Small fields featured big battles as wailing Mazdas took on bellowing Mustangs.
Report by Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould www.philwisewould.zenfolio.com
With some competitors choosing not to trust 2020 any further but to keep their powder dry for 2021, numbers were down across all categories at Island Magic Pearl. Perhaps there was something in that – a few grumpy HTC cars spat the dummy while a massive power outage on Saturday night threatened to halt the meeting then and there. And the weather was definitely not the usual benign early summer fare.
A dozen cars fronted for qualifying with Andy Clempson’s Mustang taking an easy pole at 1.51.7; behind him on 1.53.2 was the vastly experienced Wayne Rogerson, the ex-NSW Victorian-based driver with a competition record stretching back to the 60s. Now in his mid 70s he has lost none of his speed, slotting the black 2-door Mazda RX-2 on to the front row ahead of Peter McNiven’s red example at 1.53.3. Just two tenths behind the faithful 289 Mustang of Harry Bargwanna bested Alan McKelvie’s ’68 Mustang and his brother Alf in the Torana.
The usually front-running Michael Miceli Mustang Fastback had both ignition and fuel problems, sputtering into 7th ahead of the Nb Mustangs of Bill Trengrove and new driver Peter Meuleman, making his Phillip Island debut. The lone Cortina of Simon Browning completed the grid, while the first lap retired the 289 Mustang of Darren Jones with a broken clutch fork and the Mazda RX-2 of James McNiven with a damaged gearbox. The Camaro of poor Brent Trengrove never turned a wheel on Saturday, but kind dad Bill would lend him the 289 for the Sunday races. No such luck for Dom Leo who had hoped to try out his newly purchased ’68 Mustang before a driveline issue also sidelined him in Friday practice.
First race flier
Saturday’s 8-lap preliminary saw Andy Clempson in the Allan Moffat Union Shipping-liveried Fastback streak from pole into a short-lived lead before the gearbox broke on lap one. Both Bargwanna twins were out one lap from the end, Harry with an impressive petrol fire after running strongly in a thrilling three-Mustang, two-Mazda scrap that carried on without him to the flag.
Alan McKelvie took a fine debut win, keeping the ex-Fraser Ross/Jim Richards/Drew Marget ’68 Mustang less than a second ahead of Peter McNiven and Wayne Rogerson in their furiously dicing Mazdas. Just a few seconds in arrears was Bill Trengrove, ahead of fellow 289 Mustang punter Pete Meuleman learning the ropes and a very lonely Simon Browning in the Cortina. Michael Miceli’s woes continued…
But the 2020 hex wasn’t finished yet…
A regional power outage crashed the Island’s electrics, causing havoc, late night labour and a shortening of Sunday morning’s races. Thus it was that only three laps faced our small band of warriors – but what a sprint to the flag it was. Peter McNiven’s Mazda off the front row led the first lap with Alan McKelvie in hot pursuit and Michael Miceli off the back row soon fighting for the lead, only to retire yet again with electrical issues. By the end of lap two, McKelvie had taken the lead, Wayne Rogerson had surged from fourth to second ahead of Peter McNiven and Alf Bargwanna’s Torana and Brent Trengrove in dad’s Mustang. That’s the way it remained at the flag with less than a second across the first three and a tenth between the Mazdas. Phew! James McNiven, gearbox fixed, brought his Mazda home ahead of Meuleman’s Mustang. Alan McKelvie must have been very pleased: two wins and a Repco Best Presented award to top it off.
Persistence pays Miceli a trophy
Finally firing his gremlins, Michael Miceli made very sure of his win in the 10-lap Old Car Radios Fixed Historic Touring Car Trophy on Sunday afternoon. Setting fastest lap at 1.51.6 the big blue Fastback Mustang finished 15 seconds clear of a tight battle between the next four cars. Second position changed hands four times between McKelvie, Rogerson, Peter McNiven and Brent Trengrove. In the end Wily Wayne Rogerson took second on lap eight with Brent Trengrove sneaking ahead of McNiven into third. Alan McKelvie, James McNiven and Pete Mueleman followed them home after Alf Bargwanna had an issue with the Torana.
It was a proud moment for HTCAV Just Cars sponsor Mark Sully of Old Car Radios Fixed to see a cup engraved with his business name being presented by Phillip Island Auto Racing Club organiser Geoff Bull. He’d leapt at the chance to sponsor the HTC event but hadn’t counted on being roped in to help fix the big Saturday night power outage that threatened the show. Old Car Radios Fixed has a FaceBook page – he fixes everything from early valve radios to about 2000 vintage.
Just Cars Historic Touring Cars will be back at Phillip Island on March 5-7. If all goes well, that could be a spectator event with all the bells and whistles. (Please remember to stay up to midnight on December 31, not just to welcome in the New Year, but to make sure the old one leaves!)