Dick Johnson drives the Brock A9X at Bathurst
9 February 2011
When Top Gear Australia threw us the idea of running the Brock 1978 A9X around Bathurst, during the big 12 hour race weekend, it all sounded pretty cool..Till we realised that there were only 4 days before the actual event!! Memories from 2 years ago came forward, when a similar thing happened at the Gold Coast "Super GP" after the A1 GP cars didn?t arrive.. Thanks to that event, the cars in our sheds are for the most part usually ready for these late moment scrambles, so getting the A9X ready for it was not going to be a real issue and we took them up on the offer to head down for a weekend in Bathurst.
The last time we ran one of our A9X?s around the mountain was back in 2004, where Brock drove our car in the Holden Speed Comparison test. This was the last lap Brock was to ever do at speed around the mountain, in his favourite car, the 79 Bathurst winning A9X. We made the mistake that year of not changing the rear diff ratio to something taller, so the poor old girl was revving hard by the time it hit the first hump (7000rpm eeek) and you will see in the footage of that day below that Skaife passes Brock like he is standing still? till he gets to the "Chase" anyhow.
The 2004 Holden Speed Comparison event.
This time around we made sure the better suited 3.08 diff was fitted and it made all the difference around the track.
It was a nice drive down to Bathurst and a pure family trip with David coming along to join Chris, our mechanic Jason and Myself. Loads of car stories on the way down and back I can tell you!!
Top Gear?s idea was to have the iconic car driven by an equally iconic driver, but not whom most would think to be driving the car. Dick Johnson was the name floated and having done so many events with Dick we were more than pleased for him to do the few laps on the day.
The worlds most dusty HDT A9X after google maps sent us up a 40 km dirt road!!
Dick did a quick interview for them in front of the Bathurst museum on Friday (After we arrived an hour late from our tow car breaking down, Bathurst City Council did a job RACQ would have been proud of to get us all to the track in time with the car in tow.) with another equally impressive HDT legend, the 1984 Day Glo VK. It was a pleasure to give both our A9X (Which was filthy from the trip down, thanks to being trailered over a 40km stretch of unsealed road) and the VK a detail (was already pretty immaculate before, but I could not help myself and gave it some extra touch-ups), so they looked their very best for the camera?s. The Bathurst Museum's caretaker let me drive the VK into position for the different shots, a real honour and such a lovely old beast. I am surely now the only person who has gone further in the reverse direction than forwards with this car!
Two of the biggest legends in Aussie Motorsport meet.
In front of the Museum, with Brock's monument in the background, very emotional.
With the shoot over, she went away in the secure National Motor Racing Museum for the night joining all they have in there. It is overwhelming to think of all the stories that can be told from what sits in their walls! The Group C JPS 635 was one new arrival in the museum there that really got our attention, a stunning bit of German muscle from the last year of the big bangers. Likewise, the display of all Greg Hansford?s championship bikes was another stirring part, mainly as we were lucky to have known Greg when he visited our home back in the day.
The National Motor racing Museum, is so much more than just cars!
That done, it was Saturday midday the A9X next emerged from the museum and was situated in pit lane. A small window that allowed for just 3 laps was all we had, so it was pretty important the car ran faultlessly! We left the car in the capable hands of our mechanic Jason while Chris and myself went up the top of the hill to find the best vantage point to watch her go over ?Brock?s skyline?.
I doubt Sheppo would have approved of the Top Gear camera set-ups back in 1978!
When Dick finally got to begin his run, he was on the track by himself. It was the first time he had driven an A9X on the track and his first time in that particular car, so he drove her very accordingly. As she left the pits you could hear her 308 bellow as Dick massaged her through the gears till she appeared in our line of sight, through the tree?s running over the top, then down past our group before the dipper. Seeing and hearing her running under full steam before braking and moving down through the gears was just glorious. As it appeared on Conrod straight we were a bit happy to hear the 308 happily singing away as the red and white spot flew down the chute, giving no indication of running out of legs before hitting the chase. Success!
Legend in a Legend, Dick piloting the HDT A9X around the mountain.
Yes, Dick was pretty happy with the A9X...
The big smile on Dick's face was pretty evident with the open face helmet as he went past us each lap. Afterwards he spoke happily about the laps and how nice the A9X is to drive. He and Brock were to become good mates during his career and I am sure it was a pretty special thing for Dick to be behind the wheel of this car, especially at this circuit. For the entire Bowden clan it was quite emotional to reunite this car with the track it won on back in 1978, I am sure those who were there to witness those few laps could also agree.
TOP GEAR TV SEGMENT
The Top Gear segment, a year later it finally aired, very moving..
A9X over skyline, how good is this!
You can expect to see more on this day in an upcoming segment in the new series of Australian Top Gear, plus I dare say in the magazine as well.
Thanks to Dirk Klynsmith, Dave Scorpecci and Craig Coomans for providing us with a few of the better photo's in this article, especially after I forgot to pack our camera and had to use my iPhone for the weekend's images!
Love your car,