Insight Motorsport


IN A never-before-told tale, DAVID SEGAL returns to TRT and recounts the story of the 1986 Spa 24 Hour Touring Car race where he, racing legend Peter Brock and Dr Eric Dowker found themselves parked in a quiet Belgian forest, letting down the tyre pressures on an Opel Kadett..

WORDS: David Seagal IMAGES: AN1 Media Image archive

IN MY HEAD I was visualising the headlines back home: “Australian Tourist Found Dead in Belgian Forest.”

Not that I truly believed I was actually in danger, but I was apprehensive, wondering what was going to happen.

My little Opel Kadett GSi was parked in a little stone-walled alcove beside a narrow Belgian road, deep in the middle of the forest, which we’d driven down for about half an hour without seeing a single other sole.

And my companions were behaving very strangely.

It had all started that morning when, over breakfast at the team hotel, Peter Brock had bailed me up and insisted he wanted to demonstrate his Energy Polariser to me.

The first time I had even heard of the Polariser, which would ultimately bring Brock and his HDT Special Vehicles empire to its knees, was earlier that year when I spotted it listed in the brochure for his new VL-Commodore based HDT-built LE model.

I had no idea at the time what it was or what it was supposed to do, and no inkling then that it would ultimately play such an infamous role in Australia’s performance car history.

I’d been in Europe that year (1986) with Brock’s Holden Racing Team, in a Media-PR role, as the team contested four races in the European Touring Car Championship with its Commodores, Brock sharing with fellow legend Allan Moffat.

The program culminated in a two-car assault on the Spa 24Hours race and, after managing to avoid getting dragged into the whole Energy Polariser thing during the previous months and events, Brock was now not taking no for an answer.

So we set off from the back of the Spa paddock into the surrounding forests … Brock, his Polariser co-conspirator Dr Eric Dowker – known within the team, out of Brock’s earshot, as “Dr Feelgood”—and yours truly, all jammed into the tiny Opel coupe.

I drove, despite me inviting Brock to do so, because he wanted me to be able to make a direction comparison with how the Kadett handled without and then with the Energy Polariser fitted.

I had no idea at the time what it was or what it was supposed to do, and no inkling then that it would ultimately play such an infamous role in Australia’s performance car history.

Segal on the Polariser and the remarkable role it would play in the future of the sport..

We traversed the Belgian back roads for 30 minutes or so, deeper and deeper into the forest along increasingly deserted roads, until Brock told me to pull over into the roadside parking bay. The three of us climbed out and I looked around … there was nothing but trees in every direction and it was deathly quiet.

As I watched Dr Feelgood and Brock unpack their Energy Polariser kit from the boot and start the install on my Opel, I began to get a very uneasy feeling.

The zeal with which they went about their work bordered on obsession and became mildly disturbing as they answered my questions about how the Polariser worked. That’s when those fictious headlines flashed through my mind.

Of course, I didn’t ever really think I was in danger but at the time, all I could think of was getting it over with and getting back to the relative safety of the HDT Racing compound in the Spa paddock.

As I watched, Dr Feelgood carefully applied a colourful sticker with a graphic of a Lightning Bolt to the back window where the dealer sticker would usually sit if it were an Australian car. Meanwhile, Peter was under the bonnet attaching the Polariser itself to the engine bay firewall.

Naturally, I asked what the rear window sticker was for.

Dr Eric replied that it was the “aerial” for the Polariser … to which I pointed out that the sticker and the Polariser had not been connected by any sort of wire. “They don’t need to be, they’re connected by orgone energy.”

I actually remembered that sticker because the guy who produced it for Brock had told me some time before that it contained 11 different colours, in the days when four colours was about as exotic as it got. I was told it had been poisonously expensive to produce.

Meanwhile, Brock finished under the bonnet and asked me to turn the engine on and let it idle: “So that the molecules can align which makes the Polariser work.”

Next, he was down at each corner, lowering the tyre pressures.

That done, I was ready to go again – anxious to get this over and get back among civilisation – but Brock told me to wait, saying that the engine needed to idle for 20 minutes so that the molecules had a chance to align.

As I watched Dr Feelgood and Brock unpack their Energy Polariser kit from the boot and start the install on my Opel, I began to get a very uneasy feeling.

Finally, he was satisfied that everything was set, and was headed back, me behind the wheel again and Brock asking what I thought after only a few minutes.

It might have been the final race of the campaign and therefore the last event for my limited involvement with Australia’s most famous racing driver, but it was also the most important race of the team’s European tour and I knew I needed to give Peter something because I had to deal with him throughout the rest of the race weekend.

As we drove back toward the legendary Spa circuit, I slowly began to venture that I thought the steering was a little more responsive and the handling sharper, and kept focussing on those aspects, while Dr Feelgood interjected from the back seat that ride was definitely better.

I didn’t believe a word of what I was saying, or what he was for that matter, but equally I wanted to get it over with and get back to the pits.

Once we were in the Spa paddock Brock leapt out and rushed across to his waiting HRT Commodore, which was due out for the next practice session in only a few minutes.

Dr Feelgood wandered off too … and I went back to the team tent to do some work, glad that I had escaped so lightly. Or so I thought.

That night in the Francorchamps pub, I was having a quiet beer with HDT driver John Harvey and his wife Bev.

‘Slug’, as he was universally known within the team, was (and is) a lovely bloke but when irritated was always nothing if not direct. It didn’t take long for him to blurt out: “Seagull, I never took you for another one of these Polarised people.” Turns out Peter had told John of my favourable, if disingenuous comments, about the Polariser earlier that day.

So, I then told John the whole story of my adventure in the Belgian forest with Peter and Dr Feelgood. Bev Harvey, bless her, interjected at the end of my explanation: “See John, I told you David wasn’t like that!” Thanks Bev, I am still grateful all these years later for the faith you showed in me that day!

There’s an ironic postscript to all of this too … early the following year I was the journalist who broke the Peter Brock-Dr Feelgood-Energy Polariser story nationally, on the 22 February 1987 front page of Melbourne’s The Sunday Observer newspaper.. You just couldn’t make this stuff up!