Although I’ve never been a great fan of drag racing, there have been occasions when curiosity has got the better of me and I’ve run a car down the quarter mile, just to see what times it was capable of. One of my early forays was in the 1990s at the Eastern Beach Sprints at Geelong driving my Historic Group Nb Cooper S. It wasn’t long after that, that the event went into hibernation; resurfacing again in 2012 when it was reborn as the Geelong Revival Motoring Festival.
The Eastern Beach Sprints were modelled on the famous Brighton Speed Trials in the United Kingdom which were established in 1907. The venue and picnic atmosphere of the Speed Trials and the Eastern Beach Sprints has been, and still are an attraction in themselves. The course takes in the curving Ritchie Boulevard (Geelong’s roadway access to Eastern Beach) and a part of Eastern Beach Road. The track is lined on one side by terraced lawns which form a natural grandstand. This provides an excellent view for spectators of the weekend’s competition, along with spectacular views over the historic Eastern Beach waterfront precinct and the picturesque Corio Bay.
The 2-day event is divided into contemporary vehicles on the Saturday and historic racing cars and bikes on the Sunday. In these days of heightened safety concerns, vehicles run one at a time over the quarter mile, whereas in the earlier Eastern Beach Sprints it was two at a time, side by side. About 150 vehicles compete on each day.
We had two club members competing in this year’s event, as well as several in the large crowd of spectators.
Mike Whitford ran his JPS-liveried, BMW 635CSI in the Production Touring Car Class (2000cc to 4000cc) on Saturday and was happy with a very quick 14.38 secs run, crossing the finish line in third gear at 6400rpm. He met lots of interested and interesting BMW enthusiasts on the day, including one who had spent over $35,000 on a motor to achieve 450bhp. Mike placed 12th out of 20 in the class, but has decided to leave the car standard and not be caught up in the very expensive and never-ending horsepower stakes.
On Sunday, Steve Schmidt brought the Mini Marcos GT down for a run. Competitors were expecting a timed practice run followed by three official runs; but after an errant vehicle hit one of the barriers, time was lost with repairs and the official runs were cut back to two. The Marcos recorded 16.2 seconds, 15.9 and a 15.6 on the final run to place 4th in the class for Production Sports Cars 1941 to 1977, 0 to 2000cc. That wasn’t quite as fast as his historic-racing Cooper S which clocked a 15.1 at the 2012 event – but the track is now 30 metres longer to make it the full quarter mile length.
It was a fantastic event with a large and vibrant crowd, car club and trade displays, a fashion parade and even an evening cruise around Geelong on the Friday night..
Pictures by Mike Whitford, Steve Schmidt, Malcolm Hayes, Graeme Longhurst and Tony Lupton.
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