Historic Sandown. One for the History Books

Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould

A change to the grid split brought plenty of action at this year’s JUST CARS Historic Touring Car stoush in suburban Melbourne’s Sandown International Raceway. Instead of dividing the field by class and engine capacity, the near 60-car entry would simply be cut in half according to lap times posted in qualifying with adjustments made if required. And it was on from the start…

Division One
Fast and Furious

Race One: WA’s Daryl Hansen rocketed away off pole position in his ’68 Mustang to lead Darrin Davies (’64 Mustang) who soon had arguably the fastest Group N Torana in the country right on his tail, driven by Queenslander Craig Allan. The two ’69 Pony cars of Michael Miceli (Mustang) and Aldo De Paoli (Camaro) ran in close company until the former had a rear brake lock up and fell off mid-race.

Likewise, Andrew Whiteside (’68 Mustang) and John Mann (Camaro) had a great battle as did recent Winton race winner Daniel Van Stokrom (Torana) with West Aussie Graeme Woolhouse in his ’64 Mustang that category legend Tino Leo once steered with great verve many moons ago in its distinctive all gold livery. Andy Clempson retired his Moffat Ford Dealer-striped Mustang with throttle issues as Hansen took a tidy win from Davies, who just beat home a determined Allan with De Paoli fourth in front of Les Walmsley (Charger).

Race Two: A marshalling mix up on the dummy grid cost Davies his spot on the front row, the Victorian having to start right at the back after the whole field were waved on to the circuit before him. De Paoli made a great start to slip into second place as Allan came under attack from Walmsley and then Van Stokrom. De Paoli put the extra 42 cubic inches under the bonnet of his Chev to good use, blasting past Hansen and into the lead.

Shortly after, Hansen spun and lost several places, a rear tyre that had not come up to pressure found to be the cause post-race. The similar Mustang of Andrew Whiteside dropped right down the order with a gearbox issue while the two Group Nb (pre ’65) Mustangs of Andrew Cannon and Bill Trengrove put on a great display of hard racing with the later Fastback Mustang of Rusty French and the Camaro of Mann mixed in with that warring duo as well.

Davies’ charge through the field ended in the sand trap after getting baulked by a slower competitor and suffering some brake issues to boot. De Paoli was untroubled to score the win in front of Walmsley, Van Stokrom and Allan followed by Woolhouse, Mann and the recovering Hansen.

Race Three: De Paoli hooked up very nicely to lead the field away in the final race as Allan slipped into second and built up a handy buffer over a fantastic punch-on for third between Woolhouse, Walmsley and Van Stokrom.

Tony Gilfuis showed impressive pace in his V6 Capri having earlier in the week driven a transporter filled with fellow competitors cars across from West Australia. The Sandgropers are well known for their travelling exploits as they seek to race on other circuits than Barbagallo, as great as that circuit is.

Hansen received a tap from fellow West Aussie Woolhouse and again had to scrabble to regain lost track position. Nathan Gordon parked his immaculate Torana after the water pump let go while Andrew Cannon’s sensational meeting continued as he led the Group Nb contingent in sixth outright, a position he held until race end in a drive that won him the Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of The Meeting award.

The former Americas Cup sailor was celebrating his 20th “anniversary” with mechanic Johnny Walker, the Tasmanian expertly fettling the Mustang from his shop in the Apple Isle. A young Marcos Ambrose also benefitted from Walker’s skills when the eventual two-time Supercar champion and NASCAR race winner was still finding his feet in Formula Ford. De Paoli cruised to the win in his Bob Jane coloured Camaro followed by Allan and Walmsley, still carrying the battle for screaming six-cylinders right to the flag.

Division Two
Tight and Tough

Race One: It was literally a non-event after the red flag came out following a first lap incident between front row starters Phil Shepherd (EH) and Jerry Lenstra (Escort). With the programme way behind schedule due to earlier incidents in other classes the race was cancelled completely, however extra laps were added to the group’s Sunday afternoon race to compensate. The protagonists were both charged and excluded for the rest of the meeting with suspended fines also put in place as officials looked to send a strong message about driving standards and driver behaviour.

Race Two: Sunday morning saw the grid chomping at the bit to finally get racing underway and it was Sandown first-timer Stephen Hoade (Mini) who exploded off the line and immediately stretched out a handy lead. Another on the charge was Brock Green in his stunning Mark II Jaguar (which his Dad raced way back in the early days of Appendix J in the early 80’s) with the Le Mans-winning 3.8L twin-cam six propelling him past several Minis on the long back straight and up into second place.

NSW’s Will Walker (Mini) tagged the EH of Claude Ciccotelli who was fighting it out in the top five after suffering a braking malady. The Cortinas of Johnny Luxmoore and Don Knight were also in the wars with gearbox and clutch issues respectively as the two Minis of Ian Pringle and Len Read fought hammer and tong. The Mk I Jag of Phil Pearmain made it two of Coventry’s finest inside the top ten as he fended off the Lotus Cortina of Ted Perkins and the XK Falcon of David Forbes. Nagambie-based Forbes will be busy next October as the 20th Early Falcon Nationals descend on the picturesque rural Victorian town. Hoade strode (sorry) to a dominant victory with Green second from the Minis of Pringle, Read and Henry Draper.

Race Three: Hoade would not grid up for the final event after a potential head issue discovered in the pits forced the New South Welshman out. Green made the most of it and scurried away to an early lead although the EH of fast-starting Queenslander Stephen Jeffs pushed hard to stay well within striking distance in second place.

Pringle and Read continued their amazing battle until the latter ended up in the Dandenong Road sand trap, bringing out the safety car. Read was pulled out and continued as the green flag came out. Renowned car builder Michael Stupka was still getting to grips with his recently acquired Cortina, a somewhat conventional conveyance compared to Stupka’s previous mounts – Hillman Imp, Volvo 122 and front wheel drive Citroen! The good lady wife apparently instructed Michael to “get something normal” this time…

The highlight of just about the whole meeting was the race long duel between the Minis of James (son of long time Mini nut Michael) Holloway and Henry Draper. Ford engineer Holloway drove a superb race to hold out Cooper S veteran Draper until almost within sight of the flag when Draper pounced with two corners to go, edging him out in a fantastic battle for the final place on the podium.

Green took a popular win from a determined Jeffs who bagged fastest lap with two to go followed by Draper, Holloway, Ciccotelli and the fastest octogenarian in the land – the one and only Ted Brewster. The incredible racing up and down the field certainly vindicated the decision to modify the gridding and sets the scene for more great action for however long Sandown has left to operate right in the heart of suburbia. All hope that will be as long as possible!