Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould
For the first of the two Just Cars 50 km Enduros for 2019 Sandown’s weather was good, tight battles featured through the field and the HTCAV’s 2018 WA-based champ shows why he deserved his title…
Saturday’s early morning qualifying was the first event of the weekend and on a cold track Andrew “Hollywood” Clempson’s ’69 Fastback Mustang 351 took an impressive pole with a 1.21.9. Joining him on the front row was Michael Miceli’s similar Boss-302 Fastback with the legendary John Mann’s Camaro and Darryl Hansen’s ’68 Trans Am Mustang on the second row. The scene was set for some tight racing.
Andy Clempson shot away to an early lead while Michael Miceli went nowhere – bagged up in a cloud of tyre smoking wheel spin. But Miceli sliced past those cars that had overtaken him at the start and began pressuring Hansen for second, however a fuel pressure problem saw him circulating slowly back to midfield.
Clempson reaped the benefits of some recent testing and suspension development by taking an easy win from Hansen with the rapid Daniel Van Stokrom (Torana) toaking a fine third in front of John Mann, who was having a frustrating time with the gearbox in his `69 Camaro.
Back in the field Don Knight (Cortina) succumbed to a blown head gasket, Brent Trengrove (Camaro) had a persistent oil leak while Daniel Myers endured shifter issues in his 308 powered Kingswood. Ben Dahlstrom retired his S Series Valiant with suspected head gasket failure as category debutant Harrison Draper (driving the ex Russell Pilven Datsun, and no relation to the famous Mini racing family) had an entertaining baptism of fire by dicing hard with the BMW of Rob Van Stokrom.
Not a newbie but absent for some years was XY Falcon racer Karl Wittick. The big white Henry’s prep was to have its fluids changed after seven years; it ran tyres that have outlived several Prime Ministers. It performed faultlessly all weekend as he mixed it up with the Toranas of Nathan Gordon and Stephen Pillekers.
Clempson again made a great start in the early morning 5-lap ‘warm up’ before the big race in the middle of the day, but this time Hansen was having none of it and fought back to snatch the lead over the hill at the end of the back straight. Miceli had again sliced through the field from midfield and a huge battle erupted for second place between his and Clempson’s spectacular Pony Cars.
Inches apart, they thundered down Sandown’s long front straight. Miceli gained the upper hand at Turn 1 but locked a brake into Turn 2, going off on to the grass then spearing back on, leaving Clempson with no option but to cannon into Miceli’s front guard.
Hansen took a strong win from Daniel Van Stokrom who was well clear of Mann in third while Chris Stern (`68 Mustang) was an excellent fourth after a rocket start. Originally built by Melbourne’s Rian Nott, the Stern Ford was one of the earliest Group Nc cars to appear when the class began in the mid-nineties. Calleja showed his continued improvement with fifth place in front of Miles. Despite a fairly damaged nose Clempson set fastest lap on the final tour on his way to an eventual eighth place behind Danny Myers’ Holden HQ.
Draper and van Stokrom continued their battle from Race 1 but the youth of the former saw the rookie edge away to a five second lead in the Under 2 litre class. Bill Trengrove struggled with shifter issues in his Group Nb Mustang, leaving last year’s Class Champion Andrew Cannon (Mustang) unopposed in Nb. Don Knight had taken the start after fellow Cortina punter Rod Evans drove home to retrieve a replacement head gasket but again it blew, a crack in the block found to be the real culprit post-race.
Fuel tanks were brim-full as competitors took no chances with a 17-lap journey ahead of them for the JUST CARS Cup. Hansen hooked up nicely to grab an early lead while Clempson wasted no time rounding up those starting in front of him and was soon up into second. Stern and Calleja were quickly engaged in a spirited battle as were Cannon and Miles. Bill Trengrove was finally getting into his stride, rounding up the latter two before gearbox gremlins struck again and forced him out.
In a shocking few laps for the “General”, Pillekers, Gordon and Myers all retired as did Mann in the most spectacular fashion. The Big Chev let go in a huge plume of oil smoke heading into Dandenong Road corner. Mann fought for control on his own oil but ended up in the sand trap.
The following Daniel Van Stokrom had a real Cole Trickle, “Days Of Thunder” moment as his entire forward vision was blocked by the smoke, the Torana getting through unscathed. Shortly after, with just one lap to go and a podium in the offing, Calleja slid off on the sizeable oil slick and lobbed in the sand trap next to the stricken Mann Camaro.
Hansen missed all the drama at the front and scooped the JUST CARS Cup with Clempson second in front of Driver of the Meeting Daniel Van Stokrom. Miceli was next from Stern who copped a time penalty dropping him to seventh post-race. Karl Wittick’s return from retirement was a big success, while Harrison Draper grabbed a top ten finish to close out an impressive performance in his debut meeting.