2009 Island Magic

Updated: 25 February, 2010

Camaro Fairytale

Phillip Island

November 21-22 2009

Pics courtesy David Apostol & Chris Noyes. Words Graham Slater.

Always a fitting season closer, the last meeting of the 2009 season had all the elements worthy of a grand finale. Many of the Nb and Nc class, category and outright championships were still wide open, so tensions were high.

Neptune’s curse struck us again at the Island, and yes it rained, just for something different! The only positive was that there were rumoured dry spells on both days, the trick was to catch one!

On cue the heavens opened in time for our practice session, guaranteeing times would be slower than usual even for those who had the blessing of wets.

Gary Edwards XU1 used every millimeter of rubber left on the Dunlop D93s and grabbed pole from Mike Miceli’s D84 equipped Falcon GTHO by the finest of margins, 2.05.23 compared to 2.05.24. Scott Slater was third fastest with a 2.05.90 followed by Andy Clempson’s Nb Mustang with a 2.07.35.

Russell Pilven (Datsun 1600) and Stuart Brown (XU-1) were next backed up by Geoff Taylor (Mustang), Angelo Taranto (XU1), Darren Collins and David Moran.

Chris Ralph was again strong sitting in position twelve just two tenths behind Jon Pillekers, and then came Rod Hotchkin (Falcon GT), Ben Read’s Mazda, followed by Craig Miles, Nick Cascone, Alan Brown, Len Read and Andrew Tickner. Leo Tobin’s Torana rounded out the top twenty.

Justin Brown headed the balance of the field, in front of newcomer Frank Marchese who was driving Ray Challis’s Torana, Darren Hill’s under-tyred Porsche, John Luxmoore, Ian Watt’s Triumph, Ian Pringle in the Cooper S, Brian Potts who had made a special trip down to Melbourne after his good run at Sandown Historic, Gordon Cox, Ted Brewster Simon Browning and Rod Evans.

What a field – 31 cars would front the starter and the rumour was… it may be a dry one? How things would change if that really was the case.

Race 1
It’s Dry! It’s Collins!!

“The pits were all a buzz. For the word had got around that the rain had gone away, and our race would be held, in a dry part of the day”! So it was off with the gumboots and on with the runners. As the field rolled up to meet the starter there wasn’t a scrap of doubt it was game on from red lights out.

Gary Edwards “fluffed” the start and it was Mike Miceli with Scotty Slater tucked up behind the big red Ford who led the big field through Southern Loop around Honda and Siberia up Lukey Heights and back onto Gardner Straight for the first time.

Darren Collins had pushed the big Camaro through to third spot from the Mustangs of Andy Clempson and David Moran. Angelo Taranto was the next Torana from Edwards, Ben Read’s Mazda, while Geoff Taylor’s Mustang and Stuart Brown’s XU-1 made up the top ten.

Chris Ralph was again in form and the rapid BMW headed a fiery battle between Andrew Tickner (Monaro), Russell Pilven’s Datsun 1600, Leo Tobin’s Torana XU-1 and Len Read in the first of the Cooper Ss. While Craig Miles in the Charger, Nick Cascone, Rod Hotchkin, Justin Brown, Ian Pringle, Darren Hill, Brian Potts and Ian Watt, were all busy trying to make up position after the wet qualifying session.

Collins’ Camaro continued to close on the battling duo of Mike Miceli and Scott Slater, slipping past Slater on lap four making it a crowd-pleasing three car battle at the head of the field.

Gary Edwards had worked his way back into fourth place but wasn’t close enough to challenge for a podium. An off-track excursion cost Taylor dearly leaving Clempson and Moran clear leaders in the battle of the Mustangs, while Nick Cascone continued his domination of the Cortina class with a clear break over the similar cars of John Luxmoore and Simon Browning.

Collins just managed to break a way from Miceli and Slater on the last lap with barely two seconds separating first to third place. Edwards was in fourth place from Clempson, Taranto, Moran, Pilven, Ralph and Tobin in tenth.

