A classic in every respect.

Phillip Island Classic

Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould

The 30th Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport on the Labour Day long weekend in early March was a fine display of historic touring car racing. Good weather greeted the 36 Under-3 Litres and 32 Over-3 Litres entrants for Friday qualifying and stayed all weekend. And with no safety car interruptions, every lap was full on racing in both divisions. One for the history books!

Under 3 Litres and Invited

Race 1, Friday
Mazda rotary runners love the long sweeping layout of Phillip Island so it was no surprise to see a couple of RX-2s lock out the front row. Bill Attard got the jump on fellow NSW driver and pole-sitter Wayne Rogerson to snatch an early lead while the Capri of NSW’s Quentin Bland soon moved into second place but was tapped into a spin at MG Corner and lost several places before re-joining.

There was tight racing back in the field with the pushrod Cortinas of Simon Browning and Don Knight mixed it up with the Volvo 142 of fellow Victorian David Belford and the MkII Jag of WA’s Michael Gallagher. Belford made good use of his car’s Historic road registration by running in its recently installed race motor on the road – just like the old days but perhaps minus the Ajax down the Volvos cylinders!

Queenslander Shane Cowham pushed his unique HD Holden up to 16th off the back of the grid, the 179 cubes benefitting from recent dyno time with `65 Bathurst winner, the one and only Bo Seton. Attard held off Rogerson for the win with the Fords of WA’s Tony Gilfuis (Capri) and SA’s Josh Axford (BDA Escort) next.

Race 2, Saturday
Attard made another good start in race two to lead with Gilfuis squeezing up into second with a big group of cars snapping at his heels. The Porsche of Rory O`Neil and FJ Holden of Phil Barrow made for an unlikely but highly entertaining battle mid pack as Tasmanian Lachlan Thomas found his 1300cc Escort under attack from Cowham’s HD with both inside the top ten. Eddie Dobbs’ famous ex-Graham Blanchard FE spat the dummy (well, a fan belt actually) as Attard took another win in front of the Capris of Bland and Gilfuis.

Race 3, Saturday
The two Capris leapfrogged Attard off the line in race three but it wasn’t long before he was under Bland to move into second. Victorian Gabriel Digenis (BMW), SA’s Kirk Davis (Mazda), Axford and Vic’s Peter Van Summeren (Lotus Cortina in its first meeting) put on a great show until the Lotus retired with a busted gearbox. Attard wound up the wick coming onto the front straight to grab the lead and went on to win from Gilfuis and Rogerson with Bland falling to seventh with carburettor issues.

Race 4, Sunday
There was drama at the start of race four with both Digenis and Rogerson almost stalling, cars whizzing past every which way as eventually they both got moving. Davis shot to third place early on as Digenis climbed back up to 6th before having a half spin cresting Lukey Heights, oil from another car the suspected cause. Brock Green retired his stunning MkII Jag also at Lukey as Bill Schipper (Datsun 1600) diced hard with 2018 Class Champion Johnny Luxmoore (Cortina). Attard made it four from four with Gilfuis and Bland right on his tail at the flag.

Race 5, Sunday
The final six lapper saw Gilfuis snatch the early lead while Rogerson was out early. The Fords of Thomas (Escort 1300), Van Summeren (Lotus Cortina) and Qld’s David Waddington (pushrod Cortina) engaged in a huge dice as Axford slowed after being third at one point.

After a race long mid-pack Cortina battle Knight found a way past both Browning and Luxmoore on the same lap while at the front West Australian Gilfuis celebrated the 50th birthday of the Ford Capri by holding out Attard and Bland to score a well-deserved and first-ever HTC win. A weekend of fighting drives saw him awarded the coveted Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting award.

Over 3 Litres
Race 1, Friday
Recently crowned Australian Late Model Speedway Champion Paul Stubber would not start from pole after copping a penalty for a flag infraction in qualifying. The short four lap journey meant the ’69 Camaro pilot had plenty of work to do starting from pit lane, the 32-strong field awash with no fewer than nine Mustangs, seven Camaros, seven Toranas, four Falcons and a 327-powered Chev Nova for good measure!

The Camaros of NSW’s Dean Neville and WA’s Aldo De Paoli headed the field in the opening race as, just behind, a clash between the Mustang of reigning Victorian Champion Daryl Hansen and the Falcon of the ACT’s Chris O`Brien resulted in heavy damage to both, the former now out for the weekend. Queenslander Craig Allan (Torana) had a huge battle with wily Vic veteran John Mann (Camaro), getting in front then running wide shortly after at the hairpin to let the Chev back through.

Neville took the win from De Paoli with NSW’s Ben Wilkinson (Mustang) third in front of a flying Stubber who just edged out Andrew Williams (Torana) at the flag. With the bit between his teeth Stubber had posted a lap time 3.5 seconds faster than the next quickest lap, set by the eventual seventh placed Mann on the last lap.

Race 2, Saturday
Stubber wasted no time off the line in race two and grabbed the lead into Southern Loop. Mann, Williams, WA’s Greg Freeman (Camaro) and Wilkinson had a huge scrap with places being exchanged repeatedly until Freeman retired with power steering issues.
O`Brien rocketed up the order off the back of the grid, pushing his bent snouted XY up to 11th as Stubber took an easy win followed by Neville, De Paoli and Mann to make it a Camaro 1-2-3-4. The Toranas of Williams and Allan were next with Wilkinson demoted to 8th after copping a 5 second penalty for moving at the start.

Race 3, Saturday
An exciting start saw Stubber overcook it through Southern Loop first time round and fall down the order, handing the lead to Neville. Last season’s Group Nb (pre ’65) State Champion Andrew Cannon (Mustang) continued the mighty scrap with Nathan Gordon (Torana) that lasted all weekend. Stubber caught the battle pack for third place half way down the high speed front straight. Mann, Williams and Wilkinson were busy climbing over each other as Stubber went for a gap that suddenly shrunk considerably. The yellow and black Camaro squeezed past the trio with a puff of dust as the outside tyres kissed the grass – all at full noise! De Paoli meanwhile had wrested the lead from Neville and went on to win as Williams lost a few spots after an excursion. Stubber caught Neville at the flag to bag second while Best Presented Car winner Adam Walton (’66 Mustang) just edged out the equally immaculate ’69 Mustang of Hogs Breath Traralgon owner, Andrew Lane.

Race 4, Sunday
The ten lap final saw Freeman snaffle places early to move into fourth having started eighth while conversely Wilkinson dropped a couple but was soon harrying the big HQ Monaro of Victorian David Tessari. Williams showed his determination by diving under O`Brien at turn one to grab seventh as Walton, the ACT’s Dale Parry (Mustang) and Vic’s Peter McNiven (Torana) staged one of the best scraps of the weekend.
At the front Stubber had built an unassailable lead and with a couple of laps to go started hanging his Chev’s tail out at flat chat coming onto the main straight, entertaining the big crowd as he took the win. Fellow WA speedway star De Paoli joined in the sideways fun as he bagged third behind Neville with Freeman fourth in front of Tessari.