Memories of Bathurst ’75
Bob Gracie was part of the small Gown-Hindhaugh crew for the 1975 season alongside a young Les Small.
Gracie fondly recalls his time working at the small automotive workshop – which, incidently, still exists today – in the outer south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Box Hill South.
“In 1974 I’d been working overseas and when I came back a mate of mine Norm Gown asked me if I’d work for him because he had a new young driver who might come and drive a car for him,” Gracie told AMC.
“Norm said he’d go a buy one of these new L34s and that’s what he did: picked it up, brought it back to the workshop. I said yes, I’d be quite happy to work for him as long as this new driver named Peter Brock would drive the car, not Norm Gown!
“Bruce and Norm were really good to work for; I just purely worked on the racecar and wasn’t involved with the engine shop or engine reconditioning shop.
“The first time I met Brock was one Saturday when he came up after we’d bought the car. I’d seen Peter Brock before at a race meeting but never met him. He was very excited, too. He’d just been given the arse by the HDT so he had a point to prove, I guess.
“It was just timing and luck that I got to work with Peter. He was extremely easy to get on with; he was one of the boys, not a prima donna, down to earth. He knew he could drive and he could beat anyone if we could give him the right car.”
The team’s new L34 was brand new. While cash wasn’t in huge supply, enthusiasm and engine knowledge were plentiful in the GownHindhaugh workshop.
“During the touring car championship races we struggled a bit to learn it but once we’d got to the long distance races we’d managed to get everything under control, the engines and all the other bits and pieces,” says Gracie, who later moved with Brock to Team Brock and onto Bill Patterson Racing and the Holden Dealer Team in the early 1980s.
“At that point Peter had a point to prove, to beat those red and white cars.
“Meeting to meeting was how we had to travel. I was the only one who was paid to work on the racecar, everyone else was part-time, friends and volunteers.
“There was nothing special about that car. It was just bought off the showroom floor; nothing special.
“We thought, if we can win Sandown, then we can win Bathurst. My first venture to Bathurst was with that car. We put it on the trailer behind the ute and drove up with my mate Les Small who was also on the team.
“We got there on the Thursday and the old ute was loaded up with a spare engine, gearbox and everything that we owned with the car on the back, so we thought we’d go for a drive around the circuit. We got to The Cutting and the old ute couldn’t even make it up the Cutting, so we had to back down a driveway and head back down!
“It was such an adventure for us, just a little team up against the big teams. Ford and Moffat were pretty big and Harry Firth’s team was massive. We were just half a dozen blokes who were all volunteers who wanted to get involved.
“After winning the race they had the truck with the podium on the top, and I remember Brock, Brian Sampson, Norm Gown, Bruce Hindhaugh and myself got up there and proceeded to do the lap around waving to the crowd.
“Everyone’s yelling and screaming, we got up to the top at McPhillamy Park and luckily enough someone noticed a TV cable spanning the track that was two feet lower than we were - everyone ducked just in time before we got our heads ripped off, but we got under it successfully and continued the lap!”