23-24 February 2023
Report by Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould
The JUST CARS Historic Touring Cars opened their 2023 account at Sandown on 18-19 February. After a heatwave Friday practice session, great weather favoured a weekend of excellent Historic Touring Car action. The famed power circuit was in its element with an entry dominated by V8s.
Although Andrew Lane was complaining about a slight misfire his sleek black Fastback Mustang not unexpectedly grabbed pole with a handy 1.21.52 – but the qualy podium was interesting.
Last issue told the story of the Warhorse Mustang, one of the original Group Nc cars built and changing hands late last year between the Leo and Collins family stables. Dom Leo would get the Camaro while Darren Collins took on the Trans Am Mustang. With them both on the grid this meeting, how would they fare?
Darren and Dom slotted into P2 and 3 with only a tenth between them, both learning their new mounts. Into 4th was Joe Calleja in his Fastback Mustang and an excellent fifth for reigning Club Champ Pete Meuleman in the Nb Mustang, cracking into the 1.24s for the first time.
Geoff Munday’s Camaro, Andrew Girvan’s Torana and ex-engine builder and Ute racer David Murphy, having his first run in the ex-Gary Treloar big block Camaro, were next. Filling out the top ten were a returning Brent Trengrove in his Camaro and Rob van Stokrom, up a huge grade from his 2002 with his first-ever drive of his new ’68 Trans Am Mustang.
Engine problems saw four almost 60-year-old warriors proceed no further – the Nb Mustang and Chev Nova of Darren Jones and Rod Evans, the Lotus and pushrod Cortinas of Kim Shearn and Jerry Lenstra.
In a first for the State Race Series, events would be ‘time certain’ with stopwatch not lap counter determining race length.
Race 1 – Saturday afternoon drama
Darren Collins got the initial jump, Lane was through T1 first. Dom Leo was shuffled back in the pack but the big mover was David Murphy out of 8th, using every last one of his 6,800 cubic centimetres to slot into 3rd and taking Collins, falling into the clutches of Dom Leo who was getting to know the Camaro very well.
Dom was soon past and set about chasing Murphy with both setting fastest laps along the way. Behind Collins Brent Trengrove, Calleja and Mueleman were going well, gapping the Girvan Torana.
But drama ensued when Murphy popped a right rear wheel cylinder just when he needed it most – at the end of the straight into T1. Experience saved the situation as he ran wide then motored calmly to save track position for the next race, only to DNF anyway.
Dom Leo’s elevation to P2 was short-lived as his Camaro rolled to a stop with a fuel issue at the top of the circuit, returning Collins to the place he’d had at the start of the race.
A delighted Brent Trengrove followed Lane and Collins home into third, with Calleja and Mueleman behind him.
Race 2 – Sunday morning tight racing
Race 1’s big mover, David Murphy extended his rear-of-grid handicap by stalling the Camaro and giving himself a monster catch-up job – which he did in very short order.
Collins again got the initial jump but settled for second into T1. Tigering away at the back of the Lane paid dividends when the big black Fastback faltered out of Dandenong Road on Lap 3. Collins grabbed a lead he would hold for the next three laps before a long brake pedal saw him slightly overshoot that same corner, Lane took back P1 sharply.
Murphy took only five laps to work his way into fourth but grabbing the distant trio of Lane, Collins and Brent Trengrove, trying hard to nab second, was not on.
The mid-pack resolved into Geoff Munday’s Camaro, Pete Meuleman’s Nb Mustang, the fantastic Torana of Andrew Girvan, the Fastback of Joe Calleja and the 60 Trans Am of Rob van Stokrom, with Bill Trengrove’s Nb Mustang as rear guard. Don Knight held sway in the Cortinas over Simon Browning who’d started off the back after a wayward hood in R1, while Mick Stupka’s engine refused to rev out. Dom Leo’s Camaro retired with a suspect oil pump drive.
Race 3 – afternoon boil over
With Murphy looking menacing in P4 it was again Lane into T1 with a tight front pack of two Mustangs ahead of three Camaros, but the 6.8 litre big block of Murphy grunted past Collins outside into T1 on the first tour and set about after Lane.
He made his move after the third lap with a big push down the inside of T1. Lane decreased the amount of available track, Murphy kept insisting on a pass, taking to the ripple strip. Inevitably there was contact, Lane spun and Murphy found Darren Collins glued to his tail, with Brent Trengrove’s Camaro just astern.
Behind them, a battle pack of Calleja, Meuleman, an on-pace van Stokrom, Bill Trengrove and the gallant Torana of Girvan.
It wasn’t long before the fired-up Lane caught Bill Trengrove as Joe Calleja’s iffy gearbox cried enough. On Lap 5 it was Murphy, Collins and Brent Trengrove out in front with a gap to Munday’s Camaro. Brent was trying everything to catch Collins and closed right up on the last lap before getting woolly at Dandenong Road.
Further back Lane made an almighty lunge into the same corner to take Meuleman for fifth. Getting the hang of his new steed Rob van Stokrom was next ahead of the fast-finishing Girvan and Bill Trengrove. Don Knight again won the Cortina battle with Simon Browning getting a slightly faster lap time.
Murphy finally took the win he looked like taking all weekend, Collins collected three seconds and Brent Trengrove was delighted with his third after a sabbatical.
Next, the Classic…
The biggest historic meeting of the year and the JUST CARS historic tourers are fielding 80 cars in two capacity class grids.
You’ll read the full report in the next issue of JUST CARS but there’s nothing like being in the paddock, meeting the drivers and seeing these wonderful old warrior cars in the metal – make yourself known to the friendliest racers at the meeting and get some merchandise from the HTCAV truck!