The 2017 PHILLIP ISLAND REGULARITY RELAY by Allan Richards.
This year’s 6-Hour Regularity Relay was run and won on the weekend of 29th and 30th July. We were lucky to have all three of our Sporting Register teams accepted in an entry list that was once again oversubscribed by 15 teams. Such is the popularity of this event.
Our teams were; Team Wild Dog, Team Wildhunde and Team Dingo managed respectively by; Joel Martin, Graeme Hollingsworth and Amy O’Connell.
At this stage, I will leave it up to the Team Managers to write about their respective teams’ fortunes, otherwise I risk a boring repeat of details, so I will just write about our experience.
You may or may not be aware, that towards the end of last year’s 6-Hour, and after about 15 years competition, our Datsun 120Y’s engine decided to call it quits. It was decided to replace the old 1600cc engine with a Nissan SR20 engine and gearbox, and that’s when our steep learning curve started. Firstly, the engine had to be from a Nissan Sylvia which is are rear-wheel-drive cars and only came into this country as grey imports. Yes, there are loads of SR20 engines in Australian-delivered Nissan Pulsars, but they are front-wheel-drive and unsuitable for our application without extensive modification.
Late last year a rear-wheel-drive SR 20 engine was located and we were assured it was in good condition. Early this year a suitable 5-speed gearbox was located and it was also reported to be in good condition. The plan was to install the engine and gear box, get it running and do a compression test. The installation took some time as it necessitated fabrication of engine and gear box mounts as well as custom-made extractors, to mention just a few items.
Finally, in early May the engine was in and running, so we decided to run the car in private practice at Bryant Park. After 2 runs each, the engine appeared to be running fairly well, albeit requiring a good tune. It was then we discovered a leaking rear main engine seal, and in addition to that we could no longer select reverse gear. Engine and gearbox were removed, the seal replaced and the gearbox malady traced to a broken selector, there were a few other minor issues as well. We then discovered that parts for this gearbox are as rare as rocking horse do-dos. An incomplete gearbox was found, and one good gearbox built from the two. Great! With less than a month before the 6-Hour we were looking good with only the dyno tuning left to accomplish. Little did we realise, our problems were only just beginning.
In the first dyno session, it was discovered the cam-shafts were badly worn due to a blocked oil feed. Luckily, I was able to source a complete cylinder head with good cam-shafts about a week before the event. These were installed, the engine fired, BUT as the water-temperature gauge rose, the oil-pressure gauge dropped and other noises not previously heard, were now quite noticeable. Removing the sump revealed metal filings everywhere. This engine wasn’t going anywhere.
Craig O’Connell of O’Connell’s Tyres Moe and Sporting Register club member, offered the use of a car parked in his back yard. So, it came to pass that we quickly prepared a white AU Falcon XR6 automatic, that had only travelled about 330,000 kms. Not exactly a race car, but it was wheels, and after all, we only had to maintain consistent lap times. It was suggested this could be achieved with cruise control engaged whilst listening to Beethoven’s 5th on the stereo. The car however, had other ideas, and due to a conspiracy between the spark plugs, plug leads and we suspect, coil packs, two cylinders went on holidays after about 6 laps. Whilst attempting to source the required parts, David also discovered the sump plug thread was stripped. Pretty much the final straw.
Due to the generosity of fellow drivers in our team, David shared the ex-Reggie Coldwell Datsun 1600 with Garry McIvor and from all reports thoroughly enjoyed himself. Thanks Garry.
I was able to share Mark Revitt-Mills’ VN Commodore “saloon car” which was great fun. With the engine, suspension and brake mods permitted in this category, it transforms a formerly mundane family hack into quite a reasonable race car. It took me back nearly 30 years to when I was driving these cars as Police pursuit vehicles, I don’t remember the Police cars going any harder, and they were V8s. Thankyou very much Mark, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
So, what now? In the next few weeks the engine comes out of the Datto again, this time to be rebuilt. Our aim is to have it back on the track for next years’ 6-Hour with approximately 200bhp.
Bring it on.
TEAM WILD DOG, 6-HOUR REPORT by Joel Martin (Team Manager)
As I type this report, my eyes still feel the sting from the cold winds, the knees still ache from the many steps in and out of the pit garage and the nostrils still detect the faint smell of high octane fuel and burnt rubber. All the typical signs of a weekend well spent.
