A small field but big-hearted racing
Report by Darren Knight & Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould
In an attempt to position itself as the historic meeting dedicated to older cars, this year’s event was for Group Nb only with invited small capacity/slower Nc cars to backfill if the numbers didn’t come flooding in. Which they didn’t. But by the time it appeared that numbers were down any potential punters had made other plans. Those looking around the pits to see late 1970s Group Sc cars and open wheelers with wings and slicks didn’t quite see the rule being applied evenly.
Thus the smallish crowd was denied watching the traditional tight track David v Goliath small car/V8 battles the meeting has become known for, the Club was denied a full-on Just Cars type entry, points and sponsor benefit, and the organisers were denied extra entries and income that the wider scope would have brought.
Empty Supercar garages provided ballroom spaces and the general air of bustle and excitement seemed lacking. The main pit area lacked the usual packed throng and fluoro-jacketed security people seemed almost to outnumber the poor spectators they were supposed to be policing. The $5 asked to enter the pits may have encouraged spectators to stay outside and avoid the hassle.
Having said that, the racing was very good, featuring several battling duos that carried on through the weekend, and the weather was superb. The entry list was Mini-heavy, as it always is, but surprisingly the additional 5-lap Mini Dash (reported separately) didn’t garner any more than the dozen or so usually counted.
All the Minis, with the exception of local Quentin White, filled the first 60% of the placings in each race, which may not have been the case had Peter van Summeren’s rapid Lotus Cortina not had suspect oil pressure on the Friday and been benched. Phil Barrow’s ultra fast FJ and Tony Pejkovic’s EH flew the Holden colours against David Forbes’ XK Falcon and Ben Dahlstrom’s ex-Michael Holloway, ex-John Brash S-Series Valiant in the Australian ‘Big Three’ stakes.
European supremacy rested on Ted Perkins’ Lotus Cortina, Andy White’s Volvo 122S and Vince Parisi’s Simca Vedette, which sounded great on Saturday. However it was forced to languish, hurt but stylish in the pits outside Coxy’s and the HTCAV’s trucks on Sunday, giving a magnificent performance as the crowd favourite.
Saturday: Race 1
After the 5-lap Mini Dash saw the expected Jason Armstrong victory and a true “Warrior Princess” performance by Linda Devlin to take second, the first all-Group N race saw hostilities resume, this time over nine laps, with Jason again a clear winner. Linda and her dancing partner, teenage Tasmanian terror Jeremy Bennett, were at it again from the start; this time the young gentleman held sway and escorted her over the finishing line by the same two tenth margin that she had handed out in the Mini Dash, however she took pride in getting the faster lap with an excellent 1.08.8.
Daniel Read’s Mini had broken a gearbox on Friday so Father Len ‘lenned’ him the maroon and mushroom soup coloured Austin Cooper S for the rest of the weekend. Starting from the rear of the grid, he hustled to fourth by the flag, pipping Tasmanian Rodney Creed by two seconds. Team member Ian Pringle was next, besting Rob Ford’s car, running an ailing spare engine. The magnificent Ted Brewster was at his legendary best coming in next ahead of WA’s Syd Jenkins, while the Minis of Adrian Read and Samuel Nenasheff were retirements.
The roaring FJ of Phil Barrow handles flat like no other Humpy and fresh from wowing them at Mallala Phil found himself in a fun fight with David Forbes’ Falcon. Now getting better lowdown power from a pair of two-barrel downdraughts David held Phil at bay for six laps before the latter burst through. A few seconds in arrears were Tony Pejkovic in the newly refurbished EH, Andy White in the Volvo and Ted Perkins in the Lotus Cortina, with an overjoyed Ben Dahlstrom bringing the Valiant home in his very first race.
Knowing that Darren Knight would cover the Sunday races it was time for an exit in the gathering dusk…
Sunday: Race 2
Rob Ford would not grid up after holing a piston in the previous race. Armstrong led into Turn 1 with Bennett right behind while Daniel Read (in father Len’s car for the duration) made a cracker to lead Devlin. Soon after Devlin made a great move around the outside of the “cleavage” (the sweeping corner around the big gum tree) to snatch third as an almighty stoush developed between David Forbes (Falcon), Phil Barrow (FJ) and Syd Jenkins (Mini). Forbes prevailed over Barrow at the flag by 5 thousandths of a second!
Andy White’s Volvo harassed Tony Pejkovic`s Best Presented EH until finally getting past and then posting some rapid laps as Daniel Read retired with an electrical short. At the front Bennett pushed hard but couldn’t catch winner Armstrong with Devlin third from the Minis of Rodney Creed and Ian Pringle.
Newcomer Ben Dahlstrom’s S Series Valiant limped home and would not start the final with a potential fuel issue not letting the big slant six rev freely.
Devlin again briefly fell back to fourth in the early running but zoomed back into third under brakes entering the esses. Read brothers Daniel and Adrian had an entertaining scrap ahead of the Mini world’s fastest octogenarian, Ted Brewster. Barrow finally got past Forbes after another huge battle and began to scoot away until the Humpy suddenly slowed and then retired with a left front hub failure. Pejkovic then took up the Holden flag in the battle with Forbes, the two Aussie sixes climbing all over each other in a great contest.
Armstrong, posting fastest lap of the meeting with a 1.07.6, meanwhile stretched out a race winning lead with Bennett and Devlin again completing the podium. Forbes just held out Pejkovic by three tenths of a second to win the Blue Oval/Holden Lion dog fight.
Minis had again shown their traditional once-a-year Winton short track superiority, but took nothing away from the battles further down the field. It was great racing