A 3-DAY HIGH COUNTRY BLAST – Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th March

Recently, a handful of Sporting Register members and one interloper enjoyed three days of spirited driving encompassing some of the best driving roads our state has to offer. Kevin Riley put together a challenging route that totalled around 1200 kilometres with overnight stays in Bright and Metung.  

The first day saw us heading north from Warragul and driving through Powelltown to Healesville, Kinglake, Flowerdale, Yea, Mansfield, Whitfield and Myrtleford before arriving at our accommodation in Bright. The highlights of this day had to have been the closed road signs we overlooked on the run through the Toolangi State Forest, and the Mansfield / Whitford road which climbs and twists its way over the ranges before steeply descending through several kilometres of sweeping bends and tight corners into Whitfield. Slow traffic spoilt our run through the forests from Nayook to Healesville, but the upside was unexpectedly frugal fuel economy figures akin to that achieved on an economy run.

Day Two was nothing like an economy run, with quite a bit of full throttle work testing the range of our fuel tanks before a welcome refuelling stop in Bruthen on the home stretch to Metung. The morning run began with a blast up the Tawonga Gap road, stopping briefly at the lookout to admire the view before dropping down into the Kiewa Valley and heading for Tallangatta. From there we headed south along the Mitta Mitta River to Mitta Mitta then up over the ranges to our lunch stop in Omeo. After lunch we diverted away from the Omeo Highway a few times taking the less-travelled roads through small towns like Cassilis and Tongio West before re-joining the Highway at Ensay for the run to the coast.

Sometime before dawn on the morning of the final day Glenn Campbell (Porsche 911 Carrera) snuck away and headed home to attend to family matters. The Porsche had been given quite a workout over the mountains and it was quick and agile in twisty stuff. Day 3 didn’t involve any mountain passes, but plenty of twists and turns through the back blocks of Lindenow, Briagolong, Maffra, Heyfield, Toongabbie and Glengarry, where we stopped for lunch and farewelled Rob Morley. Rob lives in Traralgon and is now on a mission to fit some better tyres to his 350SL Merc before the next run! The rest of us continued west through Tyers and Yallourn North, then to Willow Grove where Merv Swingler dropped off the rear of the convoy and turned his new Mustang towards home in Trafalgar. The manual V8 Mustang performed brilliantly on roads that one wouldn’t think suited the big American, the only disappointment with the car, especially for those following in its wake, was its lack of an exhaust note – something that Merv will be looking into.  The three remaining cars continued on down the Old Sale Rd back to home. Ray Youlden’s brand-spanking-new, bright blue, limited edition Focus RS, now has almost 2000 kilometres under its R-spec tyres and should be well and truly run in! The grip this all-wheel-drive turbo hatch has is outstanding and I’m sure that if Ray pushed it hard enough, the rest of us wouldn’t see which way it went! It might be the colour, or the shape of the grill, but the RS does have a tendency to attract and scoop up insects in far greater numbers than any of our other cars – but that’s just another excuse for Ray to give it a wash!

Your correspondent was driving his Z4 Bimmer 35i and spent much of the time following Kevin’s Merc SL55 AMG. The Bimmer didn’t miss a beat and it makes a glorious sound when utilising the twin-turbo, straight six’s full potential. It proved to be the most economical of all the cars in this group, but it can also drink with the best of them when pushed – well perhaps not as much as the AMG! Kev’s supercharged V8 does everything brilliantly, it handles, brakes and accelerates like you would expect a top-shelf Merc to do. Following behind you can watch it ride the road’s imperfections with aplomb, but you can also smell the fuel-rich exhaust when under full load!

It will be a damn shame when cars like these are replaced by electric vehicles, and even worse if autonomous cars and draconian legislation confiscate the enjoyment one derives from physically driving performance vehicles on public roads where they are able to achieve what they were built for.

Thanks for the invitation Kevin.

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