2011 Phillip Island Classic – Group N

2011 Phillip Island Classic – Group N

Story Darren Knight
Pics courtesy sdpics.com, Matt Griffin and Jim Jones

Under 3 Litres

Mazda RX-2s dominated qualifying with six rotaries in the top ten, led by Jason Humble, Gary Bonwick and Ben Read. Race 1 however proved it would be anything but a walkover for the wailing Wankels.

Read led after the first lap but soon came under attack from Humble and Wayne Seabrook (Porsche). Chris Ralph (in his Tarmac rally BMW) was out early with distributor dramas while Gary Bonwick (Mazda) fell off at MG and lost several spots. The BDA Escorts of Harvey Black Snr. and Errol Stratford argued with the Alfa of Bill Magoffin for a spot in the top ten.

Reigning Victorian Champ Russell Pilven’s (Datsun 1600) charge ended when he was caught up in someone else’s moment at turn one and retired. Humble regained the lead from Seabrook on the last lap and just held out for the win. Jason Black (BDA Escort) was a close third in front of Steve Land (Capri) and Read.

Seabrook withstood the rotary attack to win Race 2 with Humble and Read next after more fierce dicing (and giving each other the thumbs up whilst racing side by side!) followed by Land and Bonwick.

In a fantastic gesture Rob Southouse offered Phil Barrow his 48/215 for Race 3 after Phil’s FJ suffered problems on Saturday. Murray Paddison (Mk.II Cortina) also returned after an engine swap.

At the front a battle of epic proportions erupted with four different drivers grabbing the lead at various stages. Further back the Grey-engined Holdens of Eddie Dobbs (FE) and Barrow were neck and neck as were the Minis of Pete Melick and Anthony Ramadge and Nick Cascone (Mk.I Cortina).

On the last lap Jason Black emerged from behind the Hayshed in the lead but then fell off at MG, leading to an amazing finish with Humble edging out Read and Seabrook, the top three covered by .26 of a second! Black was fourth and Land fifth.

Read definitely had the eyes on for the final and took an early lead, looking solid until overcooking it at Siberia and taking a trip across the gravel. The nutso dicing continued with Graham Russell (ex Malaure Mini) battling Stratford and the immaculate Alfa of Phil Simmie.

Black was desperate to atone for Race 3 and launched a last ditch attempt to beat Humble who seemed to slow momentarily, failing by just .006 of a second at the flag. So close was the finish the race timing actually corrected itself after initially posting Black as the winner.

Bonwick was third from Seabrook and Land with Read climbing back up to eighth. Humble later admitted he almost ran out of fuel within sight of the flag, which explained the slowing down at the end.

Over 3 Litres

Russell Wright (`68 Mustang) bagged pole from Darryl Hansen (`69 Mustang), Rob Burns’ (Charger) and John Mann (`64 Mustang) in his final, final meeting. Andrew Williams was quickest Torana in fifth followed by Tony Hubbard (`67 Camaro) who was plagued by oil surge issues and would take no further part.

In Race 1 Burns’ Mopar threw a rod at turn one on the opening lap, leading to a Safety Car which caught the front runners by surprise as they exited turn 11 at full noise. The ensuing confusion saw the field concertina in slightly hairy fashion, the Torana of Stephen Bell ending up in the gravel trap at turn 12.

The ex-Jervis Ward Mustang of Grant Bingley sustained damage to the front end with the bumper bent skywards at a strange angle. Williams went out early after breaking a rear uni. Wright went on to win from Hansen and Mann who fought a big battle, as did Leo Tobin (ex Pearce Mustang) in fourth and Les Walmsley (ex Braune Charger) who held out the Toranas of Vince Macri and Angelo Taranto.

Bill Trengrove won the Nb battle in eighth. Further back, Joe Tassone struggled with understeer in his Pacer and finished ahead of debutant John Clarke in his first race in the ex-Tino Leo Mustang.

Mann made a great start to lead Race 2 after Wright had clutch issues on the warm up lap. Hansen utilised the 351 Windsor to great effect on the straight and grabbed the lead after a big battle with Mann.

Even after travelling across the other side of the country West Aussies Stuart Young and Mark Jewell found themselves still racing each other with their Toranas evenly matched. Fellow Sandgroper Hansen took the win from Mann while Tobin was third from Walmsley and Fraser Ross (ex-Marget Mustang) who started R.O.G. with Nb winner Andy Clempson (Mustang) almost alongside.

Wright posted the fastest lap on his way to 18th after losing nearly half a lap at the start.
Hansen assumed the lead in the final and kept the big `Stang relatively straight exiting the hairpin, a place where he was losing time earlier. The same hairpin claimed Mann in his last outing, the veteran running wide and losing a few spots whilst holding down third. Ross grabbed the lead across the back of the circuit on the final lap but Hansen utilised a good entry onto the front straight to run him down at the flag. Wright was third from Williams, Walmsley, Tobin and Mann.