Report by Darren Knight with Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould
The JUST CARS Historic Tourer fraternity rolled out in force with a strong two-grid entry to support the 31st Historic Sandown, at the famous old circuit in the heart of Melbourne suburbia. An especially impressive line-up of larger-engined machinery featured no fewer than nine Mustangs and seven Camaros – and five Queenslanders!
Group One – Under 2 Litre and Invited Cars
The sizzling hot Friday practice day taxed man and machine with a line of cars on trailers returning home for major surgery – including the rapid XK Falcon of David Forbes hauling to Nagambie in central Victoria for an engine transplant, and Philip Barrow’s fast and furious FJ for a new gearbox (yet again), both of which proved to be a smart move…
Race 1, Saturday afternoon
The last few seasons have seen Richard Hill become one of the quickest Mini pilots in the country and it was no great surprise to see him snare pole and then bolt away in the opening race. Long-time racer, recent historic tourer Kim Shearn showed much improved speed in his Lotus Cortina battling the similar machine of Peter Van Summeren for the podium, ahead of the Forbes Falcon and Barrow FJ absolutely glued to each other in the first of three ridiculously good battles for the weekend.
Comeback Kid Steve Russell-Clark (Austin A40) picked up where he left off many moons ago, terrorising Cortinas, with Mick Stupka (Mk I) and Gordon Cox (MkII) the targets this time round. NSW’s John Harrison pushed the ex-Darren Pearce ‘Violet Crumble’ Cortina past the Mini of Graeme Hill who almost tipped the brick after clouting a few kerbs, allowing Don Knight (Cortina) through.
Van Summeren retired after breaking an axle, handing second place to Shearn as Hill took an easy win with Forbes just holding out Barrow for third. First timer Peter Olver posted a debut race finish in his very neat EH, a welcome addition to the thinning pre `65 Holden ranks.
Race 2 – Sunday morning
Shearn made a great start in R2 to lead until Hill gathered him up, plunging into Dandenong Road Corner. Barrow headed Forbes briefly with Les Walmsley (Cortina), Harrison and ‘Best Presented Winner’ Mike George (Lotus Cortina) all dicing very hard as Van Summeren (new diff and quick dyno session overnight) clawed up the order from the rear of grid. Stupka turned the tables on Cox as Hill won from Van Summeren and Shearn, who headed the eight Cortinas (in their 60th year of racing) with John Harrison taking pushrod version honours from Les Walmsley and Don Knight. In the famous Falcon/FJ fight Forbes squeaked home .4 sec ahead of Barrow over the eight laps.
Race 3 – Sunday afternoon.
Hill again put the hammer down in the final and built a handy lead early until Russell-Clarke broke a hub in the A40 past the Penrite Bridge, three-wheeling to a stop and bringing out the Safety Car. After the restart it was a single lap sprint to the line – Forbes dropped back after a power-sapping exhaust leak slowed the Early Bird with Barrow taking full advantage and climbing on to the podium at the end, behind winner Hill and runner up Van Summeren. Harrison was fourth with Mike George just beating home Les Walmsley and Don Knight. The Makulu Vehicle Services Group 1 Driver of the Meeting Award went to Hill for a flawless weekend.
Group Two – Over 2 Litres
Qualifying set the weekend up for Craig Allan in the Fastback Mustang, his 1.20.28 pole time 1.6 secs quicker than local Trevor Talbot in his Camaro, defending Victorian honour from Ian Mewett and Graeme Wakefield in their Mustangs. Vic’s Adrian Moyle’s Camaro was next, ahead of SA’s Adam Smith (hi to the economists out there) in his XW Falcon, who won applause for his trio of rocket starts. With the first 16 places occupied by V8s, six-cylinder grid honours went to Ben Dahlstrom and Craig Miles’ Chargers ahead of Torana pilots Stephen Pillekers and Qld’s David Streat.
Race 2 – Sunday morning
The Saturday afternoon opener came to a very early and messy end with the red flag unfurled after two laps when the HQ Monaro of former six-cylinder HQ front runner John Alessi suffered a major blow up and deposited virtually all its engine oil across the track.
The next day Craig Allan (ex-Darryl Hansen `69 Mustang) replicated his rapid getaway to grab the lead from pole; Sandown first-timer Adam Smith pushed the big XW into second before Trevor Talbot (Camaro) pushed up the inside. Former XY Falcon racer Wayne Purdon was back after many years away, this time in a brand new `68 Camaro he will share with son Beau, awarded Best Presented in Group 2. A massive plume of smoke signalled the end of Michael Miceli’s meeting with his Boss 302 Mustang suffering an internal engine failure and again bringing out the Safety Car.
At the resumption Adrian Moyle (Camaro) was showing huge speed as reigning Club Champ Pete Meuleman (Mustang) just held out the returning Daniel Myers in his gleaming 308 Holden powered Kingswood. Stephen Scales (Camaro) tagged the fence after contact with Tony Hubbard (Camaro) and Craig Miles Charger copped a big hit in the side from the Chev Nova of Willie Van Wersch at T1.
David Streat bested Stephen Pillekers in the battle of the two Toranas as Ian Mewett (Mustang) got past Smith for third towards the end. Allan took an untroubled win with Talbot a strong second in the Chev that has taken a couple of seasons to endear itself to its current custodian, having originally appeared with Angelo Taranto behind the wheel.
Race 3 – Sunday afternoon
Smith made it three from three perfect starts to grab an early second place behind Allan in the final before Talbot and Mewett both snuck past. In an eventful first lap Moyle came under pressure from the Mustangs of Graeme Wakefield and soon-to-retire Graeme Woolhouse while Myers stopped after a diff destroyed itself at T5 on to the back straight. Miles crunched into the rear of fellow Mopar man Ben Dahlstrom’s Charger as the brakes disappeared and he promptly retired.
The stunning new Mustang of WA’s Ray Hepburn (finished in Bud Moore Trans Am colours) chased the Camaro of Geoff Munday, as Pete Meuleman nipped the Nb Mustang under Geoff Munday’s Camaro – but then Smith stopped with a fuelling issue in the Falcon at T5, which stopped the race. No yellows, the red flag was shown and lap five of eight was the last tour.
Allan had made it a clean sweep, leading home team-mate Mewett and Talbot, with the motionless Smith recorded as finishing fourth.
For his rapid improvement and brave top five performance in the Camaro, Adrian Moyle won the Makulu Vehicle Storage Group 2 Driver of the Meeting Award.
You’ll read all about the adventures of the JUST CARS racers at the Island Magic at Phillip Island in next month’s issue!