A near record 534 entries across 12 racing categories descended on the Victorian coastal island for the 2016 Phillip Island Classic.
With these entries numbers there’s more exposure to risk of collisions and time pressures on the event schedule.
Shane Bowden ended his weekend losing control of the grey Holden-motor powered PRAD 5 entering the main straight on the first flying lap of Friday afternoon’s first race. This and an incident at Siberia corner resulted in a declared race at this point for the Groups J, K & L cars.
Thirty Formula 5000 cars entered the event, 17 from Australia, 11 from New Zealand and the remainder from other parts of the globe. The category chose to forego the first race by making it a second practice/qualifying session. Tom Tweedie from NSW taking pole position in the Racing Team VDS Chevron B24 from NZ Legend Kenny Smith in his Lola T332. The ole lap time – 1:28.1513
The emergence of Tim Berryman in this field in the ex. Alan Jones / Theodore Racing Lola T332 in his first race meeting in an F5000 car saw him battling it out at the front. Tweedie took the first three races with the veteran Smith providing close racing, but it was in the fourth and final race for the weekend that Berryman got a jump at the start (rolling start) and had a terrific race long battle with Tweedie. The two young-gun New South Welshman taking it down to the wire with Berryman taking his maiden F5000 win by .03200 seconds.
The first of the Victorians in the final being Andrew Robson (Lola T332) from fellow local, Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) – who made his return to racing following a foot injury in late 2015, with Greg Thornton from the UK in his Chevron B24 ran fifth.
The races for the pre-WWII to the end of the 1950’s racing & sports-racing cars saw some hard-fought racing. Les Wright from NSW brought down his Dalro Jaguar Special (yes, we usually see Les in his 1985 Benetton F1 car) taking pole position in Friday morning’s qualifying session with a very respectful time of 1:58.9141 from fellow New South Welshman, David Reid – who brought the Lukey Faux Pas Special home to Phillip Island again. Grant Craft from Queensland taking third spot on the grid for race 1 in his Sharp Holden Special. Incidentally, Craft had entered two cars for the weekend (the Lotus Super 7 S4 the other – after the Brabham BT2 FJ was not quite ready in time), all to have his truck breakdown at Mittigong in NSW on the 20+ hour long journey down Australia’s Eastern coastline. With the parts not available to get the truck back on the road quickly, the abandoned the truck and Lotus, borrowed a trailer and continued on with the Sharp Holden Special for the weekend. The man upstairs had other ideas as Craft promptly destroyed the engine in that afternoon’s first race. Nick McDonald (Elva Courier) took home the race 1 win from Wright, Rei, Dick O’Keefe (Proton Sports) and Shane Bowden (PRAD 5). Formula Vee is growing in grid numbers and 11 had entered for the meeting with the group combined with the above field. A great inexpensive way to get into historic racing, this group should be proud of their driving standards and quality of racing. Andrew Grevis-James nearly clean-sweeped the FVees in his 1961 Elfin NG, but it was Doug Angus from Queensland who took home the honours in the final in his 1963 model.
Formula Ford has grown rapidly as a historic category in the past few years and a record 54 car entered this year’s event with the grid extending around the final turn back toward the bridge (well not quite, but fairly close to it!). with so many entrants it’s hard to report on everything, but was interesting to note the depth of seasoned talent within this field. As the weekend progressed so did John Blanchard (Jnr) speed at the wheel of his Van Dieman RF88 – the first time in a racing car seat in 21 years (incidentally the last time he drove was in this particular car).
Current LMP3 driver, James Winslow (UK) was a last minute inclusion to the field in Dimitri Zartaloudis’ Van Dieman RF89 (following Dimitri’s withdrawal due to a back injury), and with Dave Hardman put on a great display of close hard-fought racing across the 5 races over the three days of the meeting. In each lap and each race they finished within less than half a second, Hardman taking two wins, while Winslow took the other three.
The 1960s Racing & Sports-racing cars (Groups M & O) once again put on a great show, this time with the dazzling inclusion of the 1966 Tasman Series BRM P261 of the UK’s Andrew Wereing. The car was driven in the Tasman Series that year by both Richard Attwood and Jackie Stewart. Certainly a spectator favourite it wasn’t right at the front of the field though with Richard Carter (Elfin Mono) and Laurie Bennett (Elfin 600B) doing battle at the front of the field with Keith Simpson driving the wheels off the Brabham BT14/16 to get a few thirds and fourth. Creditable third place in the final race to Peter Strauss in the ’69 Tasman Series Brabham-Repco Bt31.
Heritage Touring Cars (Groups C & A) put together a huge field; including more than 10 BMWs celebrating the marque’s Centenary. Carey McMahon took Pole Position in his Benson & Hedges Ford Sierra on Friday ahead of Richards & Terry Lawlor in the Caltex Ford Sierra, while Jim Richards stole the BMW show with his Group C spec BMW 635 taking it to Tony Alford in the 1992 “Godzilla” Nissan Skyline GT-R and McMahon.
1970s & 1980s Sports-racing cars put on a fabulous show. Unfortunately, Andy Newall (UK) suffered suspected suspension failure in a US-based McLaren M8F early on, and similarly to Bob Harborow who suffered a similar grief in his newly acquired McLaren M6B coming on to the main straight (believed to be poorly manufactured suspension component). Duncan McKeller had less issues in his McLaren M8E dominating the category across the weekend, including a convincing win in the final race ahead of the Lola T163 of NSW’s Aaron Lewis and Dutton Garage’s Groge Nakas in his ex. Racing Team VDS McLaren M8F. Lewis commenting about the power-to-weight ratio of his Can-Am Lola – “It weighs less than 700kg and produces more than 800 BHP”.
John Bowe well and truly dominated the 1970s & 1980s Racing car races in the 1974 March 741 Cosworth (driven in period by Hans Stuck) putting on a masterclass display each race with sub 1 minute 30 times.
By Charles Rogers
Images: Chris Carter