Though without a Bathurst drive for a couple of years, Sampson’s numerous other track successes led Harry Firth to his door with an offer to be Peter Brock’s co-driver in the Marlboro-HDT Torana L34 at Bathurst in 1974.
This was a huge career jump, and a massive step up in performance from the little class cars he’d previously raced, but Sampson made the most of it, helping Brock to an incredible six-lap lead with only a quarter of the race remaining. Of course, the fragile L34 engine failed. “We were six laps in front and Firthy was trying to slow him down, and Brocky wouldn’t… and boompf!”
Sampson laughs at Brock’s suggestion that he had indeed slowed down, and that reducing the revs had actually caused the engine to fail.
Within months Brock had left HDT and joined privateers Gown-Hindhaugh Engineering, who bought camshafts and other components from Motor Improvements. Sampson had also raced with Hindhaugh at Bathurst, and in that 1974 race for HDT he’d proven himself very capable.
“Brock knew I could do it because I’d done it with Firthy, in the wet and whatever. I just did it without any trouble. I know I did a better job than a lot of co-drivers, particularly as far as looking after the car.”
So Sampson was just the man to return as Brock’s co-driver. And just as well, because Harry hadn’t offered him another drive with HDT.
One thing Sampson took away from the HDT experience was the need to improve the L34’s drivability. Speco Thomas sold a lot of
Italian Weber carburetors, so he designed and produced some tricky adapters for the standard manifold to replace the usual single four-barrel Holley with a pair of 48mm downdraft Webers. “You wouldn’t believe how much smoother it was, and better throttle response.”
Brock and Sampson went on to win by two laps over the similar L34s of Bob Morris/Frank Gardner and HDT’s Colin Bond/Johnnie Walker.
“Peter was ‘The Man’, no doubt about that,” Sampson says. “My role was to look after the car and hand it back to him in the same condition as I took it over.”
The most difficult part of their Bathurstwinning day was apparently the lap of honour on the pack of a truck. “Standing up on the back going around The Cutting, there used to be a tree with a branch going across the track and that nearly knocked us off the top! I said, ‘Down! Down!’ It was a big tree…”
Incredibly, Sampson didn’t even get a drive at Bathurst the following year. Brock, who was going through a difficult time in his personal life, went off and formed Team Brock with his brother Phil in 1976, and Sampson seemed happy to move on. “I mean, if he had asked me to drive with him again I would have, but socially I had nothing to do with him.”