The Brock fac­tor

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship’s tele­vi­sion rights moved from the ABC to Chanel Seven for 1985, Neil Crompton moved with them. The switch to com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion also brought him into the or­bit of one P Brock.

“By 1987 I was well es­tab­lished in­side the mo­tor­sport world at Chan­nel Seven and about July I took a call from Bev Brock. Ac­tu­ally, the first time she called I thought it was a joke and hung up.

“It was a sink­ing ship there and Pe­ter and Bev were look­ing at what they could do. On the ba­sis that I might have been able to drive, and cre­ate some in­ter­est, and drag in a few spon­sors, I got in­vited to a test – you’d prob­a­bly call it a shootout – with his Group A Com­modore at Calder.

“He went out and set a bench­mark time and I matched it and got the drive. They put the car away and I had the gig.

“It was a bit of a sur­prise. I’m ac­tu­ally quite proud of that and at the time it was a huge thing. I was able to drive it. It was gen­uine.”

This was the year of Brock’s bust-up with Holden and un­likely win in the World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship-flavoured James Hardie 1000.

Brock orig­i­nally planned for Crompton to drive the team’s sec­ond-string VL – ul­ti­mately the race win­ner when it was taken over by Brock mid-race – but he lost his seat pre-event as he lacked the req­ui­site num­ber of sig­na­tures on his CAMS li­cence. His Bathurst de­but would have to wait an­other year.

Nonethe­less, it was the start of a very close re­la­tion­ship and a huge learn­ing curve for the young­ster, not just along­side Brock but fac­ing up to the heavy­weights of tour­ing car rac­ing.

“To be­gin with I was prob­a­bly viewed as a cir­cus mon­key be­cause I had a heavy Chan­nel Seven stamp on me. But in 1988 I shim­mied away from that at one of the AMSCAR races at Ama­roo Park. [Team­mate] Jimmy Richards and I had a nose-to-tail bat­tle in BMWs and he was the reign­ing tour­ing car cham­pion.

“It helped with blokes like Larry Perkins and did me a world of good.”

Crompton now knew he could drive and race, but when he switched from Ama­roo to Oran Park in a three-car Mo­bil M3 en­try with Richards and Brock, he got a sharp re­minder of where he sat.

“I was a great les­son for me in the hu­mil­ity that be­comes the re­al­ity of rac­ing. Based on merit, Pe­ter wanted me to so some ATCC races. You think you’ve ar­rived, then comes the mas­sive snap-frozen-fish feel­ing when Jimmy and Brock both lapped me. That was a les­son in not get­ting too far ahead of your­self.”

He made his Bathurst de­but that year in a team Brock BMW, en­tered with David Par­sons. Due to an­other Brock switcheroo, Crompton’s de­but goes down in the record books as be­ing the race’s big­gest name. How many Great Race rook­ies can boast that?

“To work along­side Pe­ter Brock was fan­tas­tic. I thor­oughly en­joyed it. He was an un­usual char­ac­ter, and there were two sides to him, but he was very fond of me and I credit him and Bev with a huge con­tri­bu­tion.

“The sad full stop on that is that it was a huge trib­ute and, a heart wrench, to say farewell on that ter­ri­ble day in Mel­bourne at his state funeral.”

Top: Fourth in the 1987 Sandown 500 showed he had what it took for Bathurst... ex­cept sig­na­tures on his in­ter­na­tional li­cence. Above and be­low: Be­ing team­mate to Brock and Richards in 1988 fast-tracked his learn­ing.

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