Phillip Island Classic

9-11 March 2007

The 2007 Shannons-VACC Phillip Island Classic proved to be the biggest ever motor sport event ever held in Australia for enthusiasts of historic motor racing.

Some 525 racing car, sports racing, and production sports cars entered the meeting with most categories of racing oversubscribed. A record number of overseas entrants were bolstered by 17 Formula 5000’s from New Zealand, who was competing for the first time at the Island in their final round of the VACC Trans-Tasman Championship.

Feature Marque for 2007 was Porsche, and Porsche Australia and Porsche AG air-freighted out the most amazing and rare collection of Porsche cars ever seen in this country.

Patron of the meeting “Stormin” Norm Beechey, winner of two Australian Touring car titles in 1965 and 1970 proved very popular. Norm brought his Chevrolet Impala, the car which he took the touring car world by storm. Sunday’s parade of significant cars was led by Norm who too many looked as though he and his five passengers (including VHRR club Patron Sir Jack Brabham) were on a cruise down Lygon St!

As there is so much to report about I have placed a few links to articles of each of the categories of racing. Hope you enjoy the read.

1960’s Racing cars & Formula Ford

The oversubscribed field of historic Formula Fords was combined with the 1960’s racing cars for the second year. From the beginning it became a nightmare for the commentators and spectators alike, the commentators trying immensely hard to ensure enthusiasts received an excellent call of both races within the race.

For Race Control the first race on Saturday afternoon almost became a nightmare when the Formula Ford where still on their warm-up lap when the M & O cars received the Australian flag for the start. The worried Formula Ford drivers were hurried into lining up on the grid when Americas Phil Harris entered the main straight and slowed down thinking there had been some sort of start line incident – thus losing his 3 second lead over the rest of the field he gained after an amazing start.

Harris won the first race narrowly from Richard Carter in his Elfin 600. Bob Harborow, the man responsible for bring the Formula 5000 race to the Island had a number of cars from his collection at the meeting including his Cooper BRM F2. The Cooper was driven by the youngest competitor at the meeting, Michael Lyons from the UK, aged 16. He improved steadily throughout the weekends three races finishing 18th in the first to move to 8th in the final race – a very commendable effort, which scored Michael the inaugural Janet Hider-Smith Memorial Trophy for encouragement.

The Formula Fords commenced with Ray Stubber (Royale) opening up a strong early lead from Gary Watson (Mawer) and the rest of the 27 strong Formula Ford field. Watson won from Stubber, with Jonathon Miles some distance back in third.

Production Sports Cars

A vast array of production sports cars from the late 1950’s to the mid-1970 took part in the weekends Groups Sa, Sb & Sc races. At the pointy end of the field we saw the battle commence between the Chevrolet Corvettes of Paul Sabine (427ci big block) and Don Thallons Stingray. Hot on their tails and ready to pounce when the brakes started to fade was race sponsor Tony Jones in his Porsche 911 Carrera.

The variety of cars included the under-powered, but quick cornering Lotus Super Seven S4 of Mike Byrne who outclassed the Stingray of Thallon and the Morgan Plus 8 of Stuart Littlemore.

The capacity 50 strong field of cars impressed spectators all weekend with close racing throughout. Sabine made a race losing mistake in Sunday morning’s race when he spun the big 7 litre Corvette after making a brave overtaking move for the lead heading into southern loop. Don Thallon took his well sorted drum brake Corvette Stingray to a well-deserved race win from long time Porsche campaigner Geoff Morgan, who narrowly held out Tony Jones for second place.

The ever occurring close racing for production sports cars continued closely behind with a near photo finish between Byrne, Mike Jones (Datsun 240Z) and Terry Lawler (competing in his newly built Porsche 911).

The first three orders in the classes’ final race for the weekend changed only slightly with Tony Jones taking second from Morgan with Thallon becoming back-to-back race winner in a faultless drive.

1960’s to 1980’s Sports Racing cars

A most exhilarating heart-pumping race of Le Mans cars and other sports racers kept enthusiasts on the edge of their seats in this rare display of cars.

From the USA Bert Skidmore brought out his Lola T286 Le Mans car for the second time in three years to compete against the stable of Sherrard Le Mans cars, a Porsche 935 K3, Elfin MS7 and Lola T610.

The start line put goose bumps all over with the Skidmore Lola narrowly clipping Rob Sherrard in the 1987 Porsche 962C. An all Porsche second row with Le Mans 24 hour winner Vern Schuppan on third in Sherrard’ s newly acquired 1984 Porsche 956C, with Rusty French alongside in his 1978 Porsche 935 K3. On the point of the Sherrard stable of Le Mans cars, also racing was the Lola T70 Mk3B and Ford GT40.

An extremely interesting car to make the trip from the USA was Tony Pdell’s chrome painted Webster Special, with its straight pipe exhausts pointing from the V8 motor.

Skidmore was under stoppable with wins in all three races; however, it wasn’t without heaps of excitement along the way. Saturday afternoon’s race saw a great battle between the Lola and all three Le Mans Porsche’s – all racing on the limit till Sherrard retired during the race in the 962.

Sunday morning’s race was a pure adrenalin rush – not only for the drivers! It could’ve ended in absolute tragedy, but fortunately not. Vern Schuppan got off to a great start and moved the Porsche 956 into first and pulled out a small gap on Skidmore and French. A few close misses and minor touches between the two ended up in a 190mph knock underneath the Melbourne Bridge over the main straight that sent French and his Porsche 935 K3 airborne landing on the motorcycle pit lane (which extends to turn one, but is not used by cars) continuing further afield missing the tyre barrier by less than the width of the car before somehow French wrestled the fast moving Porsche back on to the track, and continued on racing. The red midst came down over his face and he went all out to fight back for the position continuing to pursue Skidmore, but on the way to the finish couldn’t get by Schuppan in the later model Porsche 956 who came a close second to Skidmore. Part of the French front spoiler were embedded into the Lola, but fortunately French happened to have his spare Porsche 935 K3 on display in the paddock area and changed the spoilers over!

Pre-war and immediate Post-war racing & sports racing

The stand out star for the weekend was Englishman Rod Jolley who stunned us with his one-off monoposto Lister Jaguar in 2006 and returned this year in his ex-Jack Brabham 2.7 lire 1961 Cooper Climax T51 F1. Jolley was in a class of his own all weekend finishing the first two races more than the length of Phillip Island’s main straight in front of Penrite works driver Keith Simpson (Lola Mk1). However, race three would prove quite interesting with the Jolley Cooper stalling on the warm-up lap, and once re started commenced the race from rear of grid.

A quite bizarre circumstance, but the pure speed and handling of the Cooper carved its way through the field in the first four laps to take the lead in a stunning passing manoeuvre on Wayne Gardner Straight to then hold this place and streak the field once again to make it three wins out of three. Jolley took home the meetings Spencer Flack Memorial Trophy for first overseas driver home in Group Lb. The award is in memory of Flack who lost his life while racing his BRM P25 at Phillip Island in 2002.

The meeting included the first appearance of three rare Talbot Lago Grand Prix cars at a race meeting in Australia. This race featured T26 of Peter Giddings. The other two T26’s were driven in the regularity events by Ron Townley (who has recently bought the Reg Hunt Talbot Lago) and Dean Butler’s car, which was driven by Ken Williams. Another Butler car – the Bocar failed to finish the first race, but had two excellent drives in the Sunday races where it was driven by Englishman Mac Hulbert (who usually drives his ERA R4D). Mac had some great dices with South Australian John Virgo (Riley Special).

Formula 5000
The biggest ever assembled field of Formula 5000 cars converged on Phillip Island. The majority of the field came from New Zealand, but other overseas cars included the Lola T330 of Frank Lyons (UK), Eagle FA of Judy Lyons (UK – Franks wife) and the March 73 of Peter Dunn (MC).

