The twentieth Historic Sandown came with much expectation to deliver a great event, and it did, entering its second decade as a historic meeting in style.
Some 368 entries, with 32 Group C & A touring cars (the real mccoy cars from the mid-80s to early-90s) who were to take part in the feature 15 lap race Sunday afternoon.
In the lead up to this race, which started in a rolling start (practice for the support races at the 2012 F1 AGP), David Holc driving his ex. Gibbs GIO sponsors red Walkinshaw Commodore took the first two race wins in dominant form. Troy Kelly was leading the 15 lap race during the compulsory pit stop segment, however, a fast charging Holc came up after losing the first place during his stop to take the win from Kelly, and Norm Mogg in third – all in Walkinshaw Commodores.
In the prize presentation, VHRR President Ian Tate & Vic-President Noel Robson (also Chairman of the Historic Sandown committee) announced the Driver of the Meeting award, which understandably went to David Holc.
The M & O grid put on some great racing, with regular front-runners Laurie Bennett (Elfin 600B) and Richard Carter (Elfin Mono) having to work for their positions over the weekend as Peter Strauss rolled up his sleeves & took off the wings on the BT31 Repco Brabham so he could join them, along with Andrew Golde from WA. Goldie has recently purchased Richard Carter’s old drive, the Elfin 600B and had no track time in this car prior to the Sandown event, although is an experienced Formula Ford competitor.
The other recent Strauss acquisition, the ex. Stillwell/Davison Brabham BT11A was to be driven by Jamie Larner, but no wheels prevented this, which was the same for Norm Falkner who was to debut his newly restored Elfin Mono. From the ACT, Peter Barclay also joined the front-runners throughout the weekend in his Brabham BT21C.
Carter won the Saturday race from Bennett & Strauss, however, it was Strauss who turned the tables and took his maiden race win in the BT31 on Sunday morning ahead of Bennett & Goldie with Carter retiring on lap 4 with a suspected bent valve, notwithstanding the fact he set fastest lap, just half a second shy of the Group O lap record, which has stood since 2002 by Les Wright.
Carter started from the back of the grid in the feature afternoon Bib Stillwell Trophy race (coincidently sponsored by historicracing.com.au), stormed through the field and on lap 4 smashed the aforementioned Les Wright 2002 lap record by 2 seconds, lapping a 1:15.82, and took the race win by .4 seconds from Bennett (whose fastest lap equalled the previous record), and Goldie rounding out the podium.
The Bib Stillwell Trophy is for first Group M Racing home, and was taken by the ex. Salvadori Cooper T53 Climax of Don Thallon, with wife Janette accepting the trophy as Don was car-changing into the Corvette.
In the pits he calculated that Kim Shearn’s recent overseas experience in tghe Lotus 20/22 has proved well as he is no .47 second faster this year, then in 2010 in the Lotus 18.
With the introduction of the FFc class into Formula Ford this year we have seen a big influx of entrants at meetings, and at Sandown a standalone field of 31 cars hit the track. Mark Samson threw a new name into the mix, but is one known to the Vic State Series in recent past. He had entered his Van Dieman RF89 and took pole position after qualifying. Jonathan Miles (Fb Reynard 82), however, took all three race wins, but not without fierce driving from Samson, James Corzier (Fa Royale) and Bo Jameson (Fb Reynard). Samson set a lap record for Fc at 1:22.35 & Crozier set a new Fa record pipping off Nick McDonald’s time set in 2007 by less than a tenth with a 1:22.54 in the final race.
Perry Spiridis had trouble during qualifying and was on the fourth row, not a usual place for the De Tomaso Pantera GTS. He quickly made up for this, and led from the second lap in the first event, where he stayed for all three races. The battle was on, however, behind him with the Shelby GT 350s of Ian Ross and George Nittis keen to fill the podium, but not without stiff competition from the second De Tomaso Pantera of Ross Jackson, and with the exception of the first race, the Corvette Stingray of Paul Blackie. At times the Shelby/De Tomaso battles were side-by-side over the top of the old Rothmans Rise heading into the esses.
