This was my fourth successive year at Murwillumbah on the third weekend of September, in the role of co-commentator.
An overcast Thursday night saw the first of a series of festival activities at what is boasted to be the final Festival of Speed on Tweed.
The Sponsors cocktail party is held in a marquee in the pit area of the event and provides a before event chance for the event’s sponsors to mix and mingle with the legends of the sport. The evening was hosted by the Festival Director, Roger Ealand, who carried himself in his usual pommish way.
The 2008 event charity was the McGrath Foundation, supporting the good work and life of the Late Jane McGrath, who succumbed to breast cancer earlier this year. Syd and Nicci Reinhardt out-did themselves in support of this wonderful cause by travelling from Melbourne to Murwillumbah (… for McGrath) in their Bentley Speed Six. The journey covered nearly 3,000km’s over 10 days covering a huge range of country towns. On their travels they encountered many women going through breast cancer, most of whom were seeing benefits of the McGrath Foundation’s funding – the foundation is set up to provide funding for breast care nurses in regional areas.
The night was topped off with a speech by a group of legends – Jim Richards, John Bowe and John Goss, but more predominantly, the appearance of Sophie Serefino – fresh from her European music tour.
Similar weather conditions continued on Friday, which traditionally sees two main events. The first is the street parade of cars. A record number of approx. 160 cars took part in this year’s lunchtime parade all dropping in at the local Auto One store for a sausage sizzle. Of particular note in the parade were Denis Gehry, driving Peter Harburg’s Lotus 23B, but two-times Bathurst winner John Goss nearly missed the opportunity of participating in the parade, but managed to successfully chase down Gerry Lister in the Volvo (may be as its the world’s safest car?) for a lift to the sizzle up.
Another good turnout of cars was seen on Friday night as they adorned the bitumen along Main St, Murwillumbah to dine in all the fine establishments. This was topped off in the VIP area with the sight of the Bentley Speed Six, Alan & Jocelyn Telfer’s Bugatti Type 37/35 and the Ealand Alvis Speed 25.
With more entries than usual and the ambition to give each competitor at least 5 runs for the weekend the event abnormally commenced at 8:30am on Saturday. First car off was Joe Wilson’s Amilcar C5, followed by the Winkler Special.
A rare appearance – particularly in racing form at Speed on Tweed was that of the two genuine Jaguar d-type’s of Keith Berryman and Warren Daly. Unlike the Berryman example, the Daly car has been only owned for s short period, but has an immense international and local history in the hands of previous owner Bib Stillwell. But the more experienced Berryman, who regularly races his Matich SR3 at historic events, was the victor of the two across the weekend.
Whatever motor sport event one travels to, the crowd will always love o see sideways action – and let’s say it was aplenty at Speed on Tweed. We split the victors into the two groups, open wheeler and sports car. The sensational drifter in open wheelers coming to within mm of adhesion on each turn was Dick Vermeulen and his Ford V8 Special. To the sportscars and it was Bruce Dummet in his Holden Torana who was the only competitor to create a series of windy turns along the straight between turns 1 and 2 having completed this entire section in his first run completely sideways all the way.
Back to the serious side, however, and at the top end of the list – those vying for outright placing saw a tightly fought battle between first and second places. Nine-time Australian Hillclimb Champion Peter Gumley (Wortmeyer CSV) set the pace early in his second run of the Speed on Tweed circuit clocking a staggering 40.62 seconds in the early Saturday afternoon sunshine. His starch rival in the hillclimb championship, Neil Farr struggled for grip in his P76 powered Bowen Hay, and at that stage of the weekend was some 1.5 seconds off the lead. This changed, however, in the third and fourth runs where Farr got within 0.15 seconds of Gumley posting a 40.70second time, whilst Gumley became Mr. Consistent with similar times. But the final run of the day – Sunday afternoon saw Gumley pull out the anticipated sub 40 second time delivering 39.42 seconds putting him clear in the lead. Farr hit the track a few cars later, but could only manage to knock off a tenth of a second from his previous time, but still very credible and firmed up to take out second outright for the weekend. Third outright went to Ron Hay with his self-built RH Honda posting a 41.5second time.
Andrew Fellowes, for the second year running allowed John Bowe to drive his ex. Tim Schenken Rondel Brabham BT36 in which Bowe came a close runner up to Ty Hanger at the event the previous year. After some teething problems on Saturday (and a late night of mechanical work by Andrew), Bowe managed to move up to 5th place outright.
A rare sight to see at the event was the ex. Max Stewart Mildren Waggott, a car in which no less than 3 Australian Gold Star Championships were won, victory in two Macau Grands Prix, 1 Singapore Grand Prix and a second place to Jim Clark in the Dutch Grand Prix. The car was driven with great excitement at the event by Maxwell Pearson and Steve Lunn.
Usually at Speed on Tweed we are blessed by the appearance of some vintage aircraft. But, unfortunately the 2008 event was quiet in the skies due to the unavailability of local farmland to launch and land the aircraft; however, the sounds of aircraft engines were still evident at the event. Two Aussie built specials dawned the track – a DeHaveilland Rapide and the Gipsy Fiat. The Gipsy Fiat is the latest creation from Frank Cuttell (as reported in my Historic Winton report) and provided the crowd with not only a great sight and smell, but particularly a great noise. Thankfully for Frank the Gipsy Moth engine didn’t launch the car into the air!
Like Friday night, the Main St was closed to traffic, but unlike Friday night the restaurants were brought out on to the street with tables and chairs placed in the centre of the road for those with bookings to wine and dine in front of a live performance stage.
The theme for the 2008 event was ‘Simply the Best’ – and the performances on Saturday night exceeded even the highest expectations of all in attendance.
The Royal Australian Navy Bib Band kicked off proceedings with initially some classical rock music. This was followed during our meal by the guest appearance of Warren Daly – of Daly Wilson Big Band fame (also competing in his Jaguar D-Type).
A special raised platform was created at the left of the stage with a drum set for his sole use. Warren introduced what he was to perform – a tribute to Margaret and Roger Ealand (the event’s founders. The famous Sing Sing Sing commenced – his favourite song, and who can blame him.
The real treat was that all present were prevailed to hear a 10 minute (non-stop) drum solo by Daly. An awesome, possibly never to be repeated sight. This performance got the whole street rocking – even vacating most patrons of the nearby pubs to watch the performance!, and it set the tone for the remainder of the night – yes, you missed out on more?
International dance musician Sophie Serefino came out next and performed a string of her hit songs on the violin, keeping the crowd entertained – and also drawing a few to the vacant area in front of the stage to dance. This continued later on after Sophie finished, but to the tune of the Navy Band’s rock group who performed all the great hits long into the night with a jam-packed dancing area filled with a couple of hundred of the patrons – including John Goss and his wife.
Yes, we have to say this is the final Speed on Tweed for the founding organising committee, and it was an absolute pleasure to be involved, particularly as we all supported the McGrath Foundation’s works.
The total amount raised at the event will be posted at a later date.
Report by: Charles Rogers / HRA