A staggering 480 entries were accepted for the 2008 Phillip Island Classic, held from 7-9 March. The meeting showcased a record number of overseas entries complimenting the wonderful collection of local owned cars.
The format of the weekend has been modified with practise limited to Friday morning followed by qualifying for all categories in the afternoon. Overcast conditions settled over the circuit in the morning with periods of light rain. But as the forecast predicted the sky lifted and the afternoons’ qualifying sessions were held in sunshine, which set a precedent of things to come for the weekend.
For the keen enthusiast the chance was there to wander through the extensive and partly refurbished paddock area to soak in the atmosphere before the major crowds of the weekend. The Victorian Historic Racing Register has now modified the paddock layout to allow for more trade stalls and static display behind the garages.
Part of this display area was taken up by the Porsche display, put on jointly by Porsche AG and Porsche Cars Australia. The feature car for 2008 (following from 6 cars air freighted in 2007) was the all-conquering 1973 Porsche 917/30 Spyder. This 917 is the third of four built and not only smashed the closed circuit speed record clocking an average speed of 242mph, but is also blamed for the demise of CanAm racing.
The cars was de-tuned for Phillip Island to produce a maximum of 1,000BHP (normally 1,100BHP in race trim and 1,500BHP in qualifying trim) and was demonstrated by Jim Richards with great skill.
The meeting focused on so many attractions including; 80 celebrations of the first Australian Grand Prix (held at Phillip Island in 1928), 50 year anniversary of the birth of Formula Junior, a record entry of 35 Formula 5000’s and an overall record overseas contingent.
With the stand-out list of overseas cars entered came a superb list of name competitors – the event Patron, John Bowe drove two cars, a Brabham BT14 and Lola T430. MotorSport journalist Simon Taylor competed in Bob Harborow’s Maybach. Sam Healey (the grandson of Donald Healey) drove Stephen Pike’s Austin Healey during his stay in Melbourne, and Clare Surtess (of the famous dynasty) drove an original Singer Le Mans during the weekend. Local hero Glenn Seton also showed his ability in the mostly over 3 litre Touring Car events driving a Ford Capri.
Another overseas car showing the patina of age and use was the Bugatti T39 – one of only five examples built and the sole survivor. The car looks like a T37 from the front, but houses a straight-eight unsupercharged engine and a much longer stream-lined wheelbase.
Another example of a truly historic vehicle was the freshly restored 1932 Scuderia-Alfa Tipo B ‘P3’. Peter Giddings took possession of the car only weeks ago after an exhaustive no-expense spared New Zealand restoration. Completed to the highest standard Peter experienced some teething problems with gear ratios and fuel mixtures, but all was forgotten upon the sound of the massive hair dryer screaming down the main straight each lap.
Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia