Phillip Island Classic

The 2006 Shannons Phillip Island Classic was undoubtedly the biggest ever historic motor race meeting in Australia, not only in terms of its car entry (some 470), but also the massive crowd over the three days.

The Victorian Historic Racing Register has worked tirelessly with the Victorian Mini Club to make the organisation of the meeting run so smoothly. A number of new initiatives this year included the circuit being open on Thursday afternoon to allow competitors a chance to arrive early and set up their pit, and also allowed a small, but efficient band of VHRR volunteers to unload the 5 shipping containers of priceless cars from overseas. Other inclusions included the evolution of the Grandeur Club, a series of marquees in spectator areas of the track, and the shuttle bus allowing spectators easier accessibility to the paddock area.

This year’s Patron was Bob Jane, who made himself available all weekend to sign autographs and bringing along his 1971 & 1972 Australian Touring Car Championship winning Chevrolet Comaro and his MkII Jaguar for display and demonstrations. The list of racing greats is many, and included Sir Jack Brabham, Harry Firth, Vern Schuppan, and Peter Brock.

The weekend saw a record number of overseas cars in attendance, including a Maserati 250F, Cooper Bristol, Allard J2, Allard J2R, Lago Talbot T26C, Kurtis 500, Gurney Eagle F1, Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, Lister Jaguar, Morgan 3-wheeler, Lola T100, Jaguar XK120, Lotus 18 F1, The Whiton Special, Surtess TS9B F1 and Elden MkB Formula Ford. Also featuring at the meeting were six Porches from the Porsche Museum, two of which reside in the Melbourne showroom – the 356 Carrera GT and RS Spyder.

Klaus Bishof accompanied the cars in his position as the Director of the Porsche Museum along with Thomas Heberling, who is the General Manager of Porsche Cars Melbourne. The four cars shipped in from overseas especially for the event represented the earlier days of Porsche racing history from their 1960 F2 World Championship winning Type 716/2 and three Targa Florio cars (the 356L Arbarth, RS 603 MTB and 904 Carrera).

These Porsche’s were complimented across the circuit with displays by the Typ 901 Register, 356 Register and Porsche Club of Victoria, as well as three 935’s (two of which raced by owner Rusty French and Porsche Museum & Le Mans driver Jurgen Barth), a 934, and 906 (both owned and driven by Ian Henderson) and the magnificent 1987 Porsche 962C, which took third place in the 1988 Le Mans 24hour race.

Vern Schuppan was due to drive the 962C in the Sports-Racing cars races, but was given the choice on the Friday by owner Rob Sherrard to drive one of his three cars entered for the weekend (all running in the same race). Vern, Australia’s first Le Mans winner chose to race Rob’s Ford GT40, which allowed Rob to steer the 962. Wayne Park drove the Lola T70 Mk3B. Peter Harburg; another keen race car collector from Queensland also brought a couple of cars including his Lola T610, which was driven by another unknown – John Bowe.

Over the weekend Bowe had the most success winning two of the three races (Rusty French took the second in his 840hp Porsche). Sherrard had gear selection problems for most of the weekend, but still managed to lap the circuit in a 1:36. Park also had his own problems with a collision with Bob Tweedie damaging the rear quarter panel, and later losing his driver’s door. Paul Mander has now well and truly solved his wing problems in his recent acquisition of an updated Tiga, and outclassed Andrew McCarthy, Ian Barberie and Max Brunninghausen throughout the weekend.

The regularity fields were spilt into two, with some beautiful cars competed in both, including an Alfa Romeo 1750, two Aston Martin DB4s, the usual squadron of MG’s and a De Tomaso Pantera. Saturday morning proved difficult for some competitors in Division Two who came unstuck all over the circuit, particularly Southern Loop and at Honda.

This rain started to clear during the practice for the Formula Ford and M&O racing grid who were next out. Top European historic racing campaigner Andy Newell brought out his Elden MkB in a bid to beat the experienced locals, but a minor collision put this back a bit, however, he finished the weekend watching those in the top four in front of him on the track. Ray Stubber brought his Royale from WA and had some great dices with Matthew Lloyd in his Bowin, who nearly crossed the finish line on Sunday afternoon in a dead heat. CAMS CEO Dr Rob Nethercote, and CAMS Historic Eligibility officer Brian Reed also competed in their Formula Ford’s. As mentioned earlier, the M & O Racing car field also competed with the Formula Ford’s, but started at different times.

