

HRT opted to quietly give Brock a new car for the ATCC final at Oran Park in his bid to claim the title but he and fellow title aspirant Glenn Seton were unable to stop Bowe from claiming the championship.

Beth became a spare chassis for the team and did not compete again that season before it was sold at the start of 1996 to privateer John Faulkner for his move from NASCAR racing into five-litre touring cars with backing from Betta Electrical and Fisher & Paykel.

But Brock was involved in a crash with Seton and Mark Skaife in the opening round at Eastern Creek and HRT was forced to borrow back the car from Faulkner for the next round at Sandown to get Brock back on the track.

It was returned to Faulkner's hands after the round and he made his first appearance in the next round by taking part in practice at the Bathurst sprint round before racing properly at Phillip Island.

He instantly became a top-running privateer and impressed all by making the Top 10 Shootout at Bathurst that year with Steve Harrington as co-driver.

Faulkner won the Privateer's Cup in the 1997 ATCC and his results were impressive enough to earn him coveted access to Bridgestone tyres.

1990 Bathurst winner Win Percy joined him for the enduros at Sandown and Bathurst before Faulkner campaigned the car for another season in 1998, this time with Holden Young Lion Todd Kelly making his V8 racing debut in the enduros as co-driver.

Faulkner upgraded to a new VT Commodore for 1999 but retained Beth and it appeared later in the year in a split Warwick Fabrics/Ecko livery for Cameron McConville. A HRT endurance signing, McConville drove the car at Sandown and Queensland Raceway in order to assist with seat time ahead of the enduros before 16-year-old Paul Dumbrell drove it at Symmons Plains to make his V8 Supercars Championship debut - while still in school!

He and Matthew White shared the car in Wynn's livery for the Queensland and Bathurst endurance races before Steven Richards ran it on the Gold Coast at the non-championship event as the Gibson Motorsport team elected to leave its Bathurst-prepared new VT Commodores safe in the workshop.

While Beth's life in the V8 Supercars Championship ended come the end of 1999, the new Konica V8 Lites Series (now V8 Supercars Dunlop Series) kicked into life in 2000 and instantly provided a playground for Brock's old car.

Ryan McLeod drove it as a Kmart Commodore in 2000 in the Konica Series and it then became the Chiko car for the Bathurst 1000 where he teamed with Konica rival Wayne Wakefield. Sadly they were hit out of the race in the early stages under Safety Car.

Faulkner's team retained the car for 2001 and Owen Kelly drove it to fourth place in the Konica Series before it was sold to Milton Seferis.

Victorian Seferis, who has owned a range of historically important Holdens over the year - including Peter Brock's 1979 Bathurst-winning Torana A9X - used the car in a range of Sports Sedan races and it made its last appearance in V8 Supercars in 2003 at Bathurst in the non-championship Konica race.

Seferis retains the car in Melbourne and work has begun to return it to VR specification as Brock raced it with HRT.

Converting it back to its original VP spec and appearance has been deemed too large a job, but not many HRT cars from that era are complete and able to be run on a track - so we'd love to see this car back running soon!

"All the body repairs have been done and it's going to go back soon to Marty Brant at Independent Race Cars to be re-assembled later in the year," Seferis told the V8 Sleuth this week.

"It's going to go back to its VR colours from 1995 from the year Brock won that race on his birthday at Symmons Plains."

'Beth' holds a special place in the hearts of many ex-V8 Supercar mechanics and fans alike. Its racing history spanned nearly a full decade and it started a sequence of highly successful cars from HRT as they embarked on an era of domination of V8 Supercar racing.

Other cars that followed were named Vanessa, Veronica, Gabrielle, Steffi and Mimi but it was Beth that helped Brock take a special 50th birthday win 20 years ago in Tassie in 1995.

Saturday Sleuthing will take a break next weekend as the V8 Supercars head to Symmons Plains but it will be back on Saturday April 4 with some Easter reading - a famous ex-Brock car has re-emerged and we'll bring you the full story on it in a fortnight's time.


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