The Island on Ice
April 25-28 2009
Pics David Apostol & Dean Bryant. Words Graham Slater.
Never short of producing a fiery mixture of action and suspense the fabulous Phillip Island circuit once again delivered for round one of the 2009 VSCRC. Weather forecasters predicted wet and icy conditions for the weekend, but the quality 18-strong field of Historic Touring cars was primed for action, whatever the conditions.
Defying the weather bureau predictions, most of Saturday was dry. With five Torana XU1s, four Falcon GTs, a couple of Mustangs, a sprinkling of four banger Fords, Tony Hubbard’s Camaro, and Brad Westaway’s Charger and Mick Stupka’s classic Citroen 11D thrown in to stir the pot, the field was wide open should the weather take a turn for the worse.
Scotty Slater’s XU1 took full advantage of the dry and threw down the gauntlet to the V8s, taking pole with a scorching 1 min 51.92 secs. Mike Miceli’s GTHO, heading the strong V8 contingent, was next with a 1.52.54 followed by Hubbard’s Camaro (1.53.14) and the XU1 of current State Champion Gary Edwards (1.54.34). Angelo Taranto (XU1) Brad Westaway (Charger) made up the row three, followed by the Mustangs of Bill Trengrove and Andy Clempson, with Leo Tobin and Karl Wittick rounding out the top ten.
Race. 1. Miceli opens the score
Scott Slater got the start and led the field to the final brake marker at Doohan Corner. The Torana’s lead was short-lived however as Miceli’s GTHO slipped into the lead, closely followed by Hubbard in the Camaro. The three XU1s of Slater, Edwards and Taranto were next ahead of Clempson, Westaway and Trengrove.
The battle for the lead was hot and Hubbard scored a couple of flat-spotted tyres in the process. The Camaro eventually retired, after a touch with Miceli’s GT at Honda on lap two. Scott Slater continued the pressure keeping the XU1s of Edwards and Taranto at bay while Trengrove and Clempson were just metres apart in a fabulous battle for a spot in the top five.
Newcomer Rod Hutchkin (GTHO) was quickly learning the art of “driving the Island”, following close behind the GT Falcons of Karl Wittick and Ian Cromarty plus the Escort RS of John Smallman. “Fast Johnny” Luxmoore’s GT Cortina took the lead in the four cylinder class when the similar car of Nick Cascone retired from George Ginis and Mike Stupka.
Mike Miceli went on to a strong win by a little over three seconds from Scotty Slater in second place with a fast finishing Gary Edwards a little under seven seconds back in third.
Results: 1st Michael Miceli (Falcon GTHO). 11.24.07. (1.52.44*), Scott Slater (Torana GTR-XU1). 11.27.34. (1.52.82), Gary Edwards (Torana GTR-XU1). 11.34.61. (1.53.18). *Fastest Lap
Race 2. Edwards by a flipper
Sunday dawned with the weather bureau right on the mark. Strong icy winds prevailed, backed up with lots of heavy driving rain.
Both on tyres best suited for less aggressive conditions, Mike Miceli and Scott Slater led the away in what was a hopeless task to stay ahead of those who were fortunate enough to be driving on the proven Dunlop D93J compound tyres.
Angelo Taranto and Gary Edwards blasted past closely followed by Clempson’s Mustang, Leo Tobin, Nick Cascone and Tony Hubbard’s Camaro. Miceli and Slater struggled for traction dropping further down the field until, adding salt to the wound on lap 4, the big Falcon engine expired leaving Mike to contemplate a weekend wasted. John Smallman was next followed by John Luxmoore, Bill Trengrove, Karl Wittick, Gordon Cox and Brad Westaway’s Charger.
There would be no prizes for heroics, just staying on the bitumen was reward enough for starting the race in such horrific conditions. Up front it was a battle royal as both Taranto and Edwards tested each others resolve on corners awash with water. Clempson and Tobin battled for third place and in doing so kept maximum pressure on the leaders. One slip and the whole picture would change.
Edwards took the win from Taranto in what was an exciting final lap, with both Toranas locked together for the last 400 metres. Andy Clempson broke clear of Leo Tobin for a clear third place, while Tony Hubbard, Nick Cascone, Scott Slater, the four “banger” Fords of Smallman and Luxmoore followed by Bill Trengove’s Mustang rounded out the top ten. In fact all those who braved the conditions were to be congratulated just for challenging the conditions and finishing the event!
Results: 1st. Gary Edwards (Torana GTR-XU1). 13.37.19. (2.10.72), 2nd . Angelo Taranto (Torana GTR-XU1). 13:37.20 (2:11.13), 3rd Andy Clempson (Mustang) 13:39.25. (2:10.24*). *Fastest Lap.
Race 3. Edwards “rains” supreme
With a break in the conditions after lunch a few of the not-so-well “a-tyred” took a punt and pulled on dry weather boots. All to no avail however as correctly predicted by the weather bureau (for a change), down came torrential precipitation with the accompanying winds.
With no suitable rubber, Team Slater made a mutual decision on the dummy grid that discretion was the better part of valor Scott reluctantly withdrew. Those on the magic D93Js were once again in the box seat, with the anticipation of another mighty duel between Edwards, Taranto, Clempson and Tobin generating an atmosphere best described as electric.
Under absolutely appalling conditions the organizers wisely started the field under a safety car. Then with two observation laps competed the safety car peeled off and the two XU1s were locked together yet again.
Taranto held back a persistent attack by Edwards for the next two laps with Clempson and Tobin in close quarters. Edwards slipped by into the lead on lap 3 and stayed in the lead until the race was wisely called two laps early (originally 10 laps), by Clerk Of Course Colin Smith, anxious to protect the drivers and their cars.
Leo Tobin drove well and slipped past first Clempson then Taranto to finish in a well-driven second place behind Gary Edwards with Angelo Taranto in third place, in front of Clempson, Cascone, Hubbard and Bill Trengrove. Fast Johnny Luxmoore finished eighth leading home Brad Westaway, Karl Wittick, Rod Hutchkin, Gordon Cox, Mick Stupka and George Ginis as each driver struggled for grip under very dangerous conditions. Although a lap down when the race was called just finishing the event under the prevailing conditions was a feat in itself.
Results: 1st. Gary Edwards (Torana GTR-XU1). 19:06.68. (2:10.69*), 2nd.Leo Tobin (Torana GTR-XU1). 19:13.90. (2:12.87). 3rd. Angelo Taranto (Torana GTR-XU1). 19:16.03. (2:12.9).*Fastest Lap.
A great start to our State Race season, good field great racing, just a pity about the rain. The next round is at Sandown and hopefully it will be dry this time which evens the odds for all. Racing in pouring rain while testing and skillful is “bloody dangerous” and doubles the chances of season-interrupting (or –ending) incidents.
Maybe as suggested by others car racing should only be done in the Spring/Summer months – say, September through end of April. Dates in that segment might even add the bonus of more spectators too. Food for thought!