2022Competition ReportsNews

Crazy Covid Champs

Report by Chris Ralph. Pics by various

It was a year of two halves for the JUST CARS Historic Touring Car racers – starting with a bunch of great meetings, hollowed out in the middle, and scraping a couple in at year’s end. No matter – enough for a Championship, that’s what we’re here for!

Variety is the spice of Historic Touring Cars and as regular readers will know; no other class represents the vastly disparate engineering ideas that ran riot globally for the first three decades after World War 2.

In terms of engine size, design and actuation, placement in the body, size of that body, means of power transmission, choice of suspension and size of wheels hugely diverse concepts made it to the road – and thus to the track. Race wins for the 50s, 60s and 70s were spread over a wide variety of nameplates. Those racing for class honours often outperformed cars they had no right to, on paper.

A class system? Of course!

The Historic Touring Car Association of Victoria honours the class system in scoring for its Championship. While a Mini or Cortina might be blown away down the straight by a 6 Litre V8, against other cars in their class they could easily amass more points over their best five rounds to take the Championship at year’s end. The more cars in your class, the better the points haul.

Thus it was in 2021, with the result going to down the wire at Island Magic at Phillip Island in late November. A Cortina, 64 Mustang, 69 Fastback Mustang and a BMW 2002 were all in with a chance. Each had been fast and consistent over their choice of meetings; those with more than five had the chance to drop their worst result.

The four-way fight starts

In February’s State Race Series Round 1 at Sandown, those who would be the final four protagonists opened their accounts well. Pete Meuleman in the 64 Mustang, who apart from a couple of learning runs at Phillip Island in 2020, was essentially a rookie.

Saying he’d just be ‘taking things easily, go quicker bit by bit’ he did indeed get quicker over the weekend and walked away with a handy 37 points. Simon Browning in the Cortina scored 34 in his class, Rob van Stokrom 30 in his BMW 2002 and Michael Miceli 24 in the Mustang Fastback.

Three big meetings in eight weeks

Next month it was the Phillip Island Classic and over this huge weekend it was Browning top scoring with 38, Miceli 35, van Stokrom 32 and Mueleman 29. The consistent Cortina driver was now in the lead.

At the Easter Bathurst meeting Miceli added another 31 to his running total and Browning 21 (one interstate score can be included in the tally) while the others sat it out, saving their firepower for The Bend in SA in May, which had been designated a full Club round.

Michael Miceli didn’t enter The Bend, but Meuleman added 32, Browning 31 and van Stokrom 27 at this immensely successful meeting. Little did they know, but it would be a full six months before any JUST CARS racer would turn a racing wheel, as Covid-19 lockdowns again hollowed out the competition year.

Hot at halfway

At the half way mark in May, Simon Browning had amassed 124 points from his four rounds. The lightly attended State Race Series Round 2 at Phillip Island mid-May saw Pete Mueleman add 19 to take his total to 117 and Michael Miceli 114, while three good rounds had Rob van Stokrom up into fourth with 89. So the order was Browning, Meuleman, Miceli and van Stokrom. Then, the big wait.

End of year scramble

After the longest red light ever turned green Historic Sandown and Island Magic at Phillip Island – just three weeks apart in November – would offer a final fling at the flag.

At Sandown, Browning had three cars in his class, Meuleman four, Miceli and van Stokrom only two. Browning was second on the weekend, Meuleman first – the order now changed with Meuleman leading by three points with one meeting to go – 158 to 155.

Miceli had a shocker at Sandown, scoring only five points which he would drop from his six rounds, while van Stokrom added 33, putting him up into third at that point.

Down to the wire

At Island Magic there were five in Browning’s class and four in Meuleman’s. If the consistent Browning could score well and Meuleman have an off weekend, the genial 76-year-old ex-Pom, affectionately known as ‘Mr Bean’, could add another Cortina Championship to the history books. But it was not to be. The usually reliable Cortina developed early overheating problems, Pete Meuleman again won his class, putting the result between the two of them beyond doubt – 170 to 155. A great tribute to great car preparation (well done, Dick Savy) and sensible competition plan and driving by the new Champ!

Meanwhile, Michael Miceli had a weekend where he won everything, adding a whopping 46 points to scream into second place at 160 points, relegating Simon to third and scraping on to the podium just one point ahead of Rob van Stokrom whose solid late charge had him at 154 points.

The final countdown

Behind those four, strong battles took place for the class wins. Nathan Gordon had four powerful meetings to net 138 points and fifth in the Champs, while Darren Jones, second in the Nb Mustang class, scored well to round out the top half dozen with 123.

A round of applause for all the competitors – and a note that at the time of writing more than 60 JUST CARS Historic Racers have entered for the Phillip Island Classic in March 2022. With two race groups, split between Over 2 Litres and Under 2 Litres plus Invited, the weekend is set for some classic battles. Don’t miss out!

The Top Ten of Twenty-One

1Pete Meuleman1964 Ford Mustang170 points
2Michael Miceli1969 Ford Mustang160 points
3Simon Browning1964 Ford Cortina155 points
4Rob van Stokrom1971 BMW 2002154 points
5Nathan Gordon1972 Holden Torana138 points
6Darren Jones1964 Ford Mustang123 points
7Andy Clempson1969 Ford Mustang107 points
8Ben Dahlstrom1963 Chrysler Valiant S105 points
9Andrew Lane1969 Ford Mustang99 points
10Eddie Dobbs1957 Holden FE96 points