2023Competition ReportsNews

A Classic Three Days

10-12 March 2023

Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould, Ron Hossack and others

An entry nudging 80 JUST CARS Historic Touring Cars again showed the huge appeal of competing at the VHRR’s Phillip Island Classic. Two big fields of large and small classics saw the locals face Australia’s best – and interstate cars took home the major tinware.

Under 2 Litre and Invited Cars

Race 1, Friday afternoon

The South Aussie trio of Josh Axford (BDA Escort), Justin Elvin (Mini) and Jason Armstrong (Mini) had topped the timesheets in qualifying, setting up a classic opening race. Mere centimetres separated all three led by pole man Axford with WA’s Cono Onafaro (Mini) close behind in fourth. 

Lachlan Thomas (Escort 1300) and Jim Schilling (Volvo) duked it out in close company as did David Noakes (BDA Escort) and Dan Forster (Mini), while Phil Barrow’s FJ jumped out of top gear at full noise, the close-following Cortina of SA’s Stuart Barnes just clipping the Holden as he took avoiding action.
Axford just beat the Minis home but was relegated post-race to fourth after copping a 5 second penalty for moving slightly (but stopping) before the lights went out at race start. Elvin was awarded the win from Armstrong and Onofaro.

Race 2, Saturday morning

Armstrong grabbed the early lead with Elvin losing a few spots mid race. Onofaro this time battled Noakes as the Cortinas of Stuart Bailey and Don Knight got stuck right into it before Bailey ran wide at the hairpin, allowing Knight through. Gordon Cox (Cortina) was enjoying a rare outing being usually tied up with Racer Industries trackside spares duties as he kept the unique Citroen of Michael Stupka at bay.
David Forbes was climbing up the order after missing race one due to a gearbox change in his XM Falcon. Axford nipped under Armstrong and this time the victory stood with Noakes third from Onofaro, Forster and the Lotus Cortina of Peter Van Summeren.

Race 3, Saturday afternoon

This third event went no further than the Turn 4 hairpin on the opening lap. Mike George (Lotus Cortina) had a half spin and was collected heavily by the GT Cortina of NSW’s Jerry Lenstra. The Mk.II Cortina of Tasmanian Adrian Wilson then ploughed into the back of Lenstra with the red flag coming out and the race called. All drivers emerged unscathed – but the Fords themselves were not so lucky.

Race 4, Sunday morning

A determined Axford shot clear by a few lengths at the front with fierce Mini rivals Armstrong and Elvin dicing mightily for second place. Newly installed HTCAV life member Les Walmsley (an award richly deserved) was again class of the pushrod Cortinas as the Lotus version of Chris Dubois was hounded by fellow New South Welshman David Roberts (Mini).

Noakes and Onofaro swapped fourth place multiple times while Elvin plunged down the inside of Armstrong at MG corner to snatch second on the last lap. Axford took the win as the final corner turned terrible for Barrow, the FJ drifting out wide coming onto the front straight, hooking a wheel over the kerb and shooting the Holden into the inside pit wall with hefty damage (to car only thankfully) the result.

Race 5, Sunday afternoon

Axford again squeezed out a slender lead over the two SA Minis in the final, while further back the Cortina punch-on continued with Barnes and Knight joined by newcomer Kim Shearn in an ex W.A. Lotus version.

Noakes looked set for a podium until first Amstrong then Onofaro nipped underneath the Escort at the bottom of MG. A frantic final lap saw Armstrong pull the same manoeuvre on Elvin to grab second. Elvin immediately fought back and ranged up alongside as the two Minis hit the flag together, Armstrong just home in second behind race winner Axford.

Back in 7th a mighty battle raged between van Summeren’s Lotus Cortina and Tasmanian Lachie Thomas’ 1300 Escort which passed the older car in the corners before being outdragged. The Lotus won the day by .4 second but the Escort scored fastest lap.

But it was ‘SA all the way’ as Axford won the weekend and also the Under 2 Litre Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting, with Armstrong and Elvin completing to overall podium.

See all the photos here…

Over 2 Litre and Invited

Race 1, Friday afternoon

Rolling starts would be utilised for all big capacity touring car races in a departure from the norm. After missing last year’s event WA’s Paul Stubber (Camaro) shot into the lead with the similar machine of WA’s Aldo De Paoli right on his tail. Stubber had an interesting moment diving into the hairpin for the first time, the famous number 31 Chev getting well out of shape before composure was restored with third fastest qualifier Nathan Gordon (Monaro) coming under sustained attack from all sides.

Ian Mewett (Mustang) had Jamie Tilley all over him in the first outing for the teams recently completed 351 Windsor powered 69 Mustang with Brad Tilley also close behind in a Mustang before making a successful move up into fourth. Stuart Young retired with a suspected head issue in his Torana as former two time National Sports Sedan Champion Darren Hossack (Mazda) pressured Andrew Williams (Torana) for sixth.

Brent Trengrove (Camaro) showed impressive speed and looked set to finish well inside the top ten until a touch with the rapid Mazda of Jason Humble at MG Corner saw both lose several positions on the last lap. De Paoli pushed hard but could not quite catch Stubber with Mewett just edging out Brad and Jamie Tilley in fifth.

Race 2, Saturday morning

Long-time Group C touring car racer and collector Willie Van Wersch (XY Falcon) was squeezed out onto the grass momentarily in the run into turn one as Stubber looked to better his newly set 1.45.9 lap record from the previous day. That all came to naught on the second lap after a rear wheel cylinder mounting bolt sheared sending him into retirement. Jervis Ward also parked it after a tyre let go on his unique Falcon Sprint coming on to the main straight.   

Williams and Island first timer Chris Thomas (Torana) swapped fifth place numerous times as the buzzing Mazdas of Peter McNiven, Humble and Hossack all ran in very close company. Nathan Gordon had good mate Chris Stern (Mustang) hassling him everywhere as De Paoli took the win from Mewett and Jamie Tilley.

Race 3, Saturday afternoon

De Paoli wasn’t hanging around waiting for Stubber in R3, grabbing an early lead as the latter sliced through from the rear to be tenth by the second lap. Jamie Tilley snatched third from Mewett as Adam Walton (Mustang) crept up the order after suffering panel damage earlier in the meeting. Meanwhile newly crowned and now two-time HTCAV Club Champ Peter Meuleman (Mustang) was having a spirited tussle with the similar machine of Graeme Woolhouse and the Capri of Alex Bland.

Stubber reached second place with two laps to go but two seconds shy of De Paoli at the flag with Jamie Tilley third. Brad Tilley somehow salvaged seventh after a plug lead jumped off on the out lap, the little 289 sounding rather grumpy as a result.

Race 4, Sunday lunchtime

The 50km final had crews brimming tanks full in preparation for this ‘mini enduro’, expected to be 12 laps in stark contrast to the abrupt 3 lap opener. Stubber leapt out to build a lead and again chase down another lap record which eventually proved fruitless with the track conditions after four days of running not conducive to quick times for most competitors.

Brad Tilley made a big dive under Mewett at the hairpin which saw the latter drop back a couple of spots. Williams meanwhile was flying and soon into fourth as Ben Wilkinson (Mustang) and Brent Trengrove ran neck and neck, with Hossack nipping constantly at their heels.

Stubber was well clear in front as was De Paoli in second so the customary (and extremely popular!) sideways tyre smoking from both erupted within sight of the flag. Jamie Tilley took another excellent podium in an impressive first up meeting for the menacing black fastback Ford and lodging into overall third for the weekend.

The Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting was awarded to NSW’s Chris Thomas in the Torana for his stirring drives as an Island rookie, while the JUST CARS Historic Tourers had entertained the big crowd (Saturday in fact a record for the meeting) in trademark fashion.  

All set for more Historic action throughout the year – including the JUST CARS 50k Cup at the Winton Festival of Speed in August!

See all the photos here…