Phillip Island Classic

The 22nd Classic meeting attracted huge crowds on all three days, with talk around the pits that the Friday crowd was as large as last year’s Saturday crowd. But why shouldn’t it be as the event has now firmed its place as the largest historic motor race meeting in the Australasia region.

Of particular note was the amount of local (Victorian) entered Formula 5000s, with over 10. Great effort, and there’s more to come. The crowd favourite was arguably the site of three Maserati 250Fs that travelled from California in the USA.

We also witnessed trackside viewing of two Frazer-Nashs, one the Grant Cowie twin-supercharged “Shelsley” and Daniel Clark’s chain-drive version.

The event feature in 2011 was for Sports Cars, with a 20-lap race Sunday afternoon the highlight for many.
The field tried all weekend though to put on a spectacle with not one, but two fires. First was the Porsche 935 of Rusty French with one of his two turbochargers catching fire on the way to Honda corner. The fire marshalls got to him as he was on the return road – near the fuel dump!

The second was a freak ignition fire to Wayne Park’s Lola T610 on pit lane. The engine, and two members of his pit crew suffering minor burns.

The class of the field was the John Briggs Veskanda, but it wasn’t without a fight from the Ralt RT2 of Jamie Larner and the Cosworth-DFV powered Lola T286 of Bert Skidmore. For Larner and French they were to start from rear of grid for the 20-lap race. After the first lap Larner had carved through the field to seventh place. By the fifth lap he overtook Skidmore in an out-braking pass at MG corner before continuing to reign in the leader, Briggs. Larner got within five or so seconds of the leader, before some drama (perhaps a re-occurring clutch problems) caused him to drop back, but maintained second to the dominate Briggs.

A good turnout of Formula 5000s contributed to the Formula Atlantic cars with the UK-based Greg Thornton dominated in his Chevron B24. A glimpse of what was to come at the Grand Prix support event was the debut of James Davison in the ex. Alan Jones Lola T332 owned by his uncle Richard. The Davison camp worked hard on Friday and Saturday after gearbox dramas, but he managed to take the fight to Thornton in the 12-lap Sunday race to finish a close second. Aaron Lewis placed third in his Chevron B24, followed by Paul Zazryn who had a great debut weekend in his Lola T332.

Some of the weekend’s closest racing was fought out in the Groups M & O races. A the front the battles raged between Richard Carter (Elfin Mono), Keith Simpson (Brabham BT16), Laurie Bennett (Elfin 600B) and Ray Stubber (Brabham BT29). Stubber was battling for the lead in race one (each field had four races for the weekend) before spinning at MG and losing a number of places, before finishing in fourth. The race was on and revenge was made in the afternoon’s second race when Stubber fought hard to win from Carter, Bennett, and Simpson. He then remained unbeaten for the remainder of the weekend.

The Formula Junior component was worth watching as Peter Strauss (Brabham BT6) had the bit between his teeth to beat Don Thallon (MRC 22 Ford). He didn’t quite get there, but chased hard, and was taunted by Tony Simmons (Brabham BT6), and Kim Shearn showed promise by the end of the weekend in his newly acquired Lotus 20/22.

The organiser have chosen to run one Regularity field at the Classic from this year with Division One getting the gurnsey (Division two will have the field next year). The Divison one field brings out a most diverse field, and this year was no different with a number of significant cars amounst them. Of particular note was the 1906 Darracqu GP of Anne Thomson (NZ), three Bugattis, two museum Porshces’, with Museum Director Klaus Bishof driving the 1970 Targa Florio winning Porsche 908-02. Kevin Nicholls drove the second museum car, the Porsche RS 60 Spyder. Other cars of note were a Lancia Stratos, Alfa Romeo TZ1, Mercedes-Benz 190SL and Talbot Lago.

The write made his return (MGB GT) following a speedy re-build after the Historic Sandown incident, the car driving much better, but now just to focus on getting the driver’s confidence back.

David Reid’s Faux Pas had the measure – by 9 seconds in Sunday afternoon’s race over the three out-dated (to the Faux Pas), but still having the looks – Maserati 250Fs of Giddings, O’Neill & Price.

In a rain affected Sunday morning Formula Ford race David Hardman got the set up right and blessed the field to his maiden win in the ex John Bowe Elfin 600. Jonathon Miles in his Reynard stormed back to form in the afternoon race from Andrew McInnes (Van Dieman) and Hardman in third.

Michael Spruyt is to be commended for is performance in a 4-cylinder MGB in the Group Sa & Sb races keeping up with the 289ci power-plants of the two Shelby Mustangs in the Group Sa and Sb races. Steve Sheppard comments: “His speed through the kink at the end of the straight as well as coming onto the front straight really shows commitment.” Chad Parrish was dominate in his Shelby GT350 from the similar car of Ian Ross. Alex Webster ran fourth in the final race in his Porsche 911S showing more young driving talent at the pointy end of the Sa & Sb field.

The demonstration events are always a highlight. Amongst the 6 museum Porsches we saw a mammoth display of genuine Falcon GTs. Jeff Brown brought out is recently acquired Chevron B16, the last of the B16 models built. Paul Faulkner took centre stage as he brought out for the first time the 1979 Williams FW07, but unfortunately after having one and a half laps “on-song” on the Friday dropped a valve in the newly re-built Cosworth-DFV, leaving the car to revert to static display.

Porsche had the numbers, but not the pace in the Group Sc events as the De Tomaso Pantera GTS of Perry Spiridis held off a close fought encounter with the 911 of Geoff Morgan. Again, a superb 4-clyinder performance by Michael Byrne in his super quick Lotus Super Seven S4 to hold off the gaggle of 911s, De Tomaso Pantera of Ross Jackson and the invited Group T Datsun Sports 2000 of Jason Lea.

Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia

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