Warren Cullen entered the picture in 1977 with his famous L34 with the big Pioneer ear on the side, and they scored a remarkable rst-up win against the odds in the rich Rothmans 500 enduro at Oran Park. The win, though, was anything but straightforward.
“In practice I had probably my biggest accident in a competition car,” Sampson recalls. “I was trying to do (the kink at) the end of the straight without lifting. I could get around, but I couldn’t stop for the second corner and snotted it. They had to rebuild it.”
Although the car was still badly out of alignment on race day, they kept out of trouble and steadily moved through the eld as the frontrunners – Grice, Brock, Goss, Moffat, Johnson and Harvey – struck trouble. At the end they were a lap clear of a hard-charging Kevin Bartlett in Bob Forbes’ L34. “We then went to Bathurst and the car was pretty good in practice, but they changed the motor overnight. I went out (after Cullen’s opening stint) and on the rst lap over the top, no oil pressure! It just shut off. I came in and there was oil all over the engine. They cleaned it all up, but I said, ‘I’m not going to drive this, it’ll be a disaster (if it fails) going across McPhillamy at.’ I wouldn’t get back in the car and that was it (with Cullen). “When they pulled the engine down, they found that they hadn’t changed the sump – they had left and right-hand circuit sumps – and it was just the oil surging away, and the pump couldn’t pick it up. Stupid. He didn’t like me after that…” The following year he returned to small cars in Peter Williamson’s two-litre Celica and they nished an amazing fourth outright in the Rothmans 500 behind three V8 Toranas. After another year off, Peter Janson introduced Sampson to Alan Browne, who owned the Re-car truck repair business. Browne was a rookie but had bought a Torana A9X and was enthusiastic about racing it at Bathurst. An experienced driver like Sampson was just what he needed, and he delivered two top 10 nishes – 10th in 1979 and fourth in 1980 when they upgraded to a Commodore.
Bill O’Brien, another relative rookie, then benefitted from Sampson’s experience. They ended up doing six Bathurst 1000s together in O’Brien’s pale blue Everlast colours – twice in an XD Falcon (1982-83) and four times in VL Commodores (1987-90). They scored two top 10 results; ninth in the 1987 World Touring Car Championship round, and eighth in 1990.
In between was a one-off outing in a locallybuilt Group A Mitsubishi Starion owned by enthusiast Winston Kim of Melbourne Brake & Clutch Service, who had successfully run the stock car for Sampson in Series Production racing. But in Group A trim the engine would overheat and it blew at Bathurst. After that, the car was sold and Sampson returned to the Everlast team.
The 1990 Bathurst 1000 with O’Brien was Sampson’s 21st and last start in the classic, and a controversial end at that. Near the end the VL ran out of fuel coming over McPhillamy Park and Sampson coasted all the way to the finishline, where he greeted the ag just as winner Allan Grice came through. They were initially awarded eighth, but as they were packing up it was changed to DNF because the car had coasted
over the line just before the winning Holden Racing Team Commodore.
“We watched the recording and you could clearly see me acknowledge the chequered ag, and the regulations said: ‘The chequered ag signifies the end of the race, even if waved inadvertedly.’ I said they waved the ag to me. They said, no they didn’t, they waved it to Allan Grice. We nished up having to go to (a hearing in) Sydney about two weeks later, all the guys around a table, I put the tape in and all their jaws fell to the ground and they gave us the place back. You could clearly see me acknowledge the ag before he did.
“The next year Bill asked me to drive again, and like a mug I said, ‘Why would I? They’re pricks.’ I was pissed off.” Does he regret not going back? “Yes.”
After the 1975 Bathurst win with Brock, Sampson codrove a variety of cars in the enduros – and won the ’77 Rothmans 500 with Warren Cullen. His 21st and final Bathurst start was with Bill O’Brien in 1990, the year of the controversial chequered flag saga (below right).