Results: 1st Darren Collins. (Chevrolet Camaro). 9.28.43. (1.50.69*), 2nd Mike Miceli. (Falcon GTHO), 9.29.64. (1.52.08), 3rd Scott Slater. (Torana GTR-XU1). 9.30.44. (1.51.83).
*Fastest Lap. Darren Collins (Chev Camaro). 1.50.69. (Ed’s note: Russell Pilven also set a near Under 2-litre NC record of 1.55.3 in this race.)

Race 2.
Flippers and Snorkels

If anyone thought that for the first time this year we would have all dry races at the Island then Sunday morning certainly put a “dampener” (oh, dear!), on that theory.

Under what could best be described as worsening conditions the fields rolled up to the starter and taking full advantage of his brilliant Dunlop 84s Mike Miceli pulled away from Darren Collins who was “all at sea” (stop it!) in the Camaro.

Scotty Slater slotted into third spot followed by Gary Edwards, David Moran’s Mustang, Ben Read’s Mazda, Darren Collins, Russell Pilven, Andy Clempson, Leo Tobin and Chris Ralph’s BMW in the top ten. An axle breakage had sidelined Angelo Taranto leaving Leo Tobin and Jon Pillekers the only Toranas close enough to challenge the leaders.

As the conditions deteriorated Slater’s Torana developed a slight miss and Edwards slipped past at Doohan corner to take second place.

From then on confusion reigned. Miceli had received a drive-through penalty for a jumped start and the safety car had been deployed after Geoff Taylor’s Mustang smote the tyre barriers coming on to the main straight.

Conditions got even worse and viewing the flag points with all the spray present was near impossible. Hence the end of race results would change dramatically (more on that later).

With one lap to go, the safety car pulled in and the race recommenced. Scott Slater was in the lead now the mystery engine miss having disappeared, Miceli was in the pits to stay, Gary Edwards in second, then came Russell Pilven, Leo Tobin, David Moran. Chris Ralph was well placed in sixth ahead of Ben Read, Jon Pillekers, Darren Collins, Justin Brown, Nick Cascone and Andy Clempson.

With both Slater and Edwards close on championship points the pressure was on to get results. Driving on the limit in torrential blinding rain eventually bit the leaders, and both Toranas did a 360 degree loop at the high speed kink approaching Honda. Fortunately both cars avoided damage, but ending up buried up to the axles in the catch pit and out of the race.

A surprised Russell Pilven found himself in first place, far enough in front of Leo Tobin and a fast finishing Chris Ralph to take the flag.

It was after the race that the fun started as during the extreme weather and limited vision several of the cars had passed under the yellow and as a result the final places changed dramatically. Russell Pilven stayed in first, Chris Ralph was elevated to second and David Moran was third.

Lots of post race discussion ensued as to why the race wasn’t called or at least finished under the safety car. Like it or not we have to remember that the relevant officials do have lots of experience and as such will on most occasions make the call for the best interest of all parties.

Results: 1st Russell Pilven. (Datsun 1600). 12.55.63. (2.14.01), 2nd Chris Ralph. (BMW2002). 13.01.40. (2.20.80), 3rd David Moran. (Ford Mustang). 13.15.25. (2.16.35).
Fastest Lap. Gary Edwards (Torana GTR-XU1). 2.10.93.

Race 3
The Grande Finale

With a whole bunch of DNFs and some unfortunate yellow flag incidents during the “monsoon” in the previous race the first few rows of the grid for the eight lap final set the scene for a great season finale.

Russell Pilven was on pole next to Chris Ralph’s BMW. David Moran and Justin Brown were on row two. Ben Read was next to Darren Collins Camaro, then came Darren Hill, Jon Pillekers, Craig Miles in the E49 Charger and Ted Brewster’s Cooper S.

Angelo Taranto was out with a broken axle, and Geoff Taylor was a nonstarter due to body damage. With players like Miceli, Slater and Edwards in the back rows the slower cars who had been elevated to the head of the field would need to keep a keen eye on their rear vision mirrors.