The Calendar had once again turned to that time of year when a bunch of grown men and women find the lemming-like compulsion to stand on the side of a windswept cliff in the middle of winter. So it was that we, and 400 odd other gearheads, congregated at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit with nothing better to do than engage in an action-packed weekend otherwise known as the 6-Hour Relay.
I’d like to say the Saturday qualifying sessions started with a bang, but thanks to the Richards and their trademark luck regarding car reliability on this certain weekend in winter, Team 28 started with a few weak pops and a whole lot of missing. Their borrowed Falcon had some faulty leads and a stripped sump plug which was enough to put it out of action for the weekend. Luckily, in true team spirit, Mark Revitt-Mills volunteered a seat in his VN saloon for Allan, and Gary McIvor shared the seat of the little green Datsun 1600 with Dave. We even managed to get them enough track time on Saturday to get them used to their new rides.
Sunday morning was crisp and sunny, no sign of the forecast rain in sight, just a false sense that fortunes would be in our favour. The cars formed up on the grid as the bagpipes played and when 10:00am rolled around, the cars took off and we experienced one of the first 6-Hour starts in recent memory without a first lap safety car incident. In fact, the cars made it a full half hour before a Mercedes ran out of brakes on turn four and had to be pulled out of the kitty litter. Our driver Paul Zsidy made good use of that half hour in Phil Finger’s Corolla, scoring a solid 50 bonus laps and putting the team in second place!
Unfortunately, shortly after our flying start our luck began to run out. A few laps driven too quickly and a couple of yellow flag penalties saw Team Wild Dog drop rapidly and spend the majority of the day grappling with the other Gippsland teams for position in the high 30s.
The checkered flag dropped at 4pm, and Mark’s saloon crossed the line for Team Wild Dog in a lowly 35th position, soundly beaten by Team’s Wildhunde and Dingo.
I’d like finish by thanking everyone who came down and got involved, especially my time keepers and lap board holders Ron Brooks, Hayden and Sarah. Thanks to everyone who joined us for dinner on Saturday night at the Rusty Water Brewery to sling taunts from table to table. And lastly; thanks to the club for inviting me to come down and manage the team again!
TEAM WILDHUNDE, 6-HOUR REPORT by Rex Connor
On the 29th and 30th July, the annual Phillip Island 6-Hour Relay was held at the Phillip Island GP Circuit. Being a participant in this event, I was asked by our past Club President and team leader of Team Wildhunde, Graeme Hollingsworth if I would like to write a review of the event and my experiences in it. So here goes.
Being just a few weeks away from my 65th birthday, my gold RX7 Mazda and I made our racetrack debut at the Phillip Island circuit. At the driver’s briefing it was stipulated that the event was a time-trial and not a race and heavy penalties would be imposed by the track officials if it was considered that drivers were racing each other. Drivers were told that no car was allowed to lap under 1 min. 55 seconds for safety reasons. As it was, there was quite a speed difference between the different types of vehicles competing. Saturday was for practice and to estimate a lap time that you could do the following day as consistently as possible. This was easier said than done as at times there were a number of cars on the track each trying to maintain their times. Extra track time was given on Saturday for novice drivers and first timers at Phillip Island. I thought this would be a good idea to took advantage of it as I had last been at the track back in 1980 doing the racing course under Phil Brock’s instruction.
The event was well supported. There were 50 teams competing including a number from interstate, most teams were running 5 or 6 cars and drivers. Our team finished a credible 27th place with the two other Sporting Register teams not far behind. I found the scoring system a little complicated. The scoring was done in laps completed. Each driver spent 15-laps or a half hour on the track at a time before handing over to a team mate. Bonus laps were scored for maintaining your nominated lap time. Penalty laps were scored for going under your nominated time and for other infringements such as disobeying safety flags.
There were all types of vehicles competing including Minis from the past to present, most makes of 4-cylinder cars, sports sedans, clubmans, Commodores, Falcons, an ex-HDT Torana, and a new Shelby Mustang. There was even a Subaru Brumby Ute and a current model Holden Statesman Taxi.
The start of the weekend proved to be a bit stressful for me. I arrived with my car and trailer Friday night in the paddock area to find dozens of cars and trailers being unloaded in the poorly lit area. I had no idea where garage 29 was as the garage numbers were not clearly visible.
