2021 Phillip Island Classic. March 5-7
Report by Darren Knight with Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould www.philwisewould.zenfolio.com
Looking for diversity? The Just Cars racers are on message. Forty two cars streamed on to the circuit for the 32nd Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport with 23 individual models from 11 separate nameplates, from 1953 to 1972, 1000cc to 5800cc and separated by 30 secs per lap in pace. Clear of Covid and bad weather it was set to be a great weekend…
The name Tilley is well known in racing circles through father John and sons Brad, Cameron and Jason. On his first visit to Phillip Island and fresh from racing a TCM Mustang at Bathurst the previous weekend, Brad’s son Jamie displayed all the family skill and speed by putting his Group Nb (pre `65) Ford Mustang on pole with a new Nb record that he would lower further in R3.
Setting the tone for the weekend the Mazda RX-2s of NSW’s Jason Humble and Vic’s Peter McNiven filled slots two and three. Mustang Fastbacks of Joe Calleja, Michael Miceli and Andrew Lane were next, ahead of Rob Burns’ Charger and Jervis Ward’s Group Nb Falcon Sprint. Good mates Darcy Russell in his Mustang Fastback and John Mann in his Camaro rounded out the top ten.
Tilley led the big field down into turn one for the first time and looked comfortable out in front until the Ford peeled off into pit lane after a radiator mount broke. Jason Humble and his indecently quick Mazda RX-2 assumed the lead but it wouldn’t last long as the Boss 302 powered Mustang of Michael Miceli stormed past on the front straight.
An almighty battle for third erupted between the 351 Windsor powered Fastback Mustangs of Joe Calleja and recent Sandown State Race heats winner Andrew Lane and the Charger of Rob Burns. The Valiant was having its first meeting in nine years, Burns having run a very quick 105 series Alfa in the meantime.
John Mann (Camaro) and Peter McNiven (Mazda) had an entertaining scrap as did the Capris of lanky Sydneysider Alex Bland and historic open wheeler racer David Crabtree who has joined the tin top ranks in the ex-Lawrie Nelson machine. The familiar ex-Graeme Blanchard FE Holden of Eddie Dobbs led a real pre `65 gaggle of cars including at various stages Phil Barrow (FJ Holden), David Forbes (XK Falcon) and evergreen Ted Brewster (Mini).
Ted’s son Mark retired his Torana (as did veteran Scotty Taylor) with distributor issues. Humble pedalled hard but could not catch the flying Mustang of Miceli with Burns an excellent third in the Charger. Calleja was fourth in front of Lane who held out the Boss Mustang of Darcy Russell, followed by McNiven and Mann.
Tilley would not line up at the back of the grid after the Mustang came in on the warmup lap. Eager to compensate for the Boss engine’s lack of torque off the line, Miceli was rolling before the lights went out and immediately had a five second time penalty added to his race time.
John Mann, having earlier announced his retirement, also found the Camaro creeping forward on the grid. Knocked out of gear, it could not be persuaded to go back in when the lights went out. Plumb last and a long way back, the 79-year old charged back through the field, a little too adventurously for the Stewards who raised an eyebrow regarding passing under yellow flags. Contrite and clutchless, Mann would not start the final, thus ending his amazing stellar motor racing career watching from the sidelines. Car, spares, massive trailer and F-truck would all be sold before the week’s end…
In the end it was pretty much a non-event anyway, with an early Safety Car called after Crabtree lobbed his Capri into the sand trap on the outside of Southern Loop following big pressure from the glorious sounding Falcon Sprint of Jervis Ward. A mix up with at Turn 1 during the Capri’s recovery saw the field concertina suddenly, leaving Scott Ball (Datsun 1000) to cannon into the rear of newcomer Michael George (Lotus Cortina). The race ended behind the Safety Car with Humble awarded the win from Burns and Russell.
Humble made a great start to lead while Burns was out early with an engine malady on the 265 Hemi. Miceli was more circumspect at the start but didn’t waste any time getting the ‘Pony’ into stride and blasted past Humble to move into the lead. Humble had his hands full with Calleja, Lane and McNiven climbing all over him until the Mazda delaminated a front tyre, putting the Sydneysider out. Earlier Humble had been awarded Best Presented Car, edging out the S Series Valiant of Ben Dahlstrom which now sports a fantastic looking paint job thanks to EH racer Richard Fairlam.
Meanwhile Tilley had stormed up to 11th from the back of the grid by the end of the first lap while Barrow retired after a rear brake line failed in the FJ with Russell also a casualty. Richard Hill had a dingdong battle with fellow Mini fast man Daniel Berry as ex-Hillman Imp racer David Roberts had to push his Mini hard to keep out the wily Ted Brewster.
Nathan Gordon (Torana) had a great dice with Ward as Bland was flying through the field after a wire fell off the back of the alternator in Race Two, hurling the V6-powered Pommy Ford into an incredible eighth place towards the end. Miceli was untroubled at the front to win from McNiven in a well-deserved second place in front of the menacing all-black Mustang of Lane. Calleja showed his continued improvement with a fine fourth after holding out the charging Tilley. Ward just beat home Gordon followed by Bland, Crabtree and Darren Jones (Mustang).
It was a welcome return to big meeting motorsport for the Just Cars drivers, crowd numbers were restricted but there was a great optimistic buzz in the air, with the Makulu Vehicles Storage Driver of the Meeting Award going to Andrew Lane. Some drivers would next contest the support events for the Hi Tech Oils Bathurst 6-Hour over Easter, but then history will be on May 8-9 at The Bend in South Australia with the first interstate Just Cars event ever.
South Australian readers – make sure you’re there to support it!