Phillip Island Classic

 9-11 March 2012

This March’s meeting was run under mostly fine conditions, including the most still conditions on Friday most have ever felt at the notoriously inconsistent weather pattern environment that seems to circumference the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.

This led to competitors driving to the limit across the weekend, breaking numerous lap records, and unfortunately, numerous historic cars.

With more than 500 entries, a great classic car display along the main straight, the Expo centre displays and the Saturday night dinner, there is so much to write about, but we’ll focus here on some of the highlights.

The NZ contingent of F5000 cars chose to have the PI Classic as the final round of their 2011/2012 Tasman Revival Series, although the champion had being crowned at the previous round at Ruapuna Park in Christchurch. The young guns put a cat amongst the pidgeons on both sides of the Tasman during the series, with the UK’s Michael Lyons clean-sweeping most events there, and Melbourne’s James Davison achieving the same (when the car didn’t break) at Phillip Island driving uncle Richard’s Lola T332. Perhaps father Jon has given him an instruction or two on how to drive a T332 as during the weekend James set a new lap record for F5000 with a 1:29.8 lap.

The meeting attracted huge crowds with many enthusiasts travelling from across the country to spectate. The meeting has become a must-attend for many historic racing enthusiasts.

There was some great close-fought racing, and along with that there is inevitably going to be something go wrong, most of which happened during Sunday. Much has being written(and viewed from on-board footage uploaded to You Tube) about the FFord/FJ race crash that morning involving a total of 6 cars, including two UK competitors, Mac Hulbert and James Owen, both driving locally owned Lotus 18s. The latter was the worst affected, taking the full brunt of being flung upside-down, then careering in that position across the top of a F Ford before skidding across the track before coming to rest on his wheels. Suffice to say, a much bruised James spent the night in hospital, but with a busy business schedule in this region the following day checked out in the morning & flew to Brisbane for a meeting! The car suffered much damage, and owner Kim Shearn has used this as an excuse to leave mechanic David Price at home this year (in lieu of putting up with him during the pending 4-month race calendar in the Lotus 20/22 in the European season) to re-build the car.

The the weekend’s F Junior battles it was hard fought between Shearn in the Lotus 20/22 & Roger Ealand in his Koala fierce rivals on track. Likewise to Bill Hemming and Tony Simmons (Brabham BT6) further back.

Another regular visitor from the UK, David White was bitten coming on to the main straight on Saturday when he lost control in the Cooper Bristol severely shortening the car at both ends in the concrete wall, and suffering personal injury which had him air-lifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

In the Group C & A races Bill Cutler and David Towe were out in their BMW M3s, having recently returned from NZ, along with Jim Richards who drove his old BMW 635 CSi. Murray Carter also reunited himself with the Ford Falcon XC, and another young gun, Luke Ellery showed form in the early model Nissan Skyline, which is owned by Carolyn Kroger who took to the track as an invited entry in Group N for some track time. The races were close fought, but it was Troy Stapleton (Commodore) & Carey McMahon (Skyline) that was most consistent swapping wins & seconds.
Sam Dymond is expecting, so Ken Bedgood put his hand up to drive the Mk1 Lola (as well as the Cheetah Mk8) in the Group J, K & L races. Hard ask as Nick McDonald brought out the ex. Paul England Ausca and had a faultless weekend.

Group Sa & Sb was all about horsepower as Chad Parish (Shelby American GT 250) rocketed away across the weekend notching up many victories & breaking the Sb lap record, previously held by Steve Schuller (Iso Grifo) set in 2005. The new record is ==== There were dices throughout the 48 strong field.

Group Sc provided some exciting racing too, particularly on Saturday’s first race where Ross Jackson bagged up the tyres on his De Tomaso Pantera so much, he snaked and lost control just after the Melbourne bridge (tunnel overpass) with several cars lucky to get past without collision. Ross gathered himself back up & took part in the remaining races. Perry Spiridis was again dominant in the De Tomaso Pantera GTS. Bryan Taylor (Porsche 911) was not as lucky as Ross Jackson being involved in a massive shunt coming on to Gardner Straight, which will put the car out of action for awhile.

We’ll all be back for another go in 2013.

Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia

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