After putting on a solid front of field performance at the August Winton Festival of Speed event, the third Shelby, the Group T car of Chad Parish was narrowly in the top 10 during the weekend. Mark O’Neill was the most solid of the MGs in the field across the weekend, event with the sunroof closed!, and Jeff Thomas continues to improve in the ex. Brian Potts Datsun 260Z.
The historic touring car fields were grouped into Group Nb & Group Nc for the weekend, as opposed to the over and under 3litre classes of the 2010 event. In the Group Nb field Bill Trengrove was the man to beat in his Ford Mustang, and in fact, the Mustang was the car of choice for the front runners with the top 3 in the first, top 6 in the second & top 5 in the third being Ford Mustang entrants.
The battle of the weekend in this class must go to the two front cars of Trengrove and Andrew Cannon who drove away from the rest in the first two races and hard a close fought battle, which on one occasion got a bit too close on the main straight. Trangrove developed some electrical issues and started from the back of the grid in the final race. Cannon was not set to wait for him though, and romped away from Andy Clempson & Alan Shearer, but in the 8 laps it was only a matter of time before Trengrove fought his way through all but one car in the field, but needed another lap or two as he finished 3 seconds behind Cannon, with Cannon taking his first Group Nb win since 1995 at Eastern Creek.
Darryl Hansen was too good in the Group Nc races, taking all thee in his Fastback Mustang, ahead of the Trans-Am Mustang of Frazer Ross. The minor placings were taken by the Mustangs of Leo Tobin in the first & Harry Bargwanna in the second two.
A lot of great positives thus far in the review of the 20th Historic Sandown, but there is one big concern loaming that was shown in the pre-war, early post-war races for Groups J, K & L. There were less than 20 entries. The cars represented, however, were of very good quality. Whilst not at the pointy end of the field a weekend long battle for the Group J class ensued between the Bugatti T35C of George Hetrel & the Riley Brooklands of Ron Brownrigg, with the Riley quicker on the day.
Up the front Dick Willis brought the Mildren Cooper and played around a bit as his car had far superior speed than the rest of the field, having a dice with the Elva Courier of Ian McDonald. Sam Dymond fought hard in the Lola Mk1 to hold off Stumpy Russell (Ford V8) and the Cooper Bobtail of Nick Daunt, but Daunt, however, took the final spot on the podium in the final event. Tony Osborne debuted in the Simca Special, as he is still sourcing a replacement engine for the Riley 9.
The writer didn’t see much of the Group P, Q, R & F5000 racing for the weekend due to pit crewing commitments for father Simon in the MG races, but did hold his breath when Bryan Sala stalled the Matich A53 on the start of the Sunday morning race. Still, no one can get close it seems to the 2003 lap record set by Roger Williams from NZ at 1:08.33 – the tp runners were all about 4 seconds off.
Darcy Russell (Lola T330) had the most successful weekend of all taking both Sunday race wins, firstly from Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and Rob Tweedie (Elfin MS7), then Tweedie & Tony Floreani (Elfin MR5).
The regularity events put on another great display of rare exotica, particularly in Division 1 (the not so fast cars) where the quickest was the most regular in the final, with Ray Delaney driving the Clive Smith owned Maserati 250F CM. There were two further cars from the Clive Smith stable, the Alfa 8C Monza replica, and the Austin Healey 100S. The 100S was joined by two others from SA of the Tonys – Parkinson & Jarvis. The L-Type MG of Warwick Anderson was back on track after a re-build of the Offenhauser engine by Greg Smith due to an unresolvable oil leak at the rear of the engine, however, we only got to see the Offy twice during the weekend due to Warwick’s electioneering commitments.
As Historic Sandown moves into its third decade it may now be time to reflect on focusing on where the meeting is moving, particularly what its marketing potential is. Should it forget its past and drop the early classes, or perhaps re-group and put some effort into retaining a race meeting catering for the total mix of historic categories. I certainly hope they go with the latter. It would be a shame to lose the J, K & L cars from this event.
Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia