Report by Pete Miles. Pics by Phil Wisewould
A big contingent of Victorians packed the trucks and trailers and headed up to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 6 hr meeting. As well as “regular” competitors, there were quite a few were making their first time acquaintance with the ultimate Aussie track; a common theme of ticking the bucket list was shared by these brave explorers.
Perfect sunny conditions were laid on over the weekend, every day 30 degrees.
Incidentally, this weekend’s event was the 80th anniversary of the opening of Australia’s most famous “scenic drive”, the crowning glory of Bathurst mayor Martin Griffin’s barely concealed plan to have serious motor (cycle) racing as a major attraction to bring people and business to Bathurst. Ironically, in 2018 plenty of first timers were restricted to a limited “sighter” of the Touristy Tarmac.
The practice session was severely curtailed by red flag. Unfortunately John Mann’s weekend ended here. With track time precious, being at the front of the queue(twice) benefitted some. Brad Tilley managed to put down a marker time of 2:30 to underline his claims for weekend honours. A nice old 7 seconds faster than next best, Darryl Hansen’s mustang. To be fair most didn’t get the chance to get their eye in, but if these results were in qualifying, 27 drivers of the 51 would have been eliminated under the 130% rule! Of course everybody knows that most will pick up speed as the informality of first practice sightseeing gives way to the derring-do of quali. One Victorian rookie, so enamoured with the circuit, immediately declared he was going to move here! There was a fair bit of love at first sight/drive going around.
Tilley repeated the dose in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, going fractionally faster than the morning, and this time leading Elliot Barbour by 6.7 seconds.
Race 1 on Saturday morning saw the white and blue 28 mustang of Tilley establish a lead and seemingly cruise to victory. Behind were some great battles, Hansen besting Andrew Whiteside for a mustang 1,2,3. Whiteside was the leading orange coloured car, although I did notice some fine performances by Elliot Barbour, Wayne Potts in the family Monaro, and Tony Gilfius in his Capri all displaying impressive speed. Les Walmsley started a gradual move towards the front of the field, qualifying 12th and finishing 9th. Justin Brown and John Clarke found themselves squabbling for position over the journey, Justin sometimes trying to get around the mustang down through the esses. Mt Panorama is no gimme, with eight cars failing to finish. I’m sure Nick Cascone would have been glad to be counted as a finisher, particularly as preparation time was restricted in the Cortina case, with Nick doing race prep. for quite a fleet this weekend. One beaming Victorian driver, having completed his first race at Bathurst, exuded happiness…….even after being turned around at Sulman Park and being left behind the rest of the field.
Race 2 Saturday afternoon again saw Brad Tilley in charge, again leading Darryl home, with Chris O’Brien’s Falcon filling third in front of Darren Collins in the Camaro. Fifth was the Mighty Charger of Les Walmsley. Daniel Van Stokrom, driving the award winning (best presented) XU1 was going great, taking a place in the top ten. This time there were ten retirements.
The final race for the historic tourers was early Sunday morning. You can see this race replay on YouTube. Brad Tilley dropped out on the first lap climb to the cutting. This left Darryl Hansen in charge, but there was also O’Brien, Collins and Walmsley keen to take the win. The early hostilities were paused with a safety car truce caused by the wheel parting company from David Waddington’s Camaro at Griffin’s bend. So race fans were treated to a very exciting last lap dash after the safety car pulled off with one to go. Hansen was on it, sliding gloriously out of Griffins. Darren Collins had been mugged by Chris O’Brien at the restart line. Les made up the battle pack of four, all close and looking for opportunity but it was hard to quite see places changing. On Conrod it seemed settled, but Les….. Well he went through the chase faster than he had all weekend. Not only that, but Darren seemed to have a little trouble pulling up the white Camaro. Not really needing an invite Les dove down the inside and passed Darren in a fantastic last of the late brakers manoeuvre. So we finished Hansen, O’Brien, Walmsley and Collins. Really great racing and worth travelling to see that lap. Next were Potts after a fine weekend, Jamie Tilley (who took out Nb honours), John Harrison, Graeme Woolhouse, and Tony Gilfius was consistent and fast all weekend. Daniel Van Stokrom was happy and so he should be, a top ten in his first outing at the mount, and able to see number 49 on the totem.
All in all, it was a great weekend’s racing. There was an unfortunate mechanical toll, I understand both John Mann and Justin Brown lost engines. But the historic tourers provided a great spectacle. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of particularly NSW organisers – category managers and other volunteers. I can only hope the organisers of the Bathurst 6 hour have enough success with the event and continue to see Group N as an attractive support.