RIP RACERS THE FIRST BROCK HDT A9X HATCH
Published 21 February 2018
A victorious beginning came to a crashing end.
Story: Andrew Frood
Images: AN1 Images (Ian Smith), Autopics
R.I.P Racers is our new series of articles that looks at some of the legendary Aussie racing machinery that was destroyed in action.
The topic of today’s R.I.P racers is a car many may not have missed.
Peter Brock’s success in the Marlboro Holden Dealer Team’s A9X Toranas is well documented and includes victories in the 1978 Australian Touring Car Championship, 1978 Sandown 400 and Bathurst 1000 (with Jim Richards), and 1979 Sandown 400 and Bathurst 1000, amongst others!
Brock’s 1978 and 1979 Bathurst winning HDT A9X hatchbacks remain safely tucked away in the collection of David Bowden, but there was another.
Ford’s crushing 1-2 victory at Bathurst in 1977 forced Holden to refocus its efforts on motor sport and more specifically the HDT.
Hired-gun John Sheppard was brought in to take over the team and favourite son Brock returned to the factory-fold after three years steering his own destiny at Gown-Hindhaugh, Team Brock and Bill Patterson Racing.
The General was getting serious.
It’s the stuff of legend that in 1978 Brock was initially given the oldest Torana in the HDT fleet to race in the season opening Rothmans Series round at Sandown, driving the once L34, upgraded to A9X spec four-door sedan to a stunning victory.
Sheppard’s HDT built Brock his own brand-new A9X hatchback for the Australian Touring Car Championship and this car made its racing debut at the opening round at Symmons Plains in Tasmania on the 5th March 1978.
In true Brock style the car won on debut, holding a four second margin to the second placed car and setting a new lap record for the circuit.
The winning continued for Brock and the new hatch at Oran Park’s Round 2 of the 1978 championship.
Brock defended Allan Moffat’s advances repeatedly during the race until the Ford challenge faded and the hatch recorded another victory, this time with a ten second margin to the second place car.
Two wins from two starts, but that’s sadly where this car’s story ends.
Round 3 of the championship was held at Sydney’s Amaroo Park in early April 1978.
After issues with the set-up of his own Torana, Marlboro HDT team-mate John Harvey took Brock’s #05 hatch out in Friday practice as a point of comparison.
Harvey reportedly got his foot caught in wire mesh that covered the accelerator pedal and had a huge off, hitting the wall at over 100km/h destroying the #05 car.
We’ve never been able to find a photo of the damaged car.
Were you there at Amaroo that day in 1978? If you’ve got any information about the crash or a photo of the remains of the car please share it on our Facebook page here.
Brock took over Harvey’s car for the remainder of the Amaroo weekend and subsequent rounds at Sandown and Wanneroo.
The trainspotters amongst you will be able to pick when Brock is driving Harvey’s older hatch (the original HDT A9X hatch built by Harry Firth) by its white grille and black roll-cage.
Harvey was relegated to the team’s old A9X sedan while a replacement car was built for Brock.
A new hatchback shell was sourced and any salvageable components from the wreck were transferred across and the damaged shell disposed of.
Brock used the replacement car to seal the 78 Championship and take victory at that year’s Sandown 400 and Bathurst 1000.
With two wins from two races the forgotten Brock HDT hatch had a short and illustrious racing life, but was the start of a very special period for both Peter Brock and the Marlboro Holden Dealer Team.
If you enjoyed reading about this car you can read more on the history of each and every one of Peter Brock’s Bathurst cars in the V8 Sleuth’s comprehensive book ‘Cars of The King – Brock at Bathurst 1969-2004’. Order your copy here.