A documentary on Peter Brock takes a deep dive into the triumphs and tragedies of one of Australia’s most popular but unorthodox sporting heroes.
A documentary on Peter Brock takes a deep dive into the triumphs and tragedies of one of Australia’s most popular but unorthodox sporting heroes.

Peter Brock as you’ve never seen him before

The Trials, Tribulations, Triumph and Tragedy of Peter Brock is a new movie that takes an in-depth look at the driver dubbed The King of the Mountain.

Here's everything you need to know about the gripping new documentary.

Tell it to me straight ... this new Peter Brock documentary, is it any good?

I can tell it to you Conrod Straight, if you like. Brock: Over the Top is indeed very good.

 

How come it has turned out so well?

The key is that it is not just a conventional sports doco, where a champion's achievements are listed chronologically, with some archival clips and contemporary interviews thrown in for good measure. Over the Top also functions very effectively as a character study, and Peter Brock was quite an interesting and often unorthodox individual to say the least. Particularly for a figure who enjoyed such widespread popularity for virtually his entire career.

 

Where does the movie start?

The doco begins with mention of Brock's untimely end: at the wheel of a Daytona Sportscar on a WA country road while competing in the 2006 edition of the Targa West Rally. This tragic accident - found to be an uncharacteristic mistake for a driver of Brock's rare calibre - is addressed in greater detail in the final act of the film.

Peter Brock shows the concentration that won him the 402km main race at Sandown.
Peter Brock shows the concentration that won him the 402km main race at Sandown.

What about Brock's early years? Where do they come into the picture?

Thanks to a treasure trove of home movie footage, the doco is able to spend some considerable time mapping Brock's unique DNA as a driver. Raised as a rambunctious lad in the outer Melbourne suburb of Hurstbridge - more of a country hamlet back in the 1950s - the young Brocky was always putting together and pulling apart 'paddock bombs' to feed his constant need for speed. These ramshackle vehicles had no brakes whatsoever, and handled like a three-wheeled shopping trolley on a skating rink. It is here we see how a teenage tearaway acquired a singular skill that later propelled him to the top: the ability to persuade an under-equipped vehicle to overperform in often difficult conditions. This is what won Brock at least a third of his nine Bathurst victories, and won over the Australian public for life.

Peter Brock of the Holden Racing Team in action during the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 in 1993. Picture: Getty Images
Peter Brock of the Holden Racing Team in action during the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 in 1993. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

Peter Brock with his new VP Commodore in 1992.
Peter Brock with his new VP Commodore in 1992.

Was Brocky with Holden from the outset?

Yes and no. In the doco, we see Brock rising through the ranks of (what was back then) a rough'n'tumble Australian touring car scene at the wheel of a deceptively speedy blue Austin A30. However, it did have a Holden engine chugging away under the bonnet.

Peter Brock drives the Austin A30 on Bathurst Test Day in 1997.
Peter Brock drives the Austin A30 on Bathurst Test Day in 1997.

How long until the movie gets to the Bathurst stuff?

Not too long. To Over the Top's credit, it does spend a fair bit of time establishing the many peculiarities of Bathurst's Mount Panorama circuit, and the punishing demands it makes on drivers and cars alike. Brocky's route towards becoming the celebrated 'King of the Mountain' began in 1969, with a third place in a fairly funky Monaro GTS. His first win arrived in 1972 in an iconic early-model Torana (also the last occasion drivers were permitted to take on Bathurst without a co-driver). From there, Brock's long love affair with Mount Panorama - and the events surrounding some of his most dramatic triumphs and failures there - are chronicled in fine enough detail to satisfy most picky petrol heads.

 

A young Peter Brock with co-driver Des West prepares to board his 1969 Monaro at Bathurst.
A young Peter Brock with co-driver Des West prepares to board his 1969 Monaro at Bathurst.

 

Allan Moffat’s Escort twin-cam leads Peter Brock’s supercharged Torana at Calder in 1971.
Allan Moffat’s Escort twin-cam leads Peter Brock’s supercharged Torana at Calder in 1971.

What if you're not a petrol head? Is there still enough to keep you watching?

Yes. There is where the doco's fascinating portrait of Brock the man comes into play. While often in supreme control on the track, Brock's personal life was often messy at worst, and mercurially off-kilter at best. In his younger days, two problematic marriages were run and done inside a decade. (Second wife Michelle Downes, a former beauty queen and TV personality, makes some unsettling allegations about abusive treatment from Brock throughout their union.) A later relationship with Bev McIntosh (who went on to change her surname to Brock) - whom Brock met while she was married to a member of his racing team - proved to be the most significant and redemptive of his life. While their painful break-up after almost three decades together is rightfully given prominence in the doco, so too is the crucial role Bev played behind the scenes in keeping the Peter Brock show on the road.

Peter Brock and fiancee Michelle Downes in 1974.
Peter Brock and fiancee Michelle Downes in 1974.

 

Brock with his wife, Bev, in 1983.
Brock with his wife, Bev, in 1983.

 

 

Peter Brock with his then wife Bev during his last V8 Supercar race in Bathurst. Picture: AFP
Peter Brock with his then wife Bev during his last V8 Supercar race in Bathurst. Picture: AFP

Brocky didn't always see eye-to-eye with Holden, to say the very least. Does the doco drill down into that aspect of his life?

Yes, as it indeed had to. Brock's ups and downs with General Motors Holden were well documented back in the day, but take on a different shape with what the movie reveals about Brock's thorny personality, booming ego and a self-destructive rebellious streak. While the two camps parted company a number of times throughout Brock's career - forcing the driver to go it alone with indie driving teams that punched way above their weight - there is one particular Holden-Brock clash covered in Over the Top that still boggles the mind to this day.

Peter Brock exits his new VP Commodore after clipping a kerb and hitting a wall in 1992.
Peter Brock exits his new VP Commodore after clipping a kerb and hitting a wall in 1992.

The Energy Polariser, right?

Yep, the good ol' Energy Polariser. This was a small box of crystals and magnets that Brock believed "re-aligned the molecules" of a car in a manner that significantly enhanced performance and handling. As soon as he unveiled his plans to install this bizarro device in a special line of Holden models bearing his name, Holden cut all ties and financial support to Brock. That 'little packet of rocks' as some wags called it - which was never actually connected to a car's engine in any way - brought Brock to the brink of ruin.

SA rally champion Ed Ordynski with Peter Brock and his Holden Commodore at Mallala race track in 1995.
SA rally champion Ed Ordynski with Peter Brock and his Holden Commodore at Mallala race track in 1995.

So where do I find Brock: Over the Top then?

Well, it was originally intended for cinemas, but we all know that ain't happening now. Easiest place to find it is on your preferred digital rental platform. The likes of Google Play, Apple TV and the Foxtel Store have the doco ranked up high in their New Releases sections, so Brock: Over the Top is very easy to find.

Originally published as Peter Brock as you've never seen him before


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