The second of four planned New South Wales all historic race meetings for 2006 was conducted on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June on the Grand Prix circuit at Oran Park. Sydney has had little rain this year, but the heaven’s started opening in the two weeks leading up to the meeting, thus promising greasy conditions for those competing. This was the first time the HSRCA has held a meeting at the circuit since March 2004.
Cars from the late Hon. John Dawson-Damer’s fabulous Lotus Formula One collection were at the track to pay tribute to the life of John and his contribution to historic motor sport. There were five Lotus cars; the 16, 25, 39, 49 and 79.
Some 270 entries were received with numbers falling to just over 250 by the start of the weekend. Eight categories of races were formed, which included most historic log booked categories. The M, O, C & R sports racing cars were combined, along with Groups L, Sa and Na who were also confined with some of the Group M Sports cars.
The weekend weather forecast wasn’t looking good with miserable conditions forecast for both days. The temperature was freezing by Sydney standards (around 12-15 degrees), and as previously mentioned the track conditions were greasy. But for Saturday the weather held throughout practice and for the first four races, then some light rain prevailed. The whole day was delaed by an hour from the start with only a small amount of flags found causing the delay while an old container at the circuit was located and opened.
The first race was the combination of the Group M, O, C & R sports cars, which gave Bob Tweedie an unfair advantage in his Elfin MS7. Cars in the race spanned the year’s 1962 to 1984. Andrew McCarthy brought his Lola T594 from Melbourne to continue battles with Mander, Brunninghausen, Barberie and others, although he had a big moment just before the rise of the dog leg, which firstly put him to the back of the pack where he stayed for the remainder of the race, and for Sunday morning’s race. Raymond Cleaver in his Haggis U2 Clubman took the battle to Tweedie early in the race, but the power of the big MS7 took over and Cleaver settled down to dice with others including Barberie and Mander.
The second race was for Group Nc production touring cars (1965 to 1972) and these cars provided some great action packed racing across the weekend. You would normally expect the the Comaro’s and Mustang’s would be miles out in front, but it wasn’t the case with a large group of Torana’s and a rotary powered Mazda RX2 providing all the action up front. Sunday morning’s race was red flagged on just the second lap when Ian Sawtell (Torana XU1 and Jason Humble in the RX2 touched through the turn one sweeper sending Sawtell near the wall (but not touching) and Humble over the embankment. Both cars and drivers were fine and competed in the re-start held later in the morning with Humble winning a fantastic battle with Sawtell and the Torana of Scott Gorman, albeit with no rear window as a cause of the earlier accident. Humble said afterwards “it was a racing incident, we’ve shaken hands – but it was a bit hard to concentrate with all the petrol fumes coming through the car.
The immediate post-war through to mid-1960’s sports car races for Grouo’s L, Sa, Na and invited Group M cars included an eight lap handicap race on Sunday morning. John Murn driving his Decca Major was the early leader, holding this position for some laps before the faster cars caught up. Alan Telfer’s Lotus Super 7 was reunited with the Oran Park track celebrating 40 years since the 1966 Oran Park meeting when the car featured on the event’s program. There were two trophies contested in this event; the RACA Tourist Trophy for Group L Sports cars, which was won by Bruce Richardson in the Nota (competition was from two other competitors – Murn and Peter McKnight with Geoff Piggot not making it to the starting grid). The John Hogbin Shield was also contested, which is for Group Sa Production Sports Cars and was won by Richard Rose driving an MGA. The overall victor for the weekend was Rick Marks, who was just a tenth of a second off the Sa lap record set by the previous owner of his Elva Courier some three years ago.
A strong field of M & O Racing cars took to the track for four races across the weekend, which included the feature John Dawson-Damer Memorial Trophy race on Sunday lunchtime. This year the Dawson-Damer family entered the ‘Gold Leaf’ Lotus 49, and was driven by John Smith. The only challenges to Smith occurred in the trophy race when he had to start from pit lane due to low engine idle problems – the car stalling if the engine was under 2000 RPM. He stormed through the field with us in commentary missing him for the first flying lap as he darted through other competitors in the race. He made it up to the tail of Paul Hamilton (Elfin 600) quickly disposing of him and set out to catch Ian Ross (Elfin 600C Repco Barbham) who was then some distance out in front. Further back, Peter Simms (Repco Brabham BT23A) won a terrific battle with the Brabham BT15 of Ed Holly. So the JDD Trophy, a magnificent glass-cased model of the Lotus 49 with JDD at the wheel was won by John Smith in the DD 49. He also took the lap record by more than a second!
By far the largest field of the race was the Sb & Sc Production Sports cars, which provided some fantastic close racing across the weekend. Spud Spruyt took it to the Porsche’s of Verwoert, Withers, Cooper, Fraser and Taylor by finishing second in Saturday’s race, and then missing problems plagued end performances on Sunday. Phil Verwoert got off to a flying start in the afternoon race in his genuine 2.7 RS Carrera and staved off competition from Brian Taylor (911), and further back David Withers came home after Wayne Cooper who was driving his old Maroon 911.The Sb action was hotly fought over the weekend wih Geoff Pike the eventual victor from Brett Morse (both driving MGB’s), but there were some great battles between the Marcos GT of Laurie Sellars and the Mk II B GT of Peter Whitten and the Alfa 105 of John Lenne.
The Groups Q & R action was set to rumble with the inclusion of Aaron Lewis returning to racing in his new monster, a 1972 Matich A50. Impressive sounds were made in qualifying where he put the car on second place, splitting the RALT RT4’s of Vivian King and Richard Carter. But that was all we saw of him for the weekend. The early battle was on with Peter Landen in his RALT RT1 who got off to flying starts, but the later and quicker RT4’s of Carter and King passed and had their own battles. In the Formula Ford battles further in the pack Laurie Burford streaked away from all the others having dices with the likes of Howard Blight and Blake Miller. Tom Tweddie (Elwin 002) and Greg Watson (Mawer) had a close dice in the final race with Lynn Brown making his way through after mechanical problems in the Elwin OO3.
Regularity was also on offer and now provides a unique situation in Australian Historic racing with the combination of open wheelers and sports cars. The Formula Vee category is going through the process of becoming recognised for historic racing so the HSRCA is allowing Vee’s to compete in these event’s to start building car numbers and reliability.
The final ‘race’ on the weekend’s calendar was for Group Nb Production touring cars (1958 to 1964). The clear victor across the weekend was Greg Toefer driving a Ford Mustang, but it wasn’t without strong competition from the Mini Cooper S of David Wheatley who finished second. The battle of all three races (and in my view of the weekend) was between four completely different cars. Rob Loesch (Jaguar MkII), Barry Jessop (EH Holden), Stuart Barnes (Ford Cortina MkI)and Bob Harris (EH Holden) had some fantastic battles, all trying to pass the silver Jaguar with the Cortina and the two EH;s swapping positions throughout. Sahne Wilson (289 Mustang) joined the pack in the final race as he got quicker and quicker over the weekend in what appears to be a new car.
So, although Sydney poured with rain all weekend, Oran Park didn’t and fine conditions prevailed, albeit freezing cold – a strong southerly confirmed that! The meeting was well organised, and some great cars were out racing.
Report by: Charles Rogers