1 Peter Perfect. “The King of the Mountain”. Husband. Father. Racing car driver.
February 26, 1945, and Peter Geoffrey Brock is born in Richmond, Victoria, and raised at the then rural suburb of Hurstbridge, 28 kilometres north-east of the Melbourne CBD.
The first of three sons, Lewis and Phil, Brock would become one of Australian motorsports most popular drivers and renowned for his ultra-cool demeanour on track.
2020 and a biographical documentary film is released. The film runs for 110 minutes and provides a snapshot, in real terms, of the 61 years of his life.
Brock: Over The Top opens with family shot footage of Brock and the famous “cut with mum’s axe” body-less Austin A7. With the car, if it can be called that, nothing more than a seat, the engine and radiator, and a chassis sans brakes, it’s potentially here that Brock’s immaculate driving skills were born and honed.
Kriv Stenders (Red Dog, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan) is the director of the film, and opts for a style that separates the footage and still photos of Brock from the family, friends, and associates that were interviewed. The interviews are shown in black and white, we see Bev Brock, the woman that Brock would sire two children with after his split from first wife Heather Russell. His brothers, Phil (know as Pin or Splitpin) and Lewis feature, as does his long-time PR manager Tim Pemberton.
Phil Scott, a respected magazine writer and editor, is a strong voice throughout and perhaps over-utilised at the expense of others. There are guest appearances from commentators Garry Wilkinson and Greg Rust; Brock’s co-driver and associate from the Holden Dealer Team, John Harvey, a brief appearance or two from Robert Brock and Alexandra, his son and daughter with Bev. James Brock, his stepson, and son of Bev also appears and shows, at times, frustration with what he saw of “PB”. Protege and friend Craig Lowndes also lends his thoughts.
It’s a timeline film, taking the viewer from the family estate at Hurstbridge to Brock’s early days as a driver after being inspired to do so after a visit to Mount Panorama in 1966 through to his nine victories and his ultimately untimely demise in Western Australia.
We’re shown the interactions of Brock with Harry Firth, brought by Holden into their fold to form a racing team. Footage of Brock and Firth as the team evolves, and the changes from the Monaro to the Torana LC and LJ, through to the monstrous A9X that he would power around the mountain track to win by six laps and his historic last lap that set the fastest time in 1979.
There are interviews and footage of his opponents and friends, Allan Moffat and Dick Johnson, the birth of HDT-SV as his marketing worth becomes realised, insights from Scott as Brock’s relationship with Holden founders in the 1980s as he became convinced that a “Energy Polarizer” enhanced the performance of cars, and his relationship with advertising for his 05 (blood alcohol limit) campaigns in road and driver safety.
What we don’t see is notable for the realisation it’s not included. Johnson and Moffat don’t get much airtime, there are no mentions of his driving with Ford, there’s a brief section that covers his time racing in a Le Mans 24 Hours, and no mention of his diversion to, of all things, the Russian brand Lada. We don’t hear from his co-drivers in the 1970s, nor do we see the final, almost desperate, attempt to win crown number 10 in 2004.
We also don’t see the tear-streaked face of Lowndes on the podium at Bathurst in 2006, dedicating his win to his late friend. We also get to see so very little of the side of Brock that cemented his place in the hearts of so many: his time with the fans, his legendary autograph lines of hundreds, with just a few hints of that with one notable appearance from a lady fan declaring Brock to be “The Horniest” of all drivers.
What we do get is the narration of Lewis and Phil, their love for Peter, Phil’s emotional recollection of being sidelined as PB took Pin’s driver’s seat after his own car failed at a Bathurst race, and being fired from the Brock empire after a drink-drive incident put him in hospital. Bev appears on a regular basis, putting forward her points of view as the “chief cook and bottle washer”, looking after “the little things” whilst Brock did the big things on track.
There are the illustrations of Brock’s unbelievable personality that proved so attractive to women, the sheer skill as he pilots a car on slick tyres around Mt Panorama’s wet road surface, his dogged determination to prove against the odds he was always the right man for the job. This is highlighted by the 1979 Repco Round-Australia Trial as the then relatively new VB Commodore triumphs for a 1/2/3 finish after covering some 19,000 kilometres on terrain that broke other cars.
We meet Julie Bamford, the woman that is said to have reinvigorated Brock in the last year or so of his life, and this leads us to that terrible, horrible, tragic day on September 8, 2006.
There’s brief moments of footage from inside the Daytona Coupe that he and navigator Mick Hone would be driving in a targa event north-east of Perth and Hone himself talking about Brock’s vivacity at the time.
The film concludes with images of the memorial located outside the National Motor Museum at Mount Panorama, just a few minutes walk from the line that Brock crossed for his nine wins. And it’s this that shows something that underpins what the Australian public knows Brock more famously for.
His relationship with Holden.
The memorial is Brock, standing atop a VK Commodore, the “Big Banger”, whilst holding aloft a trophy in a perpetual recognition of what his fans will know him for. The Red Lion heart he wore on his sleeve for most of his career is the constant throughout the majority of the film, from the early days at Bathurst through to the formation of HDT-SV, to the collapse of his relationship with the company thanks to the Energy Polarizer, and his “rebirth” as Holden welcomes their hero back.
Brock: Over The Top is a fascinating, if flawed look, at the life and history of Brocky. It’s available on DVD and blu-ray, and on streaming services to rent.
Nb: this review is solely the opinion of the writer and may not reflect the opinion of the publisher.