Grand State Round, Grand Final weekend.

VMCI Round 5 30th September 2015 at Phillip Island

Report by Len Read. Pics by Phil Wisewould

The weather wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t average. It was pretty average. Qualifying wasn’t until well after noon. Dry with a very cold wind directly from the south. Track very cold and damp. Out field is a swamp. Areas cordoned off in the paddock.

John Harrison was quickest with a 1:51.47. Darren Smith next with a 1:52.76. Stephen Pillekers did a great job in the conditions with 3rd on the grid with a very commendable 1:55.54. Glenn Miles in the R/T was next in 4th followed by David Landry in the XU1.

Nathan Gordon and Daniel Cotterill, both XU1-mounted followed by Richard Hill in the first of the Mini Coopers, only half a second in front of Adrian Read, similarly mounted. Rod Evans in Jill Hergt’s 327 Chev Nova was next, enjoying new tyres. James McNiven in another XU1 only 2 tenths in arrears. Robert Van Stokrom having a hard time adapting to the conditions ahead of Phil Barrow in the FJ.

Race 1, Saturday afternoon.
Weather similar with a very cold wind. It’s the third quarter in the Grand Final, which I am missing – Go Tiges! All eyes on Darren Smith and John Harrison. Smith leading into Turn 1; Harrison close behind with better ideas. Glen Miles in the R/T had a bit of a lonely race in third. Down the field Gordon came through from 6th on the grid to hound Pillekers by Turn 1.

Harry Bargwanna was moving through the field from the rear of the grid after missing qualifying and was 7th by lap 1. Gordon had Pillekers at the same time, as Landry led Roddy Evans in the Nova having a really competitive drive, fending off a hard-charging Richard Hill in the best of the Coopers.

The XU1s of Landry, Cotterill and McNiven split the two Coopers during the middle laps. Meanwhile Harrison took the lead on Lap 3 from Smith and the Pillekers/Gordon duel continued with each having a turn in front. Some great moves by both of these drivers deserve mention.

Back down the field Read was working hard to pressure McNiven then came Van Stokrom, coming to terms with conditions; both he and Read found a way around McNiven. Smith in the big GT re-took Harrison for the lead on lap 5 and held it to the flag.

The Miles R/T held on for 3rd, with Harry a very creditable 4th only 2 seconds in arrears, but taking no further part in the meeting. Pillekers pulled 3 seconds on Gordon, Landry followed with Evans, just 2 seconds ahead of Hill who constantly got beside the big Chev, Read, Van Stokrom and McNiven. Barrow kept circulating doing a very competitive 2: 08.19! Cotterill slowed and would be classed as a finisher a lap down. All in all, a good entertaining race with duels through the field.

Race 2, Sunday morning.
After more torrential rain over night, Sunday was slightly more comfortable as the cold wind had at least abated and the track was drying. Darren Smith led into Turn 1 from the start, Miles close behind. Pillekers and Gordon at it again. Gordon giving Miles a bit of curry early on and Pillekers giving all. Hill and Read in the Coopers trailing not far behind. Cotterill and McNiven in pursuit.

Evans in the Nova had a shocker and tried 3rd gear for the start. Stall. OK start and try again. No good. Stall again. Why don’t we try 1st. After all, that’s what it is designed for. Much better. Too late, everyone is at Honda now. Let’s traipse along and catch up!

Up front while Rod is working out where everyone is, Smith leads Harrison, Miles is keeping himself happy in 3rd. Gordon is pulling a gap on Pillekers. On lap 2 Pillekers has reversed this and is putting a gap to Gordon. One lap later Gordon has reversed it again and is opening the gap on Pillekers now. Smith still leading and holding a comfortable gap. Evans trailing, still trying to find out where everyone is. Cotterill splitting the Coopers of Hill and Read. McNiven working on Read.

Lap 6 and we have Smith, Harrison, Miles, Gordon, Pillekers, Landry, Hill, Cotterill, McNiven, Read, Van Stokrom, Evans and Barrow. Lap 7 and things changed dramatically. Last lap – Smith has a “fixable” problem and limps back to the pits, Gordon has a horrible oil leak caused by extra ventilation of the crankcase at very short notice and thoughtfully pulls off the track before Turn 1. Barrow has a DNF and would not front for race 3.

Harrison takes the win from Miles in the incredibly sounding 6 cylinder R/T Charger, Pillekers let off the hook in a deserved 3rd, Landry 7 seconds in arrears, Hill in the quickest of the Coopers, McNiven then the Read Cooper, Van Stokrom and the young Rod Evans still wondering!

Race 3, Sunday afternoon.
With a depleted field for the feature race and the weather even more grim, they lined up for the main feature race with Smith at the rear after the morning DNF.

First lap on a wet track and Miles’ Charger leads the field from Landry, Harrison, Read, Hill, Smith, Pillekers struggling with no tread, Cotterill, Evans who used first gear this time, McNiven and Van Stokrom. Second lap it’s Miles, Harrison displacing Landry in the XU1, Smith up to 4th, then Read, Pillekers after an average start in the wet, Hill in the other Cooper, Cotterill, Evans, McNiven and a struggling Van Stokrom.

Lap 3 and the Read, Hill Coopers are glued together then Cotterill, Evans, McNiven and Van Stokrom. Lap 4 saw Harrison displace Miles for the lead, Landry holding on to 3rd, Smith up to 4th, Pillekers finding a drying track to his (tyres’) liking and then Read just holding off Hill, then Cotterill, Evans, McNiven and Van Stokrom. Lap 5 ditto. Lap 6 and Hill displaces a slowing Read. Lap 7, Evans displaces Cotterill. This is how it would finish with Read putting a fan through the radiator, but hanging on to follow Hill home by only 4 hundredths. All in all good clean racing through the field in varying and trying conditions.

As usual the VMC put on a good, well controlled meeting having to deal with a few track and barrier repairs and the ever changing conditions as well as extremely wet and muddy pits and outfield.