Neil Crompton has kept a tight lid on his involvement in Peter Brock's funeral … until now.
Five year's after the nine-time Bathurst winner was killed, aged 61, in an accident during the Targa West rally in West Australia on September 8, 2006, Crompton has spoken on the grief he dealt with in the wake of the death of his colleague, mentor and friend.
Crompton, the voice of V8 Supercars Championship, was the man bestowed with the honour of speaking on behalf of the motor racing industry at Brock's state funeral on September 19, 2006.
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His heartfelt, honest, emotional eulogy brought the nation to tears again – if it wasn't already grieving enough.
The news of Brock's death rocked Crompton, and as he explains, it still hurts to broach the subject.
SPEEDCAFE: What were you doing as you heard the news of Peter Brock's death five years ago?
NEIL CROMPTON: I was driving along and took a call from an old colleague Alison Drower, who used to work with me at Triple M in Sydney, and also on the RPM program.
Now, she is better known as Mrs Rick Bates.
She called me to verify whether it was true, and at that point, I hadn't heard a word about it. I had a car full of people, and Alison was on speaker, so I laughed it off. Like most people, it was disbelief.
I got home shortly after, had a quick think about it and called Plastic (Holden Motorsport publicist Tim Pemberton). He verified that it was true.
That first call I got, I dismissed. I thought it was one of those things that fly around the traps as a rumour. When I rang Plastic, I was a bit gobsmacked by it all.
SPEEDCAFE: After you'd had a moment to process the news, what were your feelings?
CROMPTON: A mixed combination, really. I was involved with Peter in lots of different ways – as a friend mainly. I was deeply saddened and devestated, just like it is when you have anyone in your midst has this sort of thing happen.
You go through a whole variety of emotions like shock, disbelief, frustration, anger, you bundle it all into one.
Even now from time to time I think about it. At the time, the wider implication of it in my head were ‘What happened? What went wrong? What was the real story?'
The overwhelming thing was the disbelief, and then the frustration that for all the hundreds and thousands of kilometres of motor racing, one particular event and one circumstance caught up with him. I was disappointed for him, deeply saddened and I still am to this day.
SPEEDCAFE: You got to play a very special part in Peter's funeral, offering a collection of tales and tributes. On reflection, how do you see your involvement that day?
CROMPTON: To be honest, I don't have a great recollection of all the different sequence of how it happened. The bottom line was that the family asked me to speak at his funeral, which I really didn't want to do. I knew it was going to be a difficult thing.
In the end, I agreed to do it, because it's difficult to say no to people when there's so much grieving going on.
From a personal stand point, it was pretty horrendous to be in that spotlight (that day). The last thing you want to do is stand up in front of your peers, and as it turned out, it was broadcast of every network as well. Thinking selfishly, you'd never do it, but thinking of Peter and thinking others, it was something I was asked to do so I should do it.
I sat down in the days before to try and nut out some key points on what I wanted to say. I tried to extract myself from the moment from when I had to walk up there – you do some hard things in life but that is certainly on the short list of tough things I've ever had to do.
Immediately afterwards, for weeks, I was really crook. Just shaking inside and out. I don't think I can ever remember a time in my life where I've felt so much pressure, tension or discomfort. It was a really difficult thing to do.
Subsequently, I've said very little about it, and for good reason. I don't think there was much else I could say that I didn't say on the day, and that has pretty much been policy since then. I haven't entered into too much chat about it since then.
It was a very hard thing, and I just remember how painful it was. Where we were seated, we were in a position where we were just looking at this rooten box, with his helmet there. It was impossible to escape. You'd look at your feet, you'd look at the ceiling and ultimately you'd make eye contact with your colleagues who were all in the same uncomfortable position, which only made it worse. It was a very uncomfortable, difficult day.
It's quite a difficult thing to discuss. It was a long time before I sidled up as a topic. We did a thing last year on the V8 Xtra program where I was editing some stuff – thinking about it, looking at it. That was the first time forever that I'd dealt with that.
SPEEDCAFE: His legacy. Is the Brock name still as strong as it was when he was here sitting with us?
CROMPTON: Yeah. That's best asked to the fans, and they still have a great affinity with Peter.
You just have to look at what Bathurst means and obviously he is a huge part of that. He remains the biggest part of the Bathurst story.
There's still a strong connection, and there probably will be for a long time – particularly at this time of the year when we get to the endurance races. The Brock factor is again in the uppermost of our minds.
CLICK HERE for Crompton's complete eulogy at Peter Brock's funeral.
See below for a TV news report from the day of Brock's funeral.