The Monaco resident won the first race from Australians Andrew Robson (Lola T332) and Aaron Lewis (who substituted his Chevron B24 for the awesome Matich A53) who finished within a second of each other. Frank Lyons won the battle for 4th over Ian Clements from New Zealand (Lola T332.

Clements came out to reverse the order for the 2nd race with a win over Dunn, Robson, Lyons and Tony Richards (NZ, Lola T332. The Clements/Dunn battle continued in the final race in a magnificent photo finish with Robson following shortly behind in third.

After similar success at Sandown in November Clements won the VACC Trans-Tasman Formula 5000 Championship. Andrew Robson won the Garrie Cooper Trophy for first Australian Formula 5000.

Historic Touring cars

For the report on racing from the Group N touring car category – 1950s through 1970s touring car racing please visit the Historic Touring Car Association of Victoria’s web site at www.htcav.com.au

1970’s and 1980’s Racing cars

This meeting saw the return of John Dimmer’s ex. Jackie Stewart Tyrell 004 Formula One car from 1971 and Phil Mauger’s 1973 Yardley McLaren F1 (both with Cosworth DFV engines). They were joined by the normally aspirated ground effects 1979 Tyrell 009 F1 of Rick Knoop from the USA and the local 1985 ex. Michele Alberto 1.5litre twin turbo Ferrari 156GP of Guido Belgiorno-Nettis.

The Ferrari has the ability to increase the horsepower when needed from 650 to 1000, which came in handy in both races on Sunday for Belgiorno-Nettis, but unfortunately not when it counts when the awesome scream of the Tyrell 009 was unleashed down the straight to take out all three race wins.

For the minor placings in the final race it was a battle of the young guns in the Formula Atlantic/Pacific cars. Sean Whelan came third in the Ralt RT4 from Andrew Makin (March 73B) and Jamie Larner (Chevron). All three were on the limits of their cars, but simply out-classed by the Formula One cars.

Group C & Group A Touring cars

The increasing grid numbers for C & A paved the way for some close racing. Paul Stubber again showed whose boss in the ex. John Harvey Marlboro Torana A9X creaming the field so well he even had time to bring back his well-known antics of power sliding – until the final race of the weekend when he retired two laps from the finish.

Race two, however, saw a horrific start line crash when Norman Mogg stopped shortly after the race start in the Telecom Mobilenet Commodore when the hard charging Anna Cameron had no wear to go but into the back of the Mogg Commodore completely ruining her Torana GTR XU-1 (and needing to be removed from the car on a stretcher and taken to hospital) and seriously damaging the Commodore. Commentator Todd Martin later conveyed that both drivers were safe and in good spirits – Mogg vowing to return soon with a re-built car.

It was a Group A battle for the honours in the Feature Murray Carter Trophy race. The Ford Mustang GT of Brett Maddren narrowly beat Terry Ashwood (Nissan Skyline GTR) who came from rear of grid to finish second. Frank Binding was the first of the Group C cars in his Army Reserve Ford Falcon.

Regularity events

As usual the regularity events gave enthusiasts the chance to compete in their pride and joy in a nominated time event. Earlier I mentioned Ron Townley was competing for the first time in his Talbot Lago T26 GP. Ron in fact came first in the final event of the weekend – keeping the most regular time out of the 50+ strong field.

The Porsche Museum cars competed in the regularity events. Peter Fitzgerald demonstrated the 1998 Le Mans 24 winning Porsche GT1 while Museum Curator Klaus Bischof drove the company’s only Formula One winner – the 1962 Porsche 804 F1. Alex Davison drove the 1969 long tail Porsche 908 Spyder. Vern Schuppan drove the 1977 Le Mans winning Porsche 936. Other Museum Porsches competing including the 356 Carrera GT, 1962 Panamericana-Mexico winner, 1970 Porsche 908/03 Spyder.

Conclusion

The Phillip Island Classic has now well and truly cemented itself as one of the world’s top historic motor racing events and all eyes are now set on the 2008 event!

Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia

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