Boys at The Bend

Old cars graced a new circuit when the Historic Touring Cars hit The Bend this past August.

Report by Chris Ralph? Pics by John Lemm

Victoria’s JUST CARS Historic Touring Cars travelled to South Australia in August, joining a field of SA locals and other interstate interlopers at The Bend circuit for the SA Historic Touring Car Cup.

Held in support of the OTR Super Sprint Supercars round, The Bend circuit proved to be no easy task for the Victorians (or the locals, for that matter), with tight battles, prangs, spins and more adding to the thrills.

Navara Support

With meeting sponsor Nissan Navara on board, the Historic Touring Cars (HTC) were part of the Supercars circus at this extremely impressive venue.

What was an empty, dusty paddock four years ago is now a magnificent permanent motor sport complex with an on-site motel, international standard karting facility and a fast, flowing, multi-layout race track comprising no fewer than 18 corners in the 4.95km “International” guise that was used for the OTR Super Sprint.

De Paoli takes De Pole

Three HTC races were scheduled for the weekend, which started with Sandown JUST CARS Cup winner Darryl Hansen (Mustang) posting the fastest time in the first free practice before being violently eliminated from the rest of the meeting. SA local Neil Oatway (Falcon) fell off one of The Bend’s many high-speed corners, then came back on, cannoning into Hansen and crunching his immaculate pony car into the barriers. Hansen’s high-winged seat saved him from injury but the ’Stang will need serious work before it hits the track again.

At the end of practice and qualifying, West Aussie Aldo De Paoli put his Camaro on pole alongside Victorian Andrew Williams (Torana) with Queensland team mates Ian Mewett (Mustang) and Craig Allan (Torana) filling the second row.

Behind the front two rows, Graham Jarrett (Camaro) was the best of the SA entries. Qualifying fifth but blowing a gearbox soon after, Jarrett still managed to grid up thanks to a cobbled-up ’box. Victorian Chris Stern (Mustang) was sixth quickest but elected to start from the back of the grid after his gearbox also caused him grief.

De Paoli takes Race 1, too

Race 1 saw De Paoli turn pole into the early race lead, chased by Williams, with Jarrett blasting his mean-sounding Chev up to third place.

Further back, a huge battle erupted between Mark Blyfield and Stuart Young in Toranas and the Datsun of Harry Draper: the young Victorian discovering the off-camber nature of some of The Bend’s fastest corners and finding the grass at least twice as he attacked the Toranas ahead.

Jarrett’s fast start didn’t last long as he slowed and then retired with another gearbox failure. The high loadings of the track were thought to be the cause, in contrast to Adelaide’s other circuit, Mallala, where the locals don’t experience the same issues.

While Jarrett was out, Mewett was flying, gradually reeling in Williams until his big ’Stang had a long, slow looping half spin. Allan swooped past to pinch third place, but Mewett was able to re-join the field in fourth.

At the chequer, De Paoli collected an easy win from Williams, Allan and Mewett, with WA’s Graeme Woolhouse (Mustang) fifth overall and first pre-65 (Group Nb) car home.

De Paoli spins, Williams grins

Much to Williams’ amusement, De Paoli spun ahead of him on the warm up lap for Race 2 and was late taking up his pole position; the culprit identified as a locking rear brake that would force the West Australian out soon after the race started.

Victorian Nathan Gordon (Torana) joined him on the retirement list after a driveshaft let go, as did local Stuart Barnes with a gearbox failure in his ex-Steve (son of HDT legend Ian) Tate Cortina.

Allan was next to go, spinning out of third place thanks to a clutch issue, also dislodging part of his Torana’s exhaust.

Mewett made a rocket start from the second row and, with De Paoli out, looked menacing at the front, as Josh Axford (BDA Escort) engaged Tony Gilfuis (Capri) in a fantastic dice that raged right around The Bend’s expansive layout.

While reigning local champ Brett Munns battled fellow Torana punter Young further back, Chris Cotton (Mini) was lucky not to tip over after a high-speed excursion.

In the closing stages, Williams closed right up on Mewett and then snatched the lead with a lap to go, building a small margin which evaporated on the last lap as Mewett threw everything at the Torana. A neater entry on to the home straight allowed Williams to just hold on for the win after a great display of hard but clean racing from both drivers.

Woolhouse completed the podium from Axford, who just beat home Gilfuis after the pair swapped places throughout the race.

Mewett blew it, De Paoli wins R3, Williams the Cup

Mewett’s appearance in the final seven-lapper was a short one after his Mustang jammed in second gear, leaving Woolhouse and Williams to argue over the lead. Woolhouse led the field over the line at the end of the first lap before Williams gained the advantage.

Charging through from the rear was De Paoli, who sliced up to third place by the end of the opening lap. Allan was not too far behind, having also started from the back as the local trio of Barnes, Paul Atkins (Cortina) and Geoff Davis (Mazda RX2) had an almighty battle. Equally combative was Cotton and the bellowing XW Falcon of Adam Smith in a real ‘David versus Goliath’ contest.

After missing the first two races following issues in practice, Justin Elvin (Mini) climbed into the top ten in the finale, while Axford and Gilfuis again locked horns in another ripping dice.
De Paoli took the lead on lap 4 (setting the race’s fastest lap in the process), with Williams holding a margin over the rest of the field in second. Third-placed Allan had his hands full battling Woolhouse; both drivers falling off track together at one stage, with Allan demolishing one of the kerbside Coopers signs in the process.

More action was to follow when Cotton flipped his Mini Cooper S but incredibly landed back on his wheels and drove slowly back to the pits!

There was no such drama for De Paoli at the head of the field as he cruised to a comfortable victory over Williams, but 2-1-2 results from the latter earned him the perpetual S.A. Historic Touring Car Cup for the meeting.

In the Torana vs Mustang battle, Allan prevailed to take third ahead of Woolhouse, with Gilfuis fifth ahead of Axford, followed by the two Victorian Mustangs of Stern and Alan McKelvie.
Best of the SA contingent was Axford, with 7-4-6 results for the weekend.

With great racing, no red flags and no safety cars, the Historic Touring Cars put on a fantastic showcase on the National stage and surely entertained the crowd whenever they hit the track.