Thirty years ago, Peter Brock and Holden split in controversial circumstances following Brock’s claims around the ‘Energy Polarizer’. Kings of the Mountain. Inside Stories of the Legends of Bathurst by Gordon Lomas sheds new light on the saga with insight from Phil Brock with an exclusive chapter extract in V8X Supercar Magazine issue #102.
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The 1987 Bathurst 1000 was a groundbreaker. It was the first Great Race where the winning car was disqualified. It was also the first and last marathon at the Mountain that was incorporated as a round of the then freshly formed WTCC.
The race was held on 4 October 1987, but the results were declared unofficial, with the winner not being announced until March 1988 – Peter Brock had won his ninth 1000 km race at the Mountain. He would not win the Great Race again.
Brock’s relationship with Holden had fractured due to the wacky Energy Polarizer affair of 1986–87, which led to HDT being starved of funds from the factory and ultimately to Brock’s sacking from Holden. Brock had begun fitting the HDT VL Director with the Polarizer, claiming – with no scientific evidence – that the device would help with fuel efficiency and handling.
It was discredited after being found to be essentially a box containing crystals and magnets with not a skerrick of beneficial properties, and hence it tarnished Brock’s image.
HDT was predominantly fuelled by money from oil giant Mobil, but that money had to stretch across two cars, as per the contract. HDT had to field a second car beside the #05 Commodore for Bathurst. Brock would combine with David Parsons, while the team’s second VL Commodore, #10, was in the hands of Peter McLeod. McLeod was a last-minute stand-in for Neil Crompton, whose competition-licence upgrade had not been completed in time for the event.
If sports betting had been legal in Australia in 1987, HDT’s odds would have been deep into the triple figures – rank outsiders in a field where the big-spending European teams were expected to dominate on a tide of technology and commercial backing.
There was a fleet of European-entered BMW E30 M3s and a three-car effort from Rudi Eggenberger, but only two of the Texaco Ford Sierras would make the start. In stark contrast to the HDT cars, the Eggenberger Sierras were polished, sleek and fast. It seemed the team also had a penchant for stretching the rules.
The HDT #10 Commodore was essentially a Frankenstein effort built from bits here, parts there, and anything the cash-strapped factory team could cobble together. According to Wayne Webster, author of Peter Brock: How Good Is This! The Real Story, slabs of beer had been used as currency to obtain parts from rivals. The #10 Holden was expected to start the race, but with a use-by date sooner than a bottle of milk inside a locked car at the height of summer.
Three-time Le Mans winner Klaus Ludwig took pole position in the #7 Texaco Sierra – the first time a Ford had occupied the prime starting spot in the race since Allan Moffat in an XB Falcon in 1976.
Brock’s run in the #05 Commodore would last just 34 laps before the engine expired. As was permitted at the time, drivers could be cross-entered, and Brock and Parsons promptly moved to the second car. The rearranging of the HDT deckchairs meant that Jon Crooke, the co-driver of the #10 Commodore, would spectate for the day.
In a mighty effort Brock hustled the ‘bitzer’ Commodore around with tremendous determination. Rivals, including some of the international raiders, were dropping like ninepins – so much so that at the end of the race, 21 cars had failed to go the distance. Brock managed to lift the #10 Commodore to third position as the ‘winning’ Texaco Sierra of Steve Soper and Pierre Dieudonné crossed the line in first, ahead of the second Sierra of Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwiedz. Soper and Dieudonné blitzed the field to complete 161 laps, two tours ahead of Ludwig and Niedzwiedz, while the Brock/ McLeod/Parsons machine was three laps down.
Talk quickly swirled around the paddock that the Sierras were illegal. After a frightfully slow appeals process, a decision was finally handed down six months later that both the first- and second-placed Sierras were deemed to have been running illegal wheel arches in a bid to run taller tyres. They were duly disqualified. Brock had literally beaten the best the WTCC could serve up at Bathurst, and with almost two hands tied behind his back because of the bitter split with Holden.
There were myriad backstories to the ’87 1000. With regard to the Energy Polarizer, Phil Brock claims that all the talk about it was a diversionary tactic by Holden.
“I believe the polarizer was a smokescreen to enable Holden to gain control of Peter’s HDT Special Vehicles operation. Holden had decided in 1986 and maybe a touch before that they wanted that part of the business. As a racer, Peter was Holden’s golden-haired boy. He was doing strong business with the performance side of the road-car business and Holden suddenly realised they wanted it as their own. Peter said he would never sell and stood firm, so after that Holden decided on payback.”
Chapter extract from Kings of the Mountain. Inside Stories of the Legends of Bathurst. By Gordon Lomas. Published by Penguin Random House Australia.
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