Report by Darren Knight and Chris Ralph. Pics by Pics by Phil Wisewould www.philwisewould.zenfolio.com
Australia’s fastest historic touring car and driver combination, Paul Stubber and his Camaro, took pole position, won every race and broke his own lap record. It wasn’t unexpected – but it certainly was magnificent.
From a pole position time almost five seconds clear of P2 to the triumphant power slides in the last race, the globetrotting Aussie who perhaps races in more categories in more places than anyone put on a fantastic show for the 31st Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport.
“Wow!” yelled the commentators as the smoke fired from the tyres of his famous yellow Camaro drifting out of Turn 12. It put a huge smile on the face of every spectator… that was their money’s worth, right there.
48 cars lined up for qualifying
Twelve Mustangs, eight Toranas, six Camaros, and three XY Falcons headed the horsepower list. The big end of town took the first 25 qualifying spots, with the exception of James McNiven’s Mazda RX3 and Gabriel Digenis’s BMW 2002 who engaged in their own battles through the weekend.
The older cars were well represented, with Minis, Cortinas, EH Holdens, a Valiant S series, Volvo and Citroen all driving just as desperately further down the field.
Race One, Friday afternoon
From the front row Adam Walton (Mustang) made a great start to lead initially until pole man Paul Stubber went through at Southern Loop and began to build a substantial lead. Former race winner at Phillip Island, Tasmanian Darren Pearce (Camaro) came in with ignition problems later traced to a detached wire, having started from pit lane.
Aldo De Paoli (Camaro) moved into second as a big battle erupted between Walton, Andrew Taite (Camaro) and Terry Whyhoon guest steering Geoff Munday’s ’68 Camaro. The two ’69 Mustang fastbacks of F5000 racer Darcy Russell and Queenslander Ian Mewett both ran wide at the hairpin and lost a few spots before re-joining. SA’s Rob Smith (Torana) and Phil Shepherd (EH Holden) had a dingdong struggle in mid-pack, as did the two Volvos of Andrew White (1964 122s) and Jim Schilling (1969 142).
Stubber lowered his four-year-old lap record to a neat 1.45.500 on the way to a dominant victory with De Paoli making it a West Australian 1-2 (both Chevs originated from the same AMS workshop in Perth, albeit several years apart).
Walton was an impressive third with his Mustang running the “little” 289 Windsor in the first generation body shell while fellow Sydneysider Andrew Taite (Camaro) just beat home hard-charging Andrew Williams (Torana) for fourth. Wyhoon was sixth in front of former Torana racer Craig Allan who was debuting the ex Daryl Hansen/Chris Stillwell/Graham Hunt fastback Mustang.
Race Two, Saturday morning
A big accident in the early stages of race two saw the red flags unfurl bringing a premature end to the race and no official results recorded. Coming onto the main straight Williams hooked a rear wheel over the outside of the notorious ripple strip on the exit of Turn 12 and found himself cannoning into the inside pit lane wall. One of the fastest Toranas in the country, it suffered heavy damage front and rear: an unhurt but unhappy Williams later declared it would return to race again one day.
Race Three, Saturday afternoon
Further drama ensued in the run down into Doohan Corner for the first time when four drivers found themselves alongside each other, two of those being Andrew Girvan (Torana) and Tasmania’s Darren Pearce (Camaro). In the following melee Girvan suffered a hefty whack in the driver’s door, ruling him out for the weekend. Pearce also received some damage but was able to continue. Once racing resumed the two ’69 Camaros again broke away as Allan locked horns with Taite in a close dice, as did the ’64 Falcon Sprint of Marty White and the 289 Mustang of Harry Bargwanna.
Torana racer Mark Brewster harassed Island debutant Graham Wrobel (Mustang) as Gabriel Digenis put many a larger-engined car to shame by hurling his 2-litre BMW 2002 up to 18th place. Stubber took another untroubled win from De Paoli with Taite making it an all Camaro podium after just holding on in front of Allan. Walton was next then Daniel Van Stokrom (Torana), Andrew Lane (Mustang) and Mewett.
Race Four, Sunday afternoon
Fuel tanks were brimmed in anticipation of the extra required for the 11-lapper which unusually for Historic Touring Cars would also feature a rolling start.
The huge grid did look impressive as it thundered down towards Bass Strait though some drivers further back could have been a little closer to the car in front. (Watch a few NASCAR races guys!)
Queenslander Brian Wood briefly exited his XY Falcon into the kitty litter at Southern Loop before re-joining, triggering a short lived Safety Car period. When the green flags came out Stubber wasted little time in building a gap to the following De Paoli – who suddenly appeared in pit lane thanks to gearbox dramas in his Hugger Orange Camaro.
The Safety Car came out again after Phil Shepherd dropped his EH into the sand trap exiting turn 11. Racing soon resumed with Taite and Lane (the proprietor of Hogs Breath Traralgon who gets faster every meeting) engaged in a close battle in the top half dozen.
Further back, oldies danced a quickstep with the S Series Valiant of Ben Dahlstrom and the FWD Citroen of Michael Stupka toe to toe. The two snappy BMWs went out in sympathy, Digenis snapping a half shaft and losing a wheel at MG corner and Rob Van Stokrom snapping a rocker and pulling in. Lady racer Helen Lindner was having a happier time in her Mini, lowering her lap times as she competed in her first proper meeting in nearly eight years.
Meanwhile at the business end Ian Mewett wrestled fourth place off Taite before the sleek blue Stang locked up a diff and spat a tailshaft, spearing off dramatically at the Turn 4 Honda hairpin.
With a handy lead Stubber began his now traditional wowing of the big crowd on to the front straight, hooking the Camaro into some huge drifts, showing the skills developed racing Late Model Speedway in the USA for three months of the year – catch it on YouTube!
The Mustangs of Craig Allan and Adam Walton filled the podium, the latter earning the coveted Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting award for consistent effort at the pointy end and a huge 11-second improvement in lap times over 2019…
Fellow NSW man Andrew Taite was next then local David Tessari in the Monaro and category legend John Mann (Camaro) in his best result for the weekend, just ahead of Andrew Lane’s Mustang. Rounding out the top ten was Qld’s Marty White who also clinched the Nb class for pre ’65 cars.
The big field had shrunk a bit in the 11-lapper as some of the old cars, giving their all, had wilted under the strain. The meeting was a huge effort by all, from the organisers down to the competing teams and drivers.
But the spirit of historic touring cars was never better demonstrated than by the heart-warming sight of Mini legend Ted Brewster, 85 next month, finishing in 17th place ahead of… his son Mark in a Torana. Bragging rights to the grandkids!