What a sad week! RIP Peter Brock. All remaining Australian icons should just sit very still and not do anything. Don't go out. Don't touch anything! If you're not Australian you might wonder, Peter Who? Well, Peter Brock was quite simply a motor-racing legend. There's a race in the town where I was born called the Bathurst 1000, in which mighty V8 cars drive round and round a mountain-top circuit for one thousand kilometres. It's a strangely captivating event. I'd always get up to watch the start and vow not to waste six hours in front of the telly, but inevitably I'd be sucked in to the epic drama, all the speed and smoke and smashes. Brocky won Bathurst an incredible nine times.
And he wasn't just ace behind the wheel. He was, as one of my aunts has repeatedly declared, "a complete spunk". When we first heard the news of his passing, Gareth asked, "Was Brocky a larrikin too?". He'd not heard of the word until this week when the media repeatedly used it in reference to Steve Irwin. Oh no, I explained. Brocky was a gentleman. As dashing and debonair as one could possibly be in a loud shirt smothered in sponsor logos. I moved back to Bathurst for university and got to witness Brockymania close up. I loved those few days when you'd be woken by the low rumble of race cars up on the Mount. Bathurst is normally a quiet town but once a year its population swells, much like the way Edinburgh goes manic during the Festivals. Except with more beer guts and flannel shirts. Everyone in Bathurst seemed to look on Brocky as an adopted son. One time my friends and I went down to a Meet The Drivers session to take pics for our photojournalism class. The queue for Brocky was three times longer than for any other driver. He charmed the pants off everyone from mulleted petrolheads to tiny kids to salivating housewives, all tan and sparkling brown eyes as he signed autographs. Another year I was working in a coffee shop in a shopping centre, bored out of my tree watching customers screw up their faces as they choked down my cappuccinos (Note to coffee shop owners out there: Never hire someone to make coffee that doesn't like coffee. They have no respect for the beverage). There was a sudden clutter of teaspoons and excited whispers, Brocky! It's Brocky! There goes Brocky! People poured out of the shops and trailed after him. Turns out a local radio station had set up outside the supermarket and were doing a live interview. I can't remember a bloody word he said; I just remember how the crowd gathered round in an adoring semi-circle, clutching their shopping bags or lapping at soft-serve cones, as Peter Perfect turned on the charm. Momo, who is a legend in her own right, is quite possibly Brocky's greatest fan. She wrote a beautiful tribute today that left me misty-eyed. He really will be missed.