By RUSSELL BENNETT
UPPER Beaconsfield racer Jack Le Brocq is destined for motorsport greatness.
But for now, he’ll just have to settle for beating one of Australia’s all-time greatest … on one of the world’s greatest racetracks.
Coming into the Phillip Island round of the Australian GT Championship on the weekend, new Erebus Motorsport recruit Jack Le Brocq was flying well under the radar.
The 20-year-old was an unknown quantity in among the series regulars, and had massive shoes to fill, strapped into a race seat formerly occupied by the likes of ex-Formula One stars Christian Klien and Bernd Schneider, world-renowned touring car racer Craig Baird, and current V8 Supercars pilots Maro Engel and Tim Slade.
But by the end of the two-race program at the home of Australian motorsport, everyone knew exactly what the reigning Australian Formula Ford champion was capable of.
The young Victorian smashed both the qualifying and race lap records by more than three seconds, on the way to two dominant race victories in the Erebus Mercedes SLS AMG.
While race teams around the world will now have the Le Brocq name – fittingly pronounced Le Brock – on their radars, Jack was typically relaxed about the result.
His post-race comment was a sign of the level head on his shoulders despite such an impressive debut in the category.
“That was pretty good,” he said succinctly. By Monday, however, the gravity of the situation was starting to sink in as Le Brocq drew high praise from conquered opponent, former Australian Touring Car Champion and two-time Bathurst 1000 winner John Bowe.
“This kid is as good as any of the imports (drivers) Erebus put in the car last year,” Ferrari driver Bowe admitted after the opening race.
“He’s the complete package, no question.
“I was very impressed.”
Le Brocq was blown away, saying: “It was quiet a cool feeling to even be in the same race as John Bowe let alone beat him! I definitely had to pinch myself a few times.
“He is a great guy and has been there for me a lot as well. He has always given me great advice.”
From the opening practice at Phillip Island it was clear Le Brocq would be a contender for a race victory, although until qualifying, nobody really knew by how much.
The benchmark lap time was always going to be in danger after the Phillip Island track was resealed in late 2012, with talk that it had improved the pace of the circuit by up to a second and a half per lap.
Le Brocq ultimately shattered the mark during qualifying for the opening one-hour race, knocking off the time set by Engel in September last year (1:29.6148) to claim pole position with a 1:26.5248.
Le Brocq controlled the field at the rolling start, charging away at the line with Bowe in close pursuit.
A steady cautious start allowed Bowe to stick with the Mercedes early, but Le Brocq was soon up to speed, establishing a 20-second lead by the time he made his compulsory mid-race pit stop.
He ultimately stormed to a commanding 35-second victory, with Tony Quinn second and Lamborghini’s Roger Lago third.
“It was pretty good,” said Le Brocq post-race, oblivious to his complete domination of the race.
“It was a bit dicey to start with under a full 100-plus litre fuel load and low tyre pressures, but once the tyres were at temperature, it was pretty comfortable.”
Adding to his seemingly effortless victory, Le Brocq also managed to demolish the established race lap record set last September by experienced international GT campaigner Allan Simonsen (1:31.2837), resetting the benchmark to 1:27.5008, three laps from home.
Race two saw an almost carbon-copy of race one, with Le Brocq again charging away from the field after a cautious start, taking the chequered flag by 42 seconds over Tony Quinn and reigning champion Klark Quinn, and again lowering the lap record – this time to 1:27.1505.