Smooth State Round
April 6 & 7 2013
Report by Chris Ralph. Pics courtesy Phil Wisewould.
Great Saturday weather it was, just about as nice as one might think Phillip Island could be. Twenty one starters ventured out in qualifying and it was the returning for Club Champ Gary Edwards who put the newly suspended Torana on pole, ahead of Leapin’ Leo Tobin in the Mustang complete with fresh engine after the last one lunched at Island Magic. With less than a hundredth between them, 1.50.8399 to 1.50.9104 the stage was set for a good weekend at the front.
Third was Andrew Girvan, a new club member who made a great start as a Rookie of the Year contender. Andrew hadn’t driven for fourteen years and the car, owned by his late father hadn’t been out since the late 80s. The whole neatly turned out team bore witness to his father.
Fourth was the ever-improving Stephen Pillekers whose modestly powerful Torana is getting faster. A time of 1.54.6 was a great start to the weekend. Glenn Miles was next in the Charger, under a second adrift, with David Brown two seconds back in the Datsun 1600. Robert Marshall’s HO was clearly off song behind him, both he and the following David Landry in the Torana would not front for the races.
John Smallman was next in the BDA Escort ahead of Karl Wittick’s XY GT and John Alessi’s Monaro, which also was destined not to take any further part in the proceedings. A trio of Minis – Pringle, Rutschack and Read headed the Editorial BMW, which was suffering the indignities of testing in public, cutting out down the straight through Turn 12 fuel loss even with a mostly full tank, as well as other niggles. Race 1 was started but abandoned.
John Eeles’ Mini was next after going through a self lightening process at MG by shedding its spare wheel that had gone along for the ride. Brian Deveson had the legs on Fast Johnny Luxmoore in the Cortina stakes, with Phil Pearmain’s 1957 Jag sandwiched between them. Mick Stupka’s Citroen’s headed a troubled Trevethan Lotus, while Alan McKelvie’s Torana did not take part in qualifying.
Nineteen cars started and only 12 finished to begin what was not a hooray weekend for Group N reliability. Fancied front runner Leo Tobin had a return of the fuel pressure issues leaving Edwards, Girvan and Pillekers free to make it a clean sweep for Toranas, followed by Wittick’s HO and Smallman’s Escort, ahead of Alan McKelvie starting from the back of the grid in the Torana.
Alan only just made it to the line ahead of Ian Pringle’s Mini by four tenths of a second, their lap times only three tenths apart in the 1.59s. Bloody quick, that Mini. Fellow SA Mini punter Mal Rutschack came next (both cars prepared by Len Read) then a fair gap to the Pearmain Jaguar and the battling Cortinas of Deveson and Luxmore with Mick Stupka enjoying himself in the Citroen.
Apart from Tobin, David Brown’s Datsun did a diff, Eeles’ and Read’s Minis weren’t running correctly, ditto Trevethan’s Lotus, and whatever happened to Glenn Miles’ Charger put paid to his weekend.
Sunday morning had a large lump of weather roll over just when the HTC event kicked off the program shortly after 9.00 am. And boy, did this upset the apple cart.
The scaldingly fast Edwards Torana, while reveling in the dry with its stiff set up was all over the place in the greasy stuff and the flying Torana trio then became Girvan, Pillekers and Edwards, the first-named having the honour of leading a race for many laps in the second meeting of his comeback career.
The order remained the same until close to the end when a tiny mistake allowed Pillekers and Edwards through, the latter getting ever faster as the track dried. But it was Stephen Pillekers who squeaked to the line for his first ever win by a neat second from Edwards, the broad smiles on his and father Jon’s face were still beaming through the day.
This time it was John Smallman in the Escort fighting off the unwanted attention of the flying Pringle, only three tenths separated them at the flag ahead of Karl Wittick’s Falcon, Mal Rutschack’s Mini and Alan McKelvie’s Torana, while further back Trevethan’s Lotus had seen of the Pearmain Jag, Deveson and Luxmoore’s Cortinas and Inspector Maigret following the villains in the Citroen.
Leo Tobin again found that fuel problems dogged the Mustang, the Eeles and Read Minis were complaining and the Brown Datsun’s replacement diff may have been without oil and locked up the car at Hayshed on the warm-up lap, causing a delayed start.
A depleted field fronted the starter for the last and of those 15 only ten finished. Hopes for a Leo Tobin charge through the field ended with plug leads falling off, creating something of a PB– a finish free DNF record since October… but Leo remains phlegmatic because things must change for the better, right?
Fellow big Ford driver Wittick also retired, as did the little Fords of Deveson and Luxmore and Rutschack’s Mini. This time it was a straight first four for the Toranas of Edwards, Girvan, Pillekers and McKelvie, ahead of Smallman, Pringle, Trevethan, Pearmain, Eeles and Stupka in what was a fairly processional finish to the weekend.