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
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…