Bathurst win­ner

Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

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.”

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