PHILLIP ISLAND CLASSIC, Saturday 7th March

It was a drizzly start in Drouin as the convoy of two Sprites and one each of Jaguar, Alfa Spider, Fiat Spider, Porsche, Cooper S, TR6 and 240Z set forth on the usually pleasant run to Lang Lang. Unfortunately it didn’t take us long to catch up to a very slow and overly cautious driver in a modern Mercedes all-wheel-drive wagon that had already begun to attract a chain of followers. With no overtaking opportunities long enough to enable our convoy to clear the mobile chicane, we all sat back and tried to enjoy the cruise – well those with their heads covered by a roof probably did, the pace was at times so slow that the editorial Bugeye wasn’t moving fast enough to keep the drizzle out of the cockpit! On the approach to Lang Lang township, our Mercedes driver must have glanced in her mirror and noticed a stream of headlights trailing behind, she pulled over and let us all past – a nice gesture, just a pity she didn’t look 20 minutes earlier!

Things improved once we joined the South Gippsland Highway. In fact as luck would have it, we merged in at the same time as the Shannons’ Cavalcade cruised by, so we spent the next 45 minutes cruising alongside the biggest range of classic cars and sports cars that we’d ever seen on the road at any one time. It was an amazing feeling to be driving amid such company. The cars were all immaculate, plenty of chrome, classic designs, bright colours and not a single Camry in sight.  For some reason it took an age to get through the pay booths at the main gate to the circuit, perhaps I just picked the slow cashier, but I did notice that the rain was wetting me again!

Once inside the venue we met up and parked on the hill above Turn One before heading off to enjoy what is always a fabulous historic motorsport event. Entry to pits is free and spectators have access to all the garages where the competing cars are fettled, prepared and repaired before and after their stints on the circuit. There were pre-war race cars, sports cars, touring cars, thundering Formula 5000s and even several Formula One cars from the 1980s. The permanent pit garages were supplemented by several large marquees erected in the paddock area, but that was still insufficient to house all the competition vehicles that enter this prestigious event.

Three Sporting Register members were competing this year. David Anderson and Rodger Chapman were both racing their MGBs in the Group Sa and Sb Sports Car events. Apart from being soaked by an unexpected rain storm minutes after being persuaded to race without a roof, Rodger seemed to be enjoying a successful weekend. Unfortunately David, after qualifying well up the field, suffered another engine failure during his first race on the Saturday morning. A bitter blow after having spent the last few weeks working long hours preparing his car as well as others for this event. Our other competitor was Glenn Campbell who was racing his Alfetta GTV in the Group Sc Sports Car events.  Glenn seemed to have a trouble free run now that his gear selection issues had been rectified, and enjoyed dicing with other Alfas and a few Porsches, lapping consistently in the low 2 minute bracket.

There was plenty of close racing on the circuit no matter which category was involved. Unfortunately the 10-strong brace of Cooper S’s couldn’t match the speed of the three RX2 Mazdas or the Capri V6 in the Under 3-litre Touring Cars, but there was a terrific race-long dice between a pair of Corvettes, a Shelby Mustang and a 1300cc Sprite in an earlier event.  Damp weather suited the nimble Sprite which was victorious in the morning race, but it had to settle for 4th place in the afternoon race on a dry track.

The action was continuous throughout the day. During a break to feed the track marshals there were demonstration laps of early V8 Supercars and another featuring Allan Moffat’s classic Trans-Am Mustang, which is now part of the Bowden Car Collection in Queensland.

The drive home, in company with John Fowler’s Mk 3 Sprite, was slightly more spirited and drier than the morning run had been, and it was a fitting way to top off a wonderful day of historic motoring.

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The following photos were taken by Barry Hatswell and feature Glenn’s red Alfetta GTV (number 48) and Rodger’s burgundy MGB (number 123).

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