If you consider this event to be all about drag racing, then you have the wrong end of the stick. Consider it instead to be a sporting / classic car and bike show with noise and movement. The venue must be one of the most picturesque sites for an event of this nature anywhere in Australia. The drag strip is a sweeping curved section of Ritchie Boulevard which flanks Geelong’s Eastern Beach entertainment precinct on one side and is overlooked by a sloping grassed spectator area on the other which is dotted with magnificent shade trees and huge TV screens covering the action. Each day, about 100 cars and 40 bikes take to the track, one at a time, to record their best quarter-mile time out of 4 runs. (Health and Safety concerns rule out the side by side competition us more mature competitors remember enjoying a couple of decades ago). Saturday’s competition sees contemporary sports, production and rally cars competing, whilst on Sunday all the historic categories get to strut their stuff.
As well as the competition cars, there were car club, bike club and water craft displays, trade stalls, an evening cruise on Friday night, and all manner of food and beverage outlets. The Geelong City Council actively support the event and there are dozens of officials and support crew who ensure the event is well run. Unfortunately, on Saturday an incident involving a Porsche and several water-filled crash barriers, caused an unexpected 90-minute delay in proceedings whilst the car was removed and the damaged barriers replaced and filled with water. At Sunday morning’s Drivers’ Briefing we all assembled at the finish line where it was pointed out in no uncertain terms, that once you cross the clearly marked Finish Line, you get off the loud pedal and onto the brakes. There’s a 300-metre-long braking area in which you need to bring the car down to walking pace to turn left and park in the Return Assembly Area, and just to make sure everybody complied there was a flag marshal waving a yellow flag about 100-metres into the braking zone which certainly caught your attention.
Most drivers enjoy the opportunity to showcase their vehicle in an event such as this and they try hard to achieve respectable standing quarter mile times, but because burnouts aren’t permitted, getting away at the start becomes quite problematic with cold tyres and the associated lack of traction. Once underway the track curves around to the right, bringing the finishing line into view with a couple of hundred metres to go. It’s all over very quickly (some more quickly than others) and then the group assemble and wait for the slow processional return back along the track to the pits. It seems incongruous that during a full day of motorsport, about 1-minute is actual competition, but as mentioned earlier – that’s the wrong end of the stick. Filling in time between runs is not a problem with so many fascinating vehicles to inspect and admire. The public can purchase a ticket which gives them access to the pit area where owners and drivers seem only too happy to answer questions or have a chat.
This year we had four members of the Sporting Register competing at Geelong. Mike Whitford had intended to run his BMW 635 CSI, but struck problems with broken differential mountings after competing in the car at Philip Island the weekend prior to this event. He thus elected to run his Fiat Dino Coupe instead. The Fiat obviously had other ideas though, and tried hard to stymie Mike and Di’s efforts to drive it to Geelong, but perseverance paid off and the 2.4 litre, V6 Ferrari-engined classic recorded a very respectable 15.66 second run to eclipse the 16.1 time road testers attributed to car when it was released back in 1969. David Anderson ran his MGB hillclimb car, which unlike his MGB Historic Group Sb racer, is lighter due to the removal of surplus components, all the trim and the fitment of an alloy cross-flow head with twin Weber carburettors. David’s four times varied by less than 0.2 of a second, with his fastest being a 15.09 on his final run. Jane Vollebregt improved her times on each subsequent run in the soon-to-be-replaced MGBGT. Starting off with a 17.13, Jane brought her times down to 16.58 by ignoring the annoying flashing red tacho lights and giving the engine a few more revs between gear changes. Jane will soon be swapping the road-going BGT for a more purpose built MGB racing roadster. Watch out Dave ! Steve Schmidt gave the Mini Marcos GT a rare competition outing and like David recorded consistent times varying only by 0.3 of a second over the four runs. The fastest was a 15.56 on the third run – closing the windows to perhaps reduce drag on the final run didn’t work. Even though it felt faster, it was 0.07 seconds slower. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, the weather was perfect and the Geelong people know how to run a great event.
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