By Matthew Agius

Peter Brock, a nine time Bathurst 1000 winner and three-time Australian Touring Car Champion, has passed away after crashing his Daytona Coupe into a tree during a stage of the Targa West Tarmac Rally today.

The incident occurred near Gidgegannup at 11.50 local (WST) time, north-east of Perth, with Brock's co-driver Mick Hone being taken to hospital with serious injuries, although in a stable condition. Having retired from fulltime touring car racing in 1997, Brock took to rally driving - becoming a frequent competitor in Targa rallies, including the recent Targa Tasmania.

Police originally did not confirm the passing of the legend, but motorsport officials later informed the media of the death.

The name many of the Australian public associated with Holden and Bathurst, Brock's stellar career included six Bathurst wins in seven years - with a total of nine victories in Oceania's most presitigious endurance race. He backed this up with three Australian Touring Car Championships in 1974, 1978 and 1980.

A champion of the sport, the man known as 'Peter Perfect' drove as a privateer and also for teams such as the Holden Dealer Team, Holden Racing Team and his own Team Brock - formed in 2002 in his first foray as a V8 Supercar Championship team owner. Brock also drove for Ford in a brief foray in the twilight of the Group A ATCC.

The winningest driver in the Australian Touring Car Championship, Brock was also the second oldest man to win a race - taking victory in 1997 at Barbagallo for the Holden Racing Team in a VS Commodore - at the age of fifty-two years, four months and ten days. Currenty. Brock's winning record stands at thirty-seven wins, currently unmatched by current V8 Supercar driver Mark Skaife who has 36.

In 1974, Brock made history for taking five wins out of the season's seven rounds - the same year he took his first championship win, and took successive wins at Symmons Plains, Calder Park and Lakeside in 1980.

Another dominat statistic to his name was his record of podium finishes - Brock ended his career with 100 podiums and also started the most races of any individual to participate in the championship with 212 to his name. 57 pole positions including the record of the oldest man to take the front spot on the grid, Brock was the dominant qualifier in 1980 with pole at every round of the championship on his way to his third championship win. Brock also took the most poles in succession, with thirteen consecutive front spot starts from 1979-1980.

Brock's final race in V8 Supercars was at Bathurst in 2004, when he joined forces with the Holden Racing Team in the #05 VY Commodore with Jason Plato, however the legend didn't start the race after Plato crashed the car before Brock's first stint.

In a shock death for the Australian public, already reeling from the death of another Aussie icon in Steve 'The Crocodile Hunter' Irwin, a popular environmentalist and zoologist; and Colin Thiele, one of the countries greatest authors - Brock's death is perhaps even more significant in that he endeared himself to and was watched by several generations of racing fans.

He was a self-made man, who was appreciated by fans even in his later days as a man who had time for all spectators, many fans will remember the gigantic lines of fans queing up to get an autograph at many a racing event.

A charitable figure too, Brock formed the Peter Brock Foundation and was an advocate for many childrens causes. He was also an ambassador for motoring brands Bridgestone and Armorall - the former the once-official tyre of the V8 Supercar Championship and the latter a current partner.

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) has released an official statement on the incident, with a full investigation promised at the event this weekend.

The sixty-one year old is survived by three children.



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