Join Date: Mar 2001
Peter Brock killed in Targa West Rally in Australia
Peter Brock killed in Targa West Rally in Australia
Australia was mourning the loss of one of its greatest sporting figures tonight after motor racing legend Peter Brock was killed when his car hit a tree during a rally in Western Australia.
Brock, 61, was competing in the three-day Targa West rally near Perth when he appeared to lose control of his high-powered Daytona Coupe in bushland and smashed side-on into a tree.
The motor racing legend died at the scene, while his co-driver Mick Hone was taken to hospital in a stable condition, apparently with broken ribs.
The accident occurred in wet conditions near the small community of Gidgegannup, about 40km north-east of Perth, hours after the start of the rally.
News of the death was greeted with shock throughout Australia and overseas, coming as it did just days after a stingray killed another Australian icon, Steve Irwin.
"It's been a pretty sad week for Australia ... and Brocky will be very sadly missed," Prime Minister John Howard said.
Brock's girlfriend Julie Bamford told Fairfax: "It's surreal. He's such a gorgeous guy."
Brock split last year from his wife of 28 years, Beverly, and she said she had been missing him ever since.
Mrs Brock said she had experienced a premonition about her former husband's death.
"He went out enjoying himself one presumes, but I have to say I had a premonition about this and it's been a difficult week," she told Network Ten.
She said Brock died doing what he loved, but had long had a phobia about growing old.
"He didn't want to get old. This way he stays young in people's minds."
Mr Howard led public tributes to a lost "sporting legend", and the Victorian government offered Brock's family a state funeral.
"It's a terrible loss for motor racing and sport," Mr Howard said.
Brock was a dominant figure in motor sport for more than three decades and his nine victories in the Bathurst 1000 earned him the nickname King of the Mountain.
The father of three retired from full-time racing in 1997 but returned to Bathurst to win a 24-hour race there in 2003.
In recent years, he competed in various motorsport events such as the Targa Tasmania.
Motor sport figures hailed the Melbourne-based driver, also known as Peter Perfect for his perfectionism, passion, tenacity, professionalism and skill.
Former racing teammate Mark Skaife said Brock relished being behind the wheel "probably more than anyone I've ever seen".
"He was the man, he was the icon, he was the ultimate ambassador for the sport and for Holden, and he was a guy that loved life," Skaife said.
Eyewitnesses said Brock appeared to lose control of his vehicle on a tight hairpin bend before slamming into a tree about 2pm (AEST).
"The back end just slid out and that was it, it was all over," a spectator identified only as Jock told Macquarie Radio.
"The car didn't roll, the back end just slid out from behind him and slammed straight into a tree and it got him right in the driver's door."
Choking back tears, Jock said he believed Brock would have died within "maybe two minutes of impact" and that "not a thing" could have been done to save him.
"The car is a complete write-off," he said.
"The co-driver was taken away in an ambulance with severe stomach injuries, unfortunately."
The witness said it had rained this morning but the road through the "treacherous bend" was drying out.
He added: "I didn't realise who it was at first, then I realised who it was and I was just heartbroken."
Another witness near the crash site, Tony Varass, claimed where Brock died was a dangerous corner that had claimed lives before.
"I was there within a minute and I really didn't give him any hope at all."
TV footage showed Brock's bent silver Daytona Coupe at the base of a tree, a blue tarpaulin covering his body in the driver's seat, where it lay for four hours.
Shocked officials from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports (CAMS) vowed to conduct a full investigation into the crash.
"Peter's loss for motor sport is enormous but his loss to the entire community is even bigger than that," CAMS president Colin Osborne said.
The Targa West, which started today, is a three-day event raced on closed, tarmac roads, modelled on events such as Targa Tasmania, and claims safety as its highest priority.
Mr Osborne said the crash occurred on an "undulating and relatively open piece of terrain".
Brock knew the risks of motor sport and was pedantic about safety, he said.
"Peter was not a person who was cavalier about safety, quite the contrary.
"Peter certainly set a real example in that regard for fellow competitors, he wasn't a person who was in any way cavalier."
Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker said Brock was extremely safety conscious.
"That's why I think you'll find that there must have been a mechanical failure," he told Sky News.
But fellow driver Cameron McConville said rallying was more dangerous than track racing.
"It provides a thrill for the driver, but it's definitely not as safe as a race track.
"There's just trees and drop-offs on either side."
McConville said Brock's vehicle was "a bit of a kit car" with a V8 engine, and very powerful.
Brock's death comes three-and-a-half years after the death of seven-time Australian rally champion Peter "Possum" Bourne.
New Zealander Bourne, 47, died in hospital in April, 2003, two weeks after his car was in a head-on accident during a pre-race inspection of a hill climb course near Queenstown, in the south island of New Zealand.