AFTER three years away from racing a Holden product, Peter Brock returned to the General Motors fold in 1991 in something of a marriage of convenience that re-united an old winning combination. Brock had Mobil sponsorship but was moving away from Ford Sierras and former Bathurst-winning partner Larry Perkins had cars and engineering expertise but no backer. So the 1982, 1983 and 1984 Bathurst-winning pilots pooled their resources and joined the Group A touring car trail in ’91 in a pair of Mobil-backed, brand new VN Commodores. The 10-round Shell Australian Touring Car Championship proved to be not much more than a public test session, as the squad developed its new cars. This was at the time of the domination of the mighty Nissan GT-R ‘Godzilla’, rendering the V8-powered Commodores as not much more than bit players in the sprint series.
For the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst that year, Brock teamed with Andrew Miedecke in the #05 Commodore VN, while Perkins teamed with Thomas Mezera. Things started well in Wednesday practice with no problems and on the first day of qualifying on the Thursday, Brock peddled around the Mountain in 2m17.22s to be fifth fastest. He went even quicker on Friday afternoon in 2m16.44s, thus securing a spot in Saturday’s Top 10 Shootout for pole position – and what a Shootout lap it was! Brock was fourth car against the clock. The Mobil team had left the qualifying engine under the bonnet, so he had nothing to lose with the race engine to be installed later on. It was trademark Brock attacking stuff – the nine-time winner flung the car into McPhillamy Park and promptly had a massive slide over the exit kerb that drew cheers from the fans. Another sideways moment on the exit of the Chase cost further time and, while proving spectacular and giving the fans some fun, it wasn’t quite as quick as it looked. The end result was 2m16.071s and sixth on the grid. It later transpired that Brock had forgotten to adjust the brake bias for a light fuel load, hence the McPhillamy Park moment. “The mob on the hill loved it because I kept the pedal to the metal and drove it to the limit, it wasn’t that bad,” he said.
Things didn’t start so well on race day, when co-driver Miedecke had the #05 Commodore suffer a serious misfire in the morning warm up. It later turned out to be a throttle potentiometer suffering from excessive under-bonnet heat, but it wasn’t the ideal way to kick off the biggest day in Australian motorsport.
Brock took the helm of #05 for the start of the race, working his way up to a solid fifth by the time he handed over to Miedecke on lap 30. The former open wheeler ace was seventh on lap 55 and things were looking on target – until the car died on the run to the Cutting. Upon first glance it appeared that the morning warm-up problem had resurfaced, but very quickly the Mobil team, back in the pit lane, realised they could use Channel 7’s in-car camera to spin around and give them a view of the interior of the car.
Via radio they gave Miedecke a ‘crash-course’ in hot-wiring the car back into life and he made it back to pit lane. By the time he returned to the pits and had the problem solved (which turned out to be an overheating warning circuit breaker that shattered and broke the electrical circuit) and rejoined, he was a distant 32nd. For the remainder of the day the duo charged around Mount Panorama, clawing back as many positions as they could with nothing to lose.
By the time the race was over and the Nissan GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife had claimed the chequered flag, Brock and Miedecke had hauled their way back up to eighth and completed 147 laps, 14 down on the winners. This would later become seventh when the fourth-placed Sierra of Gianfranco Brancatelli and Charlie O’Brien was excluded from the results post-race for a diff irregularity.
Miedecke drove 78 laps, while Brock completed 69 and the car was the eighth fastest in the race with Brock setting its fastest lap of 2m19.18s. It certainly wasn’t an ideal way for Holden’s favourite son to return to Bathurst in one of its products, but race fans were simply happy to see Peter Brock back in a V8 Commodore at the Mountain that made him famous.