Lights out and it was on for young and old. As expected Darren Collins made a big move through the field, while both Scott Slater and Gary Edwards “floored” the Toranas with Mike Miceli close behind.

As the field exited Siberia Scott Slater had scythed through the field from nineteenth to sixth. Edwards was up to ninth, just ahead of Miceli. Darren Collins had pushed the big Camaro through to first just ahead of the battle between David Moran and Russell Pilven.

With a couple of clean passes first on Chris Ralph at the Hayshed, and then Andy Clempson over Lukey heights into MG corner, Scott Slater quickly moved up inside the Moran/Pilven dice and slipped the green Torana into third place, behind Ben Read’s Mazda RX2.

Mike Miceli was a couple of seconds back in fifth with Gary Edwards challenging first Moran then Pilven for sixth. Leo Tobin was next followed by Craig Miles, Andrew Tickner, Chris Ralph, Frank Marchese, Jon Pillekers and Brain Potts.

Justin Brown’s BMW was in a great battle with Darren Hill’s Porsche, while Nick Cascone held a tenuous lead from Rod Hotchkin’s Falcon GT, Len Read’s Cooper “S”, Ian Watt, Ted Brewster, the Toranas of Alan and Stuart Brown, with the GT Cortinas of John Luxmoore and Simon Browning rounding out what was a great battle down through all the classes.

Slater was soon past Read and set about the big task of wearing down Collins’ well established lead. Miceli followed through, first passing Clempson then Read to slot into a distant third.

Edwards was now pushing for a podium and soon slipped past Pilven and Clempson. Read surrendered fourth place to Edwards on lap five but the lead trio were well clear and nothing short of a miracle would give the Torana driver a chance. Ben Read looked comfortable in fifth place but Andy Clempson was getting plenty of pressure from Russell Pilven’s rapid Datsun 1600, and with two laps to go the Datsun slipped into sixth place.

Newcomer Frank Marchese was getting a handle on Ray Challis’s XU-1 and had moved up to eighth to challenge Clempson’s Mustang for seventh place. Chris Ralph and David Moran were at it again in a battle which had raged all weekend. Leo Tobin was next followed by Craig Miles, Jon Pillekers Torana, Brian Potts HT350 Monaro, Rod Hotchkin’s XY GTHO, Darren Hills Porsche, Justin Brown, Ian Watt, Ted Brewster and Len Read.

At the pointy end of the field Scott Slater had caught the Collins Camaro challenging on many occasions but the big Chev just had to many ponies in the straight bits!

With a fine mist of rain commencing to fall on the last couple of laps, and a clear gap to Mike Miceli and Gary Edwards, Scott decided to finish in a strong second place rather than making a last lap lunge and ending up buried in a sand pit.

Darren Collins took the Camaro on to a well deserved win 2 seconds clear of Scott Slater’s XU-1, with Mike Miceli a further eight seconds back in third. Gary Edwards was a little under nine seconds back in fourth after a great dice with Ben Read over the last two laps. Russell Pilven was the first of the four cylinder cars followed by Frank Marchese, Andy Clempson in the first Nb Mustang, Chris Ralph and David Moran in tenth place.

A fitting finish to what has been a strong season with improved numbers and great racing.

Results: 1st Darren Collins (Chevrolet Camaro). 15.27.70. (1.52.97), 2nd Scott Slater (Torana GTR-XU1). 15.29.45. (1.53.22), 3rd Michael Miceli. (Ford XW GT-HO). 15.37.58. (1.52.89*). *Fastest Lap. Michael Miceli. (Ford XW GT-HO). 1.52.89

Apart from the disastrous bout of weather at every round at Phillip Island this season, over all the racing was beyond reproach, great entertainment and a whole lot of fun for all. With the 2010 season soon upon us with the Phillip Island Classic in early March we can only hope that unlike last year’s unseasonal “wet one”, the Island will produce a fabulous sunny and above all dry weekend we have got so used to over the past few years. Happy Christmas and a joyous New Year to you all.