Mus­cle Man – Brian Samp­son

Com­bin­ing suc­cess­ful busi­ness and mo­tor rac­ing lives has been a chal­lenge for many driv­ers, and one man has man­aged just that for an ex­tra­or­di­nary 60 years. Brian Samp­son is best known for shar­ing a Bathurst vic­tory with Pe­ter Brock, but he has racked up

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

The long ca­reer of ‘Sambo’ took in a lot more than sim­ply that ‘75 Bathurst win with Brock.

The Bathurst roll of hon­our con­tains the great, and some­times the blessed. Brian Samp­son would prob­a­bly reckon he be­longs some­where in be­tween – a tal­ented but not ex­tra­or­di­nary driver who could be ex­pected to be quick and de­pend­able no mat­ter the con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances thrown at him.

‘Sambo’ was cer­tainly that for Pe­ter Brock in 1975, tak­ing a mem­o­rable two-lap vic­tory for the pri­va­teer Gown-Hind­haugh out t. The fa­mous colour photo (above) of the yel­low To­rana L34 round­ing Mur­ray’s Cor­ner – the one you see on posters, t-shirts and even Brock mem­o­ra­bilia – is ac­tu­ally Samp­son at the wheel, wear­ing his white full-face hel­met.

He was 10 years Brock’s se­nior and at the peak of his pow­ers both on and off the track when they won the Hardie-Ferodo 1000, yet talk­ing to Samp­son to­day you get the im­pres­sion it was just an­other race. How­ever, ip over his busi­ness card and there is that fa­mous photo. So it re­ally was a big deal? “Oh, yes,” he ad­mits, typ­i­cally with­out feel­ing the need to elab­o­rate.

Samp­son started rac­ing in 1955 and soon racked up a pair of Arm­strong 500 class vic­to­ries at Phillip Is­land be­fore form­ing an al­liance with AMI-Toy­ota. That brought an­other small-car class win, this time at Bathurst, with Bob Mor­ris as his co-driver.

Open-wheel­ers were next on the agenda, along with a fa­mous part­ner­ship with bud­ding lo­cal rac­ing car con­struc­tor Brian Shead. While very ef­fec­tively pro­mot­ing his own Mo­tor Im­prove­ments-built Toy­ota en­gines, the two Bri­ans swept all be­fore them in their red and white Chee­tahs through most of the 1970s.

Samp­son’s abil­i­ties were still in de­mand at Bathurst, where he also raced for the Holden Dealer Team, War­ren Cullen, Alan Browne and Bill O’Brien be­fore turn­ing his back on the Great Race in a huff – to his re­gret. He never re­peated that 1975 out­right win at Bathurst, but he did take out the Roth­mans 500 at Oran Park with Cullen in the fa­mous Pioneer To­rana.

Into his 60s and 70s, Samp­son con­tin­ued to race in open-wheel com­pe­ti­tion, tak­ing on driv­ers much his ju­nior in for­mula cars, while also en­joy­ing his­toric rac­ing, but he was grounded af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an epilep­tic black­out on the road, re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous in­juries that have taken ve years to over­come.

Now he’s ready to race again, if CAMS will give the 83-year-old his li­cence back…

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