Classic battles at Phillip Island

Ten great races over three days delighted JUST CARS Historic Touring Cars fans.

Report by Darren Knight with Geoff Vernon and Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould

Under 3 Litres

The smaller capacity Historic Tourers often provide some of this meeting’s best racing and 2018 was no exception – huge battles erupted right through the strong field in every race.

Interstate visitors – nine from NSW, five from WA, three from SA and two from Qld – took on 14 defending Victorians.

Race 1
Gearbox issues saw former HTCAV Club Champion David Brown’s Datsun 1600 missing from pole after a blistering 1.53.9 qualifier, leaving NSW Mazda man Alan Mayne to grab the lead.

Mayne came under concerted attack from the other RX-2s of Bill Attard (NSW) and Kirk Davis (SA) as well as the fastest piston engine machine of Victorian Gabriel Digenis (BMW 2002). The similar ex-Chris Ralph machine of Vic newcomer George Dragovitch had an entertaining scrap with the Porsche of Qld’s Rory O`Neill as Vic’s Richard Hill led the Mini brigade inside the top ten.

Retiring Ford Capri guru Vic’s Laurie Nelson had his hands full holding out fellow veteran, NSW’s Wayne Rogerson (Mazda), as local Anthony Read (Mazda) posted fastest lap in a charge from the back of the grid. Attard slipped past Mayne to take the win with Digenis almost alongside in third.

Victoria’s incredible Ted Brewster made a mockery of his 80 plus years with a 14th place mid pack finish after a big dice with fellow Mini man NSW’s Edward Gavin.

Race 2
Attard wasted no time and assumed an early lead as Read grabbed second with a very neat move on Mayne at the hairpin. O`Neill retired with a split fuel pipe with Vic’s Eddie Dobbs in the Holden FE joining him soon after with distributor issues in the ex-Blanchard FE Holden, one of the very few Group N cars with an actual period racing history.

Meanwhile the repaired David Brown Datsun rocketed through the field having started at the back along with the rapid Twin Cam Escort of Peter Van Summeren. Attard sneaked a narrow win with Read second, Mayne third and Digenis fourth by the smallest of margins over Davis and Rogerson.

Race 3
As the field screamed into the distance the unique XK Falcon of Victorian David Forbes failed to get away. The “Early Bird” finally re-fired, leaving the ex speedway racer plenty of work to do. Mayne was an early retirement while Attard was again the class of the field edging out Read for another win with Rogerson third from Digenis and Brown.

Race 4
A good clean start came to no avail when Kirk Davis spun the Mazda in Turn 1 and stalled. Flames belched from the exhaust as he tried to restart, getting it to kick just as the Safety Car reached him.

When battle resumed, Mazdas again ruled with Attard leading home Read ahead of Brown’s Datsun in third, chased hard by the Digenis BM and Rogerson’s Mazda. Another engaging Cortina battle between locals Fast Johnny Luxmoore and Simon Browning was not to be – the latter had left his race suit in the motel – doh!

Race 5
With Anthony Read busy beating Attard off the line, Lawrie Nelson celebrated his very last race by getting a blinder, shoving the Capri into 3rd from 6th on the grid. Attard reclaimed top spot over Read through Southern Loop but Read refused let go.

Back in third it was a real dogfight – Digenis rounded up Kirk Davis while Brown pulled a gap chasing down the twin black rotaries of Mayne and Rogerson, only to be forced into taking the long way round at Turn 4 after a braking duel went awry.

Attard’s screaming yellow RX2 prevailed over the hard-fighting Read, whose come-from-behind tiger drives earned him the Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting award, while Mayne headed Rogerson for third.

Over 3 Litres

Although entries were slightly down in the bigger car class the quality was top notch, with reigning Bathurst 1000 Champion and Penrite Supercar star David Reynolds behind the wheel of Joe Calleja’s 351 Windsor-powered `69 Fastback Mustang.

No fewer than a further four examples of the stunning Ford muscle car would grid up together with two `68 Trans Am spec examples in the hands of WA’s Daryl Hansen and former EH Holden fast man, the ACT’s Ben Wilkinson.

But the man they would all have to chase would be WA’s Paul Stubber after mighty 1.46.4 pole in his highly developed `69 Camaro now entering its 20th year of competition.

Race 1
Stubber hooked up nicely and led second-fastest qualifier Reynolds into Turn1, establishing a handy buffer. The real interest lay in the huge battle for third between Queensland team mates Craig Allan (Torana), Ian Mewett (Mustang) and Hansen who was fighting back having lost a couple of spots at the start after some SummerNats-style tyre smoking off the line.

The two Boss 302 Mustangs of SA’s Stuart Barnes and former local front runner Michael Miceli ran in close company early on as the latter continues to dial in his car. Stubber remained untouchable with Reynolds a solid second and Hansen a well- deserved third.

Race 2
Again, Stubber scooted away from Reynolds as Allan brought the large crowd of Torana fans, present for the GTR and XU-1 Nationals, to their feet. In a proverbial giant-killing performance he pushed his 202-powered Holden up into third after another great battle with Hansen and Mewett.

Meanwhile, Barnes had a great tussle with the two Camaros of local category legend John Mann (`69 model) and West Aussie Greg Freeman (`68), the three locked together by .7 sec at the flag.

Race 3
First lap drama – Allan and Mewett touched entering the high speed Southern Loop, with the Torana spinning back into the path of the hapless Barnes. Out came the Safety Car as the Boss Mustang left on a tray truck with heavy front guard damage.

Stubber was too quick on the loud pedal after the green flags were finally waved earning a 30-sec penalty for the next race. Reynolds ended up with the win from Hansen and Marc Tessari (HQ Monaro) with NSW’s Chris Thomas flying the Torana flag high in fourth in his Bob Jane liveried XU-1.

Race 4
With Stubber relegated to 10th after the penalty, no prisoners would be taken in his 5-lap chase of Reynolds. Blasting through from the 5th row he was already in second by the end of lap one, with Hansen briefly third before a Turn 2 sand trap excursion dropped him to 10th. This promoted Chris Thomas (Torana) to third, which he kept to the end, holding out the Wilkinson Mustang.

Further back, local Danny Myers in the HQ Holden accidentally hit the kill switch with his arm into Turn 4, locking the rears and spinning him wide.

By the last of five laps Stubber reasserted his supremacy, slipping past Reynolds into Turn 2 on his charge to the checker.

Race 5
Stubber cleared the tightly bunched field before the timing board showed him, Reynolds and Wilkinson pinged five seconds for jumped starts.

Worse was to come for Reynolds, black-flagged for weaving on the formation lap, discreetly retiring on lap four he was later called up to Race Control.

It looked like Mewett’s Mustang just had to keep on the black stuff for the win. But despite the penalty Stubber ran home the victor with Miceli’s Mustang third ahead of Wilkinson and Mann. Sixth off the back of the grid was Traralgon’s Andrew Lane – he’d printed the 2017 race schedule by mistake and as the grid rolled out for the morning’s race he’d been relaxing in his trailer.

However his stunning black Mustang had won the Meguiar’s Best Presented award the previous night, which was a pretty good compensation…