On 8 September 2006, motor racing champion Peter Brock died in a race in Perth. He was often known as “Peter Perfect”, “The King of the Mountain”, or simply “Brocky”.
Peter Geoffrey Brock AM was born on 26 February 1945 at the Epworth Hospital, Richmond, Victoria, the son of Geoff and Ruth Brock (née Laidlay).
The family lived in the country town of Hurstbridge (now an outer suburb of Melbourne) and Brock continued to live there throughout his life. He attended Eltham High School in Eltham, Victoria.
His first car was an Austin 7 that he bought for £5 (A$10). He claimed that his driving skill improved at this point of his life because the car did not have brakes (or a body, which was removed with his mother’s axe).
Brock was drafted into the Australian Army in 1965 and spent his two years of National Service stationed at the Blamey Barracks near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. During his time in the army, Brock was against the Federal Government’s plan to send conscripts to Vietnam.
Brock was in the Medical Corps where he often served as an ambulance driver. According to his brother Lewis, Brock and his mates used to race the ambulances around the base.
Although they did not know each other at the time, also stationed at the Barracks from 1965 to 1967 was a young Dick Johnson who from the 1980s would go on to be one of Brock’s chief touring car rivals.
It was while on leave from the army in 1966 that Brock first visited Bathurst to watch the 500-mile production car race that was to become the Bathurst 1000. It was after watching the race that he decided that he wanted to become a race driver when he left the army.
His brother Phil also became a racing driver, and co-drove with his brother in the Bathurst 1000 on two occasions.
Brock was most often associated with Holden for almost 40 years, although he raced vehicles of other manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Volvo, Porsche and Peugeot. He won the Bathurst 1000 endurance race nine times, the Sandown 500 touring car race nine times, the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, the Bathurst 24 Hour once and was inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall of Fame in 2001.
Brock’s business activities included the Holden Dealer Team (HDT) that produced Brock’s racing machines as well as a number of modified high-performance road versions of his racing cars.
Brock married Heather Russell in 1967. The marriage ended in divorce two years later.
Several years later, Brock met 1973 Miss Australia pageant winner and Channel Seven weather presenter Michelle Downes. They married in April 1974 and divorced after only one year. In 2006, Downes said Brock assaulted her on a number of occasions, and forced her to have an abortion.
Brock next entered into a relationship with Beverly “Bev” McIntosh, the wife of a member of his motor racing team. After two failed marriages Brock was hesitant to marry McIntosh and although the couple never married, Peter always called Bev his “wife”, and she changed her surname to Brock by deed poll.
They had two children together, Robert and Alexandra. Her oldest, James, is Bev’s son from a previous marriage. Bev wrote Peter’s biography herself in 2004 after finding most potential authors had incorrect preconceived notions about him.
She also expressed a desire to show his human side, to encourage others that they, too, can achieve their goals. “Even Allan Moffat said it’s okay for him—it’s us mortals that have the problem,” she said. Bev described Brock as an imperfect but never violent man.
Brock split with Bev in May 2005 after 28 years together. Alexandra gave birth to their grandson Oliver on 28 June 2006, two months before Brock’s death. According to Bev, Brock was not an entirely faithful partner. She has described in a book her eventual tiring in the early 1990s of his relationships with “one too many secretaries”.
After splitting with Bev, Peter began a relationship with Julie Bamford, whom he had met through his former partner Bev some 20 years previously. Subsequently, Bamford’s estranged husband Ron McCurdy, who had once been a close friend of Brock’s, assaulted Brock during a chance meeting outside the Peter Brock Foundation’s office.
Brock, who lived hard in his early years, changed his lifestyle considerably after the failed 1984 Le Mans attempt left him physically and emotionally drained.
After his return from Le Mans, Brock began to consult Melbourne-based chiropractor Eric Dowker. He gave up alcohol and cigarettes and became a vegetarian, 5 years after that he became a vegan. Eventually he returned to being a vegetarian.
On 8 September 2006, while driving in the Targa West ’06 rally, Brock was 3 kilometres from the finish of the second stage of the race at Gidgegannup, about 40 km from Perth, Western Australia, when he skidded off a downhill left-hand bend on Clenton Road for over 50 metres in his 2001 Daytona Sportscar and hit a tree sideways, in the driver’s door.
The 61-year-old Brock died within a couple of minutes of the impact. His co-driver, Mick Hone, was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition. Video footage of the crash (provided by a fan and the in-car camera) was reviewed by Western Australian police to help determine the cause of the accident.
Coroner Alastair Hope decided that his death was caused by high speed and that no coronial inquest would be performed. The video has never been released to the public.
Brock’s children accepted the offer of a Victorian state funeral, with former partner Bev telling ABC Radio: “[Brock] was loved. He was in the public eye, and everything had to be done with a flourish and with a bang. It’s probably the way he would want to go out (and how), he would want to be remembered.”
The editor of Wheels Magazine, Ged Bulmer, said that Brock would be remembered for his nine victories at Bathurst, for “He had a long and very successful career there, he was the ‘King of the Mountain’ as he came to be known.
Brock was farewelled with a state funeral at Melbourne’s St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, on 19 September 2006. A permanent memorial was placed at Peter Brock’s “home” raceway, Sandown Raceway, on 22 September.