Sebring, Thruxton, Silverstone, Castle Combe, and Snetterton are all motor racing circuits built using portions of, or lying within the boundaries of old airfields. The East Sale RAAF Base is still a fully-operational air-force base, but for a few days each year the RAAF Auto Club of East Sale (RACES) section off the southern part of the airfield and turn it into a 1700 metre long motor racing circuit which utilises the beautifully smooth, wide runways and taxiways that are more familiar with the Roulette aerobatic squadron or lumbering Hercules transport planes than any motorsport vehicles. In these unfortunate times of terrorism threats, the base is on a higher level of alert than it used to be, so access to the base is limited to drivers and crew who are nominated weeks before on the entry forms, and even then security at the Gate House requires everybody to present Government issued photo ID before entry can be granted – even if you are a CAMS Steward who left their licence at home !
Five members of the Sporting Register were competing at this sprint meeting and because it is basically a grass-roots, club-level event, the 90 or so entrants are grouped into only a handful of classes, and as luck would have it, all of our members ended up in the “Modified Cars 0-2000cc” class. Groups of up to 8 cars at a time are let on to the circuit where they complete almost a full warm-up lap before crossing the start/finish line for the first of 3 individually timed flying laps. Drivers are not actually racing against each other, as the object of the game is to achieve a quick lap time. Each driver’s best 3 lap times from 4 sessions on the track, are averaged out to determine the class placings.
David Anderson (MGB roadster) placed second in the class with an average lap time of 1:03.7 seconds. During the first couple of runs David felt that something was amiss in the rear end of his car as it was ‘walking around’ under heaving braking. Inspecting the suspension on a jack, back in the pits didn’t reveal any obvious cause, but changing to harder compound rear tyres overcame the problem. With an average lap time of 1:03.8 seconds Steve Schmidt’s Historic Group Nb Cooper S placed third in the class, only 0.1 of a second behind David’s MGB. The ‘S’ performed well all day and took about a year’s worth of hill-climbing rubber off the front tyres which get worked very hard on this relatively tight, demanding circuit..
Rick Dathan made his return to motorsport competition at this event after a break of many years. His trusty, well-sorted Peugeot 205GTi had the cobwebs blown out of it and showed that both driver and vehicle still had what it takes to run competitively at this venue. Rick’s average lap time was 1:04.6 which placed him fifth in the class.
The mighty 1600cc Datsun 120Y Sports Sedan usually driven by the Dad and Dave team of Allan and David Richards, has had some serious tweaking performed on its suspension, a new full roll cage structure welded in and some excess weight taken out over the last few months. It was entered in this event by David Richards as a final shakedown prior to its tenth appearance in the annual Phillip Island 6-Hour Regularity Relay which is to be run in a fortnight’s time. Allan wasn’t expected to be back from the 3-month caravanning experience he and Lorraine took to the other side of the country, so he hadn’t entered as a driver, but Allan made it home just in time to support David at this event. David’s time of 1:06.8 placed him in 12th in the class.
An oil leak from the oil filter housing of Jane Vollebregt’s MGBGT was the simple cause of some worrying smoke trailing the ‘B’ during the early sessions, but after that was rectified the car ran well even though the rear tyres were on ‘backwards’. Most fast road tyres and competition tyres are uni-directional and have an arrow on the sidewall indicating the correct direction of rotation. Somebody, who shall remain nameless, must have put the wheels on the in the dark! Jane was often stymied by traffic congestion on her hot laps, but recorded an average lap time of 1:12..3 to place 15th in the class.
At most club-level events there is the opportunity for drivers to do some familiarisation laps of the circuit behind a pace car prior to the competition getting underway. Sometimes you are allowed to take a passenger on these familiarisation laps, so when fellow Cooper S owner, Graeme Longhurst arrived at the track to support your correspondent, he was quickly bundled into the passenger seat of Historic Racing S and taken on half a dozen ‘warm’ flying laps. Not too sure if we’ll ever see Graeme’s white Mk.1 ‘S’ on a track, but it was great to share some on-track experience with a fellow Mini enthusiast.
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