Phillip Island Classic 2016
Report by Darren Knight. Pics courtesy Phil Wisewould & James Smith.
With the big boys taking their once in seven year sabbatical it would be the Under 3-Litre brigades turn to take centre stage at the biggest Historic race meeting in the Southern Hemisphere. The biggest selling car magazine in the nation, JUST CARS magazine, would be on windscreen strips for the first time in what is hoped to be a mutually beneficial partnership for the Club and its members.
A fantastically diverse field of 50 cars from all over the country rolled up for qualifying on Friday with the Mazdas of Phil Woodbury and Wayne Rogerson heading the timesheets. The two Sydneysiders got stuck into a great dice in the opening stoush of Race One, with Rogerson leading until falling off at Honda and again near the Hayshed, the flame going out when the RX-2 refused to restart. Earlier, David Forbes had parked the XK Falcon with clutch dramas off the line and Tony Gilfuis struggled with gearbox problems in his Capri after qualifying fourth. The only Mark II Cortinas in the field both ended their meetings early with rather serious engine issues for Murray Paddison and Don Costelloe. Woodbury took the win from Quentin Bland (Capri) closely followed by Spencer Rice (Alfa). Alan Mayne (Mazda) was fourth then Cameron Black (Escort) who had climbed from tenth on the grid and also clashed with the Datsun of David Brown at Honda along the way. Former Alfa racer Vince Parisi finished his first ever race in his unique (and rather lovely) `58 Simca Vedette (I didn’t know what they were either – Google it, kids) with more sorting required but everything running sweetly in its debut meeting. Good one Vinnie.
Woodbury leapt out to a handy lead in Race Two until a diff seal blew putting him out with Eddie Dobbs also retiring the FE, and Rice out after blowing a head gasket. Brown recovered from a wide line at Honda and became locked in a huge dice with the fastest of the Mini men (the car, not the bloke) in Justin Elvin. Kirk Davis (Mazda) sliced his way into the top ten after starting 24th while the Humpys of Rod Wood and Steve Jeffs tried ganging up on the Citroen of Mick Stupka in an entertaining Group Na battle. Bland fended off the attentions of Mayne after some great action with Rob Burns (Alfa) third in front of Brown and Elvin. Rogerson was an incredible sixth, off the back of the grid. Lawrie Nelson bagged another top ten with his Capri finally behaving and giving Nelson the opportunity to show he’s still got it.
Race Three saw Mayne out right at the start after a counter weight exploded in the rotary. Unbeknown to David Brown, bits of it holed his radiator, leaking Water Wetter on one rear tyre, causing an excursion at Lukey Heights that slowed a couple of drivers as they avoided the Datsun. Rogerson set some blistering times in his pursuit of leader Bland but came up just short at the end with the Capri taking another victory. Burns was third then Elvin, Errol Stratford (Escort) and Nelson followed by Woodbury (who had borrowed a diff from Davis) finishing right behind him.
Woodbury worked his way into the lead in Race Four until that tell-tale puff of smoke from the rear returned, the diff again pushing out its oil. The Escort of Peter Van Summeren also went up in a puff of smoke though thankfully it turned out to be just an oil line. The similar machine of South Australian Josh Axford had given everyone a scare when it refused to move at the start after an ignition issue but all and sundry did an excellent job to avoid booting the Ford half way to Tasmania. Bland won from Rogerson and Burns who had been in almighty battle with fourth placed Black and fifth placed Rice.
The top two steps on the podium were repeated in the final Race Five with a thrilling finish going the way of the Capri and Rice just beating Burns after a mammoth race-long dice. Gilfuis finally got the finish he deserved in fifth having driven his transporter all the way from W A loaded with fellow Sandgroper cars. Van Summeren posted his fastest lap of the meeting on his way to tenth after starting at the back. The big cars will be back next year but they will have a hard time matching the action from the “little ’uns” at this year’s Classic.