Speco Thomas has long been associated with motor racing through the company’s owner, Brian Sampson and also Eddie Thomas, the founder of the original business, which was Eddie Thomas Speed Shop. Speco’s name has been prominent on the sides of many cars raced at tracks around the country since Brian acquired, reorganised and renamed the company in 1968.
Brian Sampson’s Motor Racing
However, Brian’s own racing history had its beginnings back in 1954 when he first completed in a hill climb on a private property at Tuerong Valley on the Mornington Peninsula. There, Brian drove his father’s MG TD sports car, and although the climb was short and on an unsealed surface, it must have ignited the spark to keep the passion for motor racing well and truly burning for more than 50 years.
He has raced at most circuits in Australia, including tracks and hill climbs with names unknown to younger generations and now possibly forgotten by his own generation. The hill climbs included Tuerong Valley, Mount Martha, Templestowe, Rob Roy, Lakeland and Hepburn Springs.
Race circuits include Fisherman’s Bend, Tarrawingee, Albert Park (original narrow road track—between the trees and no safety barriers), Phillip Island (1950s layout and surface), Calder Raceway (before and after it was sealed), Calder Park (Bob Jane era long and short circuits) Sandown (original circuit), Catalina, Warwick Farm, Amaroo Park, Oran Park long and short layouts, AIR–Adelaide International Raceway, Mallala (original and current tracks), Sandown (revised long and short designs), Surfers Paradise, Mount Panorama, Phillip Island (1970s and 1990s rebuilt circuit), Longford, Baskerville, Symmons Plains, Adelaide AGP Circuit, Calder (revised long and short circuits), Albert Park Current AGP Track and Sentul in Indonesia.
Literally hundreds of wins, both outright and class, have come from competing at all of these venues, from a hard-won 3rd place in the 1958 sports car race at Albert Park in his Supercharged Morris Special to winning, in November 2000, all three Formula Ford races in his RF77 Van Dieman and claiming 3rd outright in the Trans Tasman Challenge in Max Warwick’s beautiful McLaren M10 Formula 5000 at the Sandown Historic Races.
Long distance races were a specialty, beginning with 10th place at Albert Park in the 1955 "Argus" Moomba TT 100 Miles Sports Car Event driving an Austin Healy 100/4 through to 10th at his last Bathurst in 1990 driving with Bill O’Brien in the “Everlast” Commodore. The first long distance success came at the 1959 Armstrong 500 with a first in ‘A’ Class, driving a Renault Gordini with John Connolly.
The most notable was the memorable 1975 Bathurst win, co-driving with Peter Brock, but Brian also is very proud of the 1977 Oran Park Rothman’s 500 win in the Warren Cullen "Pioneer" L34 and his 1978 Rothmans 500 3rd place outright with Peter Williamson in a Toyota Celica. The 1980 Bathurst netted 4th place outright with Alan Browne in the Re-Car Commodore. In total, Brian competed in the Bathurst, Oran Park and Phillip Island Classics 20 times.
The teams that Brian drove for included BMC Australia—Austin Lancer, Rex Emmett — Renault Gordini, Tom Geoghan—Total Team Renault Gordini, Australian Motor Industries—Toyota Corona, Toyota Corolla, Triumph Spitfire, Triumph 2000, the fabulous factory Toyota Celica Sports Sedan, Harry Firth—HDT—L34, Gown and Hindaugh—L34 Warren Cullen Pioneer L34, Alan Browne Re-Car—,L34-A9X and Commodore, Winston Kim—MCB (Melbourne Clutch and Brake) Mitsubishi Starion in Production and Group ‘A,’ Peter Williamson Toyota, and long-time supporter Bill O’Brien of Everlast Industries—Falcon XD and Commodore (shown above finishing in 10th place in the 1990 classic).
Although Brian had many successes in these shared driver endurance events, he actually prefers to control his own cars and racing programs. A list of cars that he has owned is shown below, and it can be seen that, after the first early years, his preference has been for “open wheelers.” His original business, the Engine Reconditioning company Motor Improvements, specialised in modifying and developing BMC motors, Ford 998cc–1600cc and later the Toyota Corolla and Celica motors for the original 1100cc and 1300cc F3, 1600cc F2 open wheelers, 1300cc Clubman and sports sedans. For many years, they were virtually unbeatable and, in fact, are still sought after by historic race car owners around Australia.
Brian is no longer racing in endurance races nor Formula Holdens/F4000. He is active in Historic racing, and also in the Victorian State Race Series in his Spectrum O6 Formula Ford (pictured left).
Since 2000 Brian has regularly competed in the Victorian State Race Series and Historic racing in one of his Formula Fords, averaging seven meetings a year over the last 13 years. During that period Brian has competed in the Australian Grand Prix support events in F3 and the Shannon’s Historic Demonstration in his prized ELVA BMW Mk8’s 2 litre sports car.
2013 marked Brian’s 59th year of racing, which has included a trip back to Mount Panorama after a 23 year absence. Brian and stepson Brendan competed in the Formula Ford support event for the AMOUR ALL 12-hour, both acquitting themselves well.
Although a little slower both on and off the track, Brian recently achieved his long-held ambition to celebrate his 78th birthday and reach his racing number 78 which he has carried since the early 60s. Celebrations were held with all the current Formula Ford competitors young and old at the Sandown State round in July 2013. A rousing rendition of happy birthday was sung to mark this wonderful achievement.