Luckily, I found one of our Club’s cars which I recognised. I had no idea of the procedures and protocols involved. The cars were not allowed to be started and had to be pushed off their trailers which required some help. During the previous week there had been heavy rain and we were directed to park our trailers elsewhere. Not knowing where I was exactly, I went across the paddock in two-wheel-drive and started to get bogged. I then put the Navara into four-wheel-drive and only just made it out onto bitumen. Saturday proved to be a bit better, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I started to feel comfortable, knowing the procedures and where everything was.
As this was my car’s first track outing I expected that there may have been be some teething problems and I wasn’t to be disappointed. If a car is going to have problems, the racetrack will discover them. Apart from suspension, tyre and wheel modifications, my car is standard. I had noticed a small coolant leak which became a big coolant leak when a heater hose split- much to a pit official’s concern when green coolant became a big puddle in the car park. The other problem that would not normally happen on the road was fuel surge and starvation. On left hand corners when the fuel level dropped to nearly half-full, my engine would starve for fuel, misfire and affect my lap time. Generally, however, the car ran and handled well.
One of the things I have noticed with this sport at the grass roots level, is how friendly and helpful people are. Someone who was a total stranger, came over to me and helped repair the damaged heater hose ensuring that I was soon on my way again.
In the end, I had an enjoyable and memorable weekend getting to know more people in the motor sport community. On a personal note, I have always had aspirations to go motor racing, but there was always some obstacle that got in my way preventing it from happening. After years of trying and persistence I have now achieved my goal with my own car, just before my 65th.birthday and I plan to participate in more events as time and money permit. I would say to anyone who has a dream or goal they want to achieve – keep persisting and just go for it. As the late Peter Brock said, “Follow Your Dreams”.
TEAM DINGO 6-HOUR REPORT by Amy O’Connell (Team Manager)
On the 29th and 30th of July, Team Dingo competed in the Phillip Island 6-Hour Relay race.
Now that the rush of the weekend is over, we have been asked to look back and reflect on the weekend that was.
So let’s start at the beginning. Our team was made up of Mr Anthony Pisa, Mr Craig Pisa, Mr Mike Whitford, Mrs Sharon O’Connell, Mr Craig O’Connell, Mr David Cull and of course you can’t forget their amazing Team Manager, Miss Amy O’Connell (who may or may not be the person nominated to write this)
I must admit that going into the weekend I had my doubts. The majority of the team were complete strangers and I was worried that I was going to be stuck with a team of people who carry egos as big as their cars, or I was going to have to deal with the next Peter Brock who was convinced I knew nothing.
As it turned out I had nothing to worry about, my amazing team were a dream to deal with and we all got along from the moment we met.
I would honestly do another race with this exact team any time, and before I waffle on any further and explain the actual race meeting, I want to take a quick second to thank our amazing pit crew members, Ang Miller, Karen Pisa, Vicky Pisa and the kids (side note – kids make amazing lap timers), Ben Jennings and Tyson Cull.
So, a last-minute driver change threw a spanner in the works from the get go. My Saturday morning was thus spent running around like a headless chook trying to organise everything that needed changing, however, as I said, my team were amazing and organised themselves with scrutineering and everything else that needed doing.
Practice on Saturday is pretty much a blur for me, I know we had cars on the track, but that’s about all – okay so I remember maybe a little more than that, everyone set some amazing times and managed to be pretty consistent with them which made setting Sunday’s target times for everyone pretty easy.
Sunday came along and we nominated Craig Pisa as our start driver and he did an amazing job. Throughout the day, all the cars ran beautifully and our team ran like clockwork, we only got caught and put in the naughty corner once (Mr Cull I’m looking at you), and we made it as high as 15th which resulted in some light mocking of Team Wild Dog and Wildhunde. We were consistently ahead of both teams throughout the day, so I must admit I got a bit cocky – of course I was forced to eat my words when the final results came out and Team Wildhunde had cheated, oops I mean beaten us, by one spot.
Mike Whitford received the chequered flag for Team Dingo and in his final run he got us from spot 32 to spot 28, an absolutely brilliant effort.
So, my final thoughts of the 6-Hour are that Team Dingo were just brilliant to manage and they are just a group of remarkable people. All three teams were made of just remarkable people and I really hope to see you all at the next one.
Photos from various sources