RIP RACERS: BROCK’S FIRST HDT A9X HATCH

Peter Brock racing his Holden Dealer Team Torana A9X at Symmons Plains in 1978
Peter Brock debuted his first Holden Dealer Team Torana A9X hatch at Round 1 of the 1978 ATCC. Pic: an1images.com

The latest edition of RIP Racers takes a look at one of Peter Brock’s Marlboro Holden Dealer Team Toranas that many may not have missed.

Brock’s success in the HDT’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.

The ‘King of the Mountain’s second period of racing Toranas for the HDT is covered in our upcoming limited-edition book Racing the Lion, a 400-page illustrated history of Holden in motorsport.

Packed with photos never before published, it’s the perfect collector’s piece and can be pre-ordered here.

Brock’s 1978 and 1979 Bathurst-winning HDT A9X hatchbacks, plus the four-door A9X Brock drove to victory in the season-opening Rothmans Series round at Sandown in February 1978 – his return race to the HDT – all survive today.

But what of the car that Brock drove to victory in his first ATCC race back with the factory team?

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 replace the retiring Harry Firth as team manager, 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.

After his first-up win at Sandown in the old four-door A9X, Sheppard’s HDT built Brock his own brand-new A9X hatchback for the ATCC.

Brock’s new A9X is worked on by the HDT crew in the paddock during the 1978 Symmons Plains ATCC round. Pic: an1images.com

This car made its racing debut at the opening round at Symmons Plains in Tasmania on the 5th March 1978 and, in true Brock style, the car won on debut, holding a four second margin to the second-placed Bob Morris and setting a new touring car lap record.

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.

Brock leading in the early stages at Symmons Plains. Moffat, running second, soon retired with engine failure. Pic: an1images.com

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 – the original HDT A9X hatch built for the 1977 enduros – for the remainder of the Amaroo weekend and subsequent rounds at Sandown and Wanneroo, its white grille and black roll-cage making the ex-Harvey car easy to spot.

Harvey was relegated to the team’s old A9X four-door 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 victory in the ’78 ATCC – his second title – and win that year’s Sandown 400 and Bathurst 1000.

Brock leads Morris and Harvey on the parade lap after winning the 1978 Symmons Plains ATCC round. Buy a copy of this photo at an1images.com.

With two wins from two races, the forgotten Brock HDT hatch had a short and illustrious racing life marking the start of a very special period for both driver and team.