While remaining in good health Brian believes his racing days are drawing to an end, but he will remain actively involved with the Speco VHT motorsport program.
|Cars Owned and Raced by Brian Sampson|
Cars still owned are shown in blue (bold)
|1950s||Morris Special||Sports Racing||Morris S/V||1100||Lyn Evans, Bob Jane|
| ||Austin A/30||Appendix J||BMC A||1100||Used car yard|
|1960s||Austin Lancer||Appendix J||BMC B||1600||Repossession yard|
| ||Morris Elite||Appendix J||BMC B||1920||Austin distributors|
| ||Ford Super Anglia||Appendix J||Ford 113E||1290||Ex police car|
| ||Hillman Rally Imp||Appendix J||Hillman||1000||Ex U.K. works car, Rootes Motors, Norm Beechey|
| ||Toyota Corona||Appendix J||Corona||1600||A.M.I. Racing|
| ||Elfin Streamliner||Sports/Racing||MI Corolla||1100||Elfin Cars—|
body and chassis
| ||Elfin Ford FJ||Racing AF2||Ford||1500||Andy Brown|
|1970s||Elfin 600 F3||Racing AF3||MI Corolla||1100||Elfin Cars—Rolling Chassis|
| ||Toyota Corolla||Sports Sedan||MI Corolla||1300||Team Toyota|
| ||Cheetah Mk 4||Sports Sedan||MI Corolla||1300||New from Brian Shead|
| ||Cheetah Mk 5||Racing AF3||MI Corolla||1300||New from Brian Shead|
| ||Cheetah Mk 6||Racing AF3||MI Corolla||1300||New from Brian Shead|
| ||Cheetah Mk 6||Racing AF2||MI Celica||1600||Converted from AF3 car|
| ||Toyota Celica GT||Sports Sedan||Celica GT||1600||Team Toyota|
|1980s||Austin Lancer||Hist App J||BMC B||1600||Used car yard|
| ||Cheetah Mk 6||Formula/Atlantic||Ford BDA||1600||New from Brian Shead|
| ||Cheetah Mk 8||Racing AF2||MI Ford||1600||MI SOHC conversion fitted to BDA|
| ||Ralt RT4||Formula/Atlantic||Ford BDA||1600||Re-Car, Alan Jones|
| ||Chevron B8||Hist Group O||BMW||2000||Max Warwick, Peter Woodward|
| ||Cheetah Mk 4B||Hist Group O||Ford T/C||1600||Colin Milne, Peter Macrow|
| ||Cheetah Mk 5||Racing AF2||MI Corolla||1300||Derek Pringle, Peter Roach|
| ||Cheetah Mk 6||Racing AF2||MI Celica||1600||Tom Crozier, Mike Stillwell; being converted to Hist Q|
| ||Cheetah Mk 8||Racing AF2||VW Golf||1600||Vince McLauchlin|
| ||Cheetah Mk 7||Racing AF2||MI Celica||1600||Rick Fabri|
| ||Elva Mk 8S||Hist Group M||BMW||2000||Winston Kim, John Ould, Peter Brennan, Brian Carty|
| ||Chevron B29||Hist Group Q||Ford BDA||1600||David Oxton, Brian Redman|
|1990s||Cheetah Mk 9||Formula Holden||Holden V6||3800||Peter Glover|
| ||Reynard 913||Racing AF2||VW Golf||1600||Arthur Abrahams|
| ||Lola Buick T87/50||Formula Libre||Buick V6||4200||Robert Bailey, Bob Minogue, Alan Hamilton|
| ||Dallara 393||Racing AF2,||VW Golf 1600||1600||Simon Hardwidge|
| || ||Now AF3 ||VW Golf||2000|| |
| ||Lola T91/50||Formula Holden||Holden V6||3800||Barry Ward|
| ||Dallara 391 – Alfa||Racing AF2||Alfa Romeo Twin Spark||2000||Sam Astuti|
| ||Elva Courier||Hist Sports SA||BMC B||1930||Winston Kim, Ian McDonald|
|2000s||Van Dieman RF77||Hist F/Ford||Ford||1600||Mike Beeley|
| ||March 77B||Hist Group Q||Ford BDA||1600||Brian Robertson, Danny Sullivan, Colin Giltrap NZ|
| ||Spectrum O6||Formula Ford||Ford||1600||Ken Douglas, Ray Stubber|
| ||Palliser WDF3||Hist F/Ford||Ford||1600||Peter Finlay, Peter Hill, Andrew Makin|
| ||Lola T342||Hist F/Ford||Ford||1600||Mark Bisset, USA import|
| ||Spectrum 011||Formula Ford||Ford||1600||New car, delivered 2006|
|2010s||Spectrum 010b||Formula Ford||Ford||1600||Brett Hobson, Nick Percat, Nicki Templar|
| ||Lola T644||Historic Group R||Ford||1600;||Bruin Beasley, U.K. import|
| ||Spectrum O11||Formula Ford||Duratec T/C||1600||Keith Sharman|
| ||Reynard 83FF||Historic Group R||Ford||1600||Jeremy Braithwaite, Don Holland, David Lubransky|
| ||Toyota Celica||Hist S/Sedan||Toyota T/C||1750||AMI Toyota, Brian Sampson, Brian Hilton, Caesar Franklin, Ross Forbes, Richard Watts|
Paliser Formula Ford
|Being rebuilt — owned but not yet raced|| || |
| ||Brabham BT35||Hist Group O||Ford T/C||1600||Kurt Seeburg, Paul England|
| ||Ralt RT3||Hist Group R||VW Golf||1600||Sean Cussell, Lucio Ceasario, Bob Power, Graham Watson|
| ||Ralt RT3||Hist Group R||VW Golf||1600||Keith Morling, Wayne Ford|
| ||Elfin 623||Hist Group Q||MI Corolla||1300||Ross Gordon|
| ||Van Dieman RF86||Hist F/Ford||Ford||1600||Neville Wills|