Nearly 100 touring cars from the 60’s and 70’s took part in the under 3 litre and over 3 litre Group N races. The under 3 litre grid provided some great action all weekend. Bill Cutler and his BMW 2002 are normally quite dominant in this field, but in recent times the challenge has come from Russell Pilvin and his Datsun 1600. But the weekend also saw the coming of age of two more cars (their drivers fairly experienced campaigners) with the Escort of Ken Hastings and Mazda RX-2 of Jason Humble. Humble stormed away taking race wins, but it was not without battles from Hastings, Pilvin and Cutler across the weekend.

The more powerful touring cars put on some exciting, sometimes panel bashing racing, but up the front Trevor Talbot made sure cubic power didn’t always conquer taking his Torana GTR-XU1 to battle against the Chevrolet Comaro of Tony Hubbard, with the Monaro of Tony Hunter not far behind all weekend. Hubbard took the first two races, but Talbot celebrated his big birthday in style on Sunday afternoon by taking the feature race. Jervis Ward suffered from a broken radiator hose in the morning race, but fought from 35th up to finish in 11th place, while Darren Pearce from Tasmania made sure everyone knew he was coming through in his Mustang.

The stars came out to play in the Group C and Group A touring car race with Peter Brock and his brother Phil taking to the track in cars they raced some years ago. Peter Perfect was stering the ex Bartlett Torana A9X, while Phil was steering the immaculate Jansen Torana A9X four-door. They were up against some tough competition from the Group A era cars, particularly the ex Gibson Motorsport Nissan Skyline of Terry Ashwood, one of two running in the event. Rob Markland finished third behind Brock and Ashwood in the final, but always had the Ingis Alfa Romeo GTV6 of Hugh Harrison in fourth. Hugh’s son Trent drove Scott Farquharson’s similar Dulux Alfa to a competitive 9th in the feature.

The Production Sports Car racing was particularly exciting across the weekend with the Sb and Sc cars having their own keenly fought races. A great start to the year by South Australia’s Geoff Olle whose Porsche 911 is running like a dream winning the first race. Cubic inches finally got the better of him in the final race with the Chevrolet Corvette of Paul Sabine taking Olle down the straight, a feat, which Don Thallon also did a lap later in his Chevrolet Stingray.

Further back in the field the mainly English battle was on – the Morgan won. It was Morgan Plus 8, Marcos GT and MGB GT verse the Italian, Alfa Romeo GTV and the German Porsche 911. Denis Elborn managed to hold out Laurie Sellars in the Marcos and Peter Whitten in the MG, while John Ashby kept a close eye on the action during the race.

The Sa cars, built prior to 1960 were placed with the Lb sports racing and racing cars and provided for some great dices across the weekend. They had a handicap event on Sunday morning, which Steve Schuler won in his Chevrolet Corvette and Graeme Smith came second in his Concours-presented Allard J2. Up the front it was mainly the Lb cars, which created some of the best racing of the weekend. So much important history in one race! Dick Willis brought his Mildren Cooper from New South Wales and got to play with some equally important cars – the one-off 1 ½ seater Lister Jaguar and the 1956 AGP winniing Maserati 250F. Not to mention the Penrite Lola Mk1 and Stuart Powell’s Faux Pas. Then came the oval racer, the 1952 Indianapolis Kurtis 500 driven by its long-time owner Stuart Harper from the US. The Faux Pas had a great start to the weekend, but as Rod Jolley learnt the track and Peter Giddings re-united himself with the 250F things changed as it became a horse power race, but Powell still beat the skilful Keith Simpson for fourth overall.

The P, Q & R racing car events were well fought between the many RALT RT4’s, with their main competition for the weekend braking an axle at the start of the weekend. So the 1985 ex Michele Alberto Ferrari was a non starter. That left the challenge to Andrew Makin in his March 73B, until he too had problems in the final race. Great dices endured between Richard Carter and Vince Holland who managed to finish in the order each race. Bob Poynton finished third in the feature, followed by Andrew Robson and Peter Brennan – all five in RT4’s.

The Phillip Island Classic has become one of the great historic motor sport events across Australia, and is now rated highly amongst its international visitors.

Report by: Charles Rogers

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