Pi­o­neer­ing win

Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

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).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.