By Darren Knight. Pics James Smith
The Ford Mustang may have been the featured model of the meeting but a former panel beater from Seymour had other ideas.
Tony Hubbard and his `67 Chevy Camaro were just too good for a strong field that included nine of the Blue Oval’s Pony Cars. Pole position and three wins from three starts confirmed Hubbard`s status as one of the quickest Group N punters in the land.
Race One saw Rob Braune (Charger) initially in second place behind Hubbard until Darren Pearce (`68 Mustang) went through, while James Frolley’s (`65 Mustang) first run in ages ended with a blown rear uni joint. Alf Bargwanna (Torana) had a coil let go while Daryl Hansen (ex Stillwell `69 Mustang) seemed set to challenge Braune for third until he ran off at turn one after a big lunge under brakes.
Hubbard led home Pearce, Braune and Nb winner Jervis Ward, who ran out of fuel near the finish after suffering fuel pick up problems and just edged out Steve Bye (`68 Mustang). Sixth was John Mann in `ole 54, this being the second meeting in his comeback after competing at the Biante TCM round at Clipsal earlier this year. Geoff Taylor (`65 Mustang) was next, then Kevin Stoopman (HQ Monaro), Hansen and Bill Trengrove (`64 Mustang).
Fastest lap: Hubbard 1:22.6468.
Mann dropped down the order after a plug lead fell off and Bye had a huge moment cresting the rise across the back. A welsh plug blew out and deposited fluid all over the rear tyres, sending the Tasmanian into a big spin but with no further damage. Bill Meeke bagged a top ten in his first visit to Sandown with the Falcon Sprint, edging out John Harrison (Torana) whilst Andy Clempson (Nb Mustang) beat Brian Potts (HT Monaro) by a similarly close margin.
The podium was a repeat of Race One with Stoopman a strong fourth from Ray Challis (Torana).
Fastest lap: Hubbard 1:22.1347.
Race Three saw the luckless Hansen suffer another DNF as in race two while Trengrove, Ward and Taylor had a big battle for fourth, the latter two swapping paint near the end with Ward eventually grabbing fourth.
Hubbard won from the determined Pearce who certainly spared nothing in his pursuit of the larger-engined Chev, which by the way looked superbly set up as it powered onto the front straight. Braune was again third.
Fastest lap: Pearce 1:22.6999.
Under 3 Litre
The bigger cars may grab more attention from casual race goers yet for a purely competitive spectacle it is hard to go past this category at the moment. Stunning new cars are appearing at regular intervals and the racing itself is unbelievably close and hard fought.
Three different winners (and different makes) took victories – Lew Bush (Mazda RX-2), Bill Cutler (BMW 2002) and Spencer Rice (Alfa 2000GTV). Harry Bargwanna (V6 Capri) took pole and led comfortably in Race One until the Essex six potter cried enough, putting him out for the duration.
Bush won from Cutler and Rice with Paul Cruse (Twin Cam Escort) an excellent fourth in only its third meeting. Ben Read (RX2) was next then the brand new built BMW 2002 of Chris Ralph, an amazing effort straight out of the box. Another newbie was right behind, the immaculate Twin Cam Escort of John Smallman. Stephen Wright (RX-2) was eighth then another gorgeous new car in the shape of a Porsche 911 driven by builder David Belford and owned by Mark Johnson, who will soon rejoin Group N ranks with this rear engine marvel.
Queenslander Craig Lind and Sydneysider David Noakes were next to make it four Twin Cam “Eskies” in the top 11 finishes.
Fastest lap: Rice 1:29.0659.
Bush fell off at turn one in Race Two, handing the lead to Read who was now worryingly glancing in his mirror at the Mazda’s boot lid flapping up and down in the breeze. The inevitable black flag came out forcing him to pit with Cruse now in front. Incredibly Cruse now fell from the lead and dropped out after the Escort’s clutch began to slip. Cutler now found himself in P1 and took a well deserved win from Rice, Bush and Ralph.
Fastest lap: Rice 1:28.4051.
Race Three saw a clash between White and Ralph who was then inadvertently tagged by the impressive Brent Trengrove (EH) who gets more competitive with every meeting. Rice put the squeeze on Cutler and went on to win with Bush second and Cutler third.
Fastest lap: Bush 1:29.9524.
Mustangs were also represented in the C&A ranks, with Neville Butler lining up in Lawrie Nelson’s `85 Group A machine and Ross Donnelly in a similar model once campaigned by New Zealand`s Anderson Brothers in bright yellow “Pinepac” colours. New “old” cars are also continuing to appear within the later Historic Tourer ranks, none more spectacular then the ex-Bob Forbes owned GIO Nissan GTR, as raced in the day by Mark Gibbs, with Rohan Onslow on board for the endures. This “Godzilla” is now owned and raced by Gavin Strongman.
Rod Markland took an exciting win in Race One in the car that Godzilla replaced, an ex-Gibson Motorsport HR31 Nissan Skyline. Long time Group C collector and proponent Willie van Wersch was a close second in an ex-Re-Car VH Commodore with Stephen Perrott third in an ex-Roadways Torana A9X hatchback. Mike Roddy (ex TWR Jaguar XJ-S) just beat home Strongman to fourth. Markland led the early stages of Race Two before original Pole winner Bob Tweedie (ex-Seton Sierra) finally took the win after problems in the opening race, with Markland and van Wersch next. Roddy had retired whilst holding down fourth with a plume of smoke billowing from the big cat.
The two Group C Commodores of Gary Collins and Michael West kept Strongman honest in the dice for fifth. In Race Three the Group N Under 3L curse for cars up the front seemed to drift over the Group C&A paddock, with first Markland dropping out whilst in second place and then race leader Tweedie out after another couple of laps. West also retired the ex Warren Cullen/Alan Jones Commodore as Strongman recovered after bogging down big time at the start (perhaps due in no small part to a commentator stating “the four wheel drive of the GTR should be a huge asset at the start!” After falling to as low as ninth, inexorably the Nissan chomped into the lead of van Wersch but the Benalla boy had just enough in reserve to win in an exciting finish. Perrott completed another solid run in third.