The Just Cars racers’ Easter pilgrimage to Bathurst’s hallowed Mt Panorama was an awesome historic motor racing adventure.
Story by Ben Dahlstrom with Chris Ralph. Pics by Terry Hines and Phill Wisewould
A Who’s Who of Group N national racing. Fast cars and drivers from every state on arguably Australia’s greatest motor racing circuit – a total of 47 entrants. Thirty eight Group Nc cars and nine Group Nb, all battling for bragging rights.
The usual Just Cars windscreen banners may have been missing but the HTCAV contingent was very strong – familiar names in 17 cars spread across both groups, including those very much missed of late – Elliot Barbour’s Torana and Les Walmsley’s Charger – both coming back refreshed and improved after a two-year layoff. Regulars such as Miceli, Stern and Clempson in their very fast and flamboyant Mustangs were also tipped to feature near the pointy end.
Friday – Practice and Qualifying
Practice – WA HTCAV member Paul Stubber took the honours, a mere hundredth of a second ahead of NSW’s Brad Tilley. Further afield, Tony Hubbard and David Brown maintained respectable times and ensured that their immaculately well-dressed cars returned as they left – the Camaro and Datsun 1600 both impressing.
Qualifying – Stubber claimed pole later on in Friday’s proceedings, with NSW father and son duo Brad and Jamie Tilley in 2nd and 3rd. Elliot Barbour’s professional driving skills made his Torana the fastest six-cylinder in the field, qualifying 7th followed by Stern, Miceli, Clempson, Walmsley and NSW HTCAV members Jason Humble (Mazda) and John Harrison (289 Mustang) in 11th and 13th. Midfield, Glenn Miles’s Charger headed WA member Tony Gilfuis’ Capri and Danny Myers’s Holden HQ, just ahead of Qld member Gary Edwards’ Torana. Bathurst debutantes Andy White, Volvo and Simon Browning, Cortina, both improved on every lap. The stage was set for an intriguing battle at the front, but it was to be short-lived…
Saturday afternoon – two races, two hours apart
Race 1 – Poleman Paul Stubber streaked up the hill for the first of the five laps. But cold tyre temperatures and pushing hard across the top resulted in a brake lock up and glancing contact with a wall. Stubber limped the Camaro back to the pits, not completing his first lap. This resulted in Brad Tilley powering away down the straight again followed by son Jamie to lead the pack. The race began to settle with all finding their groove until a safety car on lap 2 caused by a right rear tyre blow out the Myers HQ resulted in a safety car. Brad Tilley eventually took the win with Michael Miceli the first home of the Vics, followed by Barbour, Stern, Walmsley and Jason Humble in 11th. For Tony Hubbard, Glen Miles and David Brown a mid-pack finish would have to do while Andy Clempson’s big Mustang blew a power steering line – but he finished the race. First timers Andy White and Simon Browning again acquitted themselves very respectably towards the end of the field.
Race 2 – The second race started off poorly for Tony Hubbard off the line and his race ended prematurely. Paul Stubber’s team had worked a miracle to get him back on track albeit starting from the rear of the field – he soon made his way up through the field at a fast and rapid pace but was again forced to DNF one lap from the flag. The main battle pack remained relatively consistent for laps 1 and 2, with Jamie Tilley reclaiming second from Ben Wilkinson Mustang to make it a father and son finish at the flag. Peter O’Brien’s big Falcon claimed fourth behind Wilkinson, ahead of Grant Wilson’s Camaro.
Then the Just Cars racers came flying home – Miceli, Walmsley, Barbour, Stern, Humble and Harrison. The improving Gary Edwards, Torana, claimed 15th directly ahead of Glenn Miles’ Charger. Tony Gilfuis filled 18th with the giant-killing David Brown Datsun, easily the fastest four, in 22nd while Clempson’s Mustang, carrying a 20 second penalty, listed in 26th ahead of Danny Myers’ Holden 308 HQ, a safety car having put paid to his rear-of-grid charge. Alan McKelvie, getting to grips with the daunting circuit, had hauled the Mustang up the time sheets; Andrew White and Simon Browning sandwiched John Clarke’s Mustang at the rear of the field.
With half the field being V8s it was always going to hard for the little cars. But Tasmania’s Lachlan Thomas was outstanding in his 1300cc Escort, getting hosed on the long straights and repassing over the top. NSW’s Andrew Bergan in the lone Mini tigered away while Shane Cowham’s immaculate Holden HD X2 was great to watch.
What an adventure! Stay tuned for the Just Cars racers’ next exciting interstate raid, to The Bend in SA, you’ll read about it in the next issue.