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HomeNewsBathurstThe untold story behind the famous Dick Johnson Bathurst 'rock' photo

The untold story behind the famous Dick Johnson Bathurst ‘rock’ photo

DICK Johnson’s collision with an errant rock in the 1980 Bathurst 1000 launched the Queensland Ford battler onto the national stage in a way that winning the race would have never done.

The accident that destroyed his Falcon XD’s chances of winning the ‘Great Race’ is the stuff of folklore and essentially launched DJ’s career to the next level.

Now, as Dick Johnson Racing prepares for its 1000th championship race at the Repco Bathurst 1000, V8 Sleuth has tracked down Jill Graham, who took the famous photo and the subsequent images of Dick’s accident 42 years ago.

Then Jill Middleton, she was trackside and just happened to have made her way to the trackside fence to take some photos when an iconic ‘Great Race’ moment unfolded in front of her very eyes.

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“My family had friends in Bathurst and as kids we spent many an Easter and long weekend at Mount Panorama,” Jill told V8 Sleuth this week.

“As adults, we continued to visit but not nearly as often. But we did in 1980.

“As circumstances would have it, on that day (race day in 1980), my leg was in plaster, and I was on crutches as a result of a ski accident in Thredbo a few weeks earlier.

“Three of us were sitting in our usual spot (near the Cutting) … it was never crowded as other places around the track were.

“I decided it was time for a few closer pics, essentially of Dick as he came around. So, with the trusty Nikkormat around my neck, I carefully made my way down to the fence, leant my crutches against the fence and watched as Dick’s car went down Conrod.

“Then, I readied myself. I glimpsed the car through the bushes in the Cutting. So, I was ready as he emerged.”

What Jill captured next is one of the most famous moments in Bathurst ‘Great Race’ history as Johnson’s Tru-Blu Falcon XD smashed into the concrete retaining wall to the Queenslander’s left.

“It was a quick click. In reality, it was timing and a coincidence for the first photo. It was after I took the first shot that I quickly wound the film on for the next pic.

“I hung around at the fence for a while as the truck arrived and took the car away. Then, I struggled back to my friends and told them I got pics of it all. Their response was ‘sure, sure’.

“Back in Sydney next day, I took my film to a place that develops in an hour. Sure enough, I rang the SMH (Sydney Morning Herald newspaper) and they weren’t interested. It was old news. I approached ‘Modern Motor’. So the pics were forwarded to them.

“That’s it in a nutshell.”

Jill’s photos of Johnson’s rock collision are the only photos taken of the accident as it unfolded.

Channel 7’s cameras did capture an element of the accident – a shot from far away showed the Falcon climbing the concrete wall that was replayed into the coverage – however Jill’s photos are the only ones of the accident as it unfolded.

She did manage to catch up with Dick at a V8Race drive day at Sandown years later and got him to sign a copy of the famous photo, stepping in with the three-time Bathurst 1000 winner for some hot laps as well. Jill handed over the original 6 x 4 prints of the accident to Dick at the next V8Race event at Mount Panorama too, “where they belong”, she says.

She’ll be tuned in today to watch the Repco Bathurst 1000 with husband James from their home in Forster as Johnson’s famous team lines up for its 1000th championship race.

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