BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul CBD – Sunday 12th August

It was no surprise waking to the sound of rain on the roof, it was a winter Breakfast Club morning and anything but cold, wet and windy would seem out of character following the pattern of recent events. I had the Sprite earmarked for this month’s gathering, but without the time to find, fit and erect the wet weather equipment, it seemed much easier to fire up the Fiat 124 coupe. The coupe also had three-quarters of a tank of juice showing on the gauge – the left-overs from the Fiat Car Club’s EcoDrive last month, and we know fuel goes stale if left to sit in the tank too long!

By 7:30am the rain had cleared, so we set off taking the longer route into town giving the car a chance to warm up all those rotating and reciprocating parts despite the chilly 4-degree ambient temperature. As usual, the devoted regulars had already secured their positions on the sunny (!) side of the car park by the time we arrived. John Fowler was chamoising down the red MX5 whilst John Cobbledick had changed a flat tyre on his XJR Jag, discovering in the process that despite the car’s enormous boot, the spare was a skinny little space saver restricted to 80km/h. John was not looking forward to the slow trip back to Wonthaggi and I’ll wager a full-size spare will soon take its place.

The car park filled steadily and by 9am there were about 60 special vehicles on display. It was an eclectic collection spanning at least six decades of automotive design and development. Classic open sports cars such as MGBs and Triumphs lined up beside MX5s and 370 Z cars. Forty-year-old Mercedes SLs still impress, but look overwhelmed by the current generation from Jaguar, whilst classic and contemporary Porsches show the degree to which the iconic design has evolved. Add in a dune buggy, a handful of local and American muscle cars, some family sedans, a ute, a classic four by four, pocket rockets and even a motorcycle – is there any wonder this event draws in participants and onlookers from far and wide.

The weather remained fairly bleak, but at least the rain held off until later in the afternoon. Several Breakfast Club participants took up the invitation to visit Mike Jacobson‘s Spyder Automobiles workshop in Olympic St on their way home. The business is celebrating 60 years and two generations of the family specialising in servicing Porsche cars and other special vehicles. To mark the occasion, Mike has recently revamped the workshop with new lighting, office décor and a coat of paint which certainly gives the place a lift. On display in the workshop were several British sports cars, a Nissan-engined Clubman and a couple of Porsches, one of which was a stunning early 912 undergoing a complete restoration.  The delicious morning tea was an unexpected bonus and especially appreciated by those of us who had been standing out in cold all morning.

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AUGUST MONTHLY MEETING, Drouin Golf Club – Thursday 9th August

A big crowd numbering almost 60 attended our August General Meeting at the Drouin Golf Club with most booking in and enjoying a plentiful and delicious buffet meal as well.

Ray ran the show in his own inimitable fashion, introducing a couple of new members and breezing through the general business, assisted on past and coming events by the roving microphone and various volunteers. Joel Martin and Ian Maud regaled us with the sorry tales of their respective 6-Hour Relay teams before we paused for a short break prior to Ray introducing us to his new 2003 Mercedes E55 AMG.

This big black Merc was the car Ray eluded to at last month’s meeting when describing a recent journey to Sydney with his brother to collect their old Monaro race car. On a whim they detoured into Canberra to look at this car after inspecting a similar one in Sydney earlier in the journey. This one didn’t disappoint, a deal was struck, a new exhaust was fitted, some new tyres replaced the old, an ACT roadworthy certificate was obtained and Ray was soon winging his way back to Canberra and enjoying the return drive to Warragul through Cooma and Cann River behind the 3-pointed star.

Although 15 years-old and with over 200,000 kms under its belt, this big Merc carries its age well. Apparently everything still works as it should and it is in excellent mechanical condition. The AMG 5.5 litre supercharged V8 is built by McLaren in the McLaren factory and it wears an engraved plate signed by the engine builder. Producing 350kW and 700Nm of torque, it really packs a punch and endows the heavy E-class sedan with formidable performance. Brembo multi piston calipers on large disc brakes front and rear are capable of reining it in, but Mercedes thought it prudent to activate the traction control as a default setting whenever the ignition was turned on, and Ray concedes that it’s a good idea – especially if the roads are a bit damp!

Equipment levels are very high, as one would expect on a top-shelf Mercedes that retailed at around $225,000 when new. It has 14 computers controlling everything from the automatic transmission, to the heated and cooled seats that even have self-inflatable bolsters which give extra support when pushing hard around corners.

Ray has given the car a very thorough detailing since bringing it home and has been tidying up a few niggly issues that came to his attention. A new bearing for the supercharger drive pulley was an easy fix, but having to replace the entire front sway bar assembly with integral bushes instead of just the bushes themselves went against the grain. Once behind the wheel, however, these nuisance matters soon disappear. It truly is an amazing car to drive and I understand why Ray enjoys driving it so much.

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REVIEW OF PHILIP ISLAND 6-HOUR, for team WILD HUNDE

It all sounds so easy, really: just drive around a track at the same pace for a 30-minute stint. How could that be so difficult? Easily, as it turns out!

While I’ve driven in three 6-hr events, it has been some years since I last managed a team for this event. I soon realised that to be a successful Team Manager, you need to be:

1 part administrator

1 part mechanic

1 part caterer

1 part weather forecaster

1 part mother, and…

About 3 parts psychic

The range of factors that arise to review what previously looked like a sane strategy is immense! – as we discovered during our lead-up and participation in this year’s 6-hr.

Who were we?

Team Wild Hunde: Team members and cars (no jokes about mongrels, thank you)

28A: Robin Bailey, Nissan Z

28B: Glenn Campbell, Falcon

28C: Murray Campbell, Falcon

28D: Rex Connor, Mazda RX-7 turbo

28E: Terry Selwyn, Hyundai Excel

28F: James Richards, BMW E30

Maudy: Team Manager and general gopher.

This gave us what could be optimistically be referred to as a comprehensive range of vehicles and experience, from those who had never driven at the Island through to those for whom it was second nature.

SATURDAY:

-dawned with enchantingly beautiful weather, and much optimism, tainted by dire forecasts for the following day: rain, thunderstorms, hail, apocalypse and probably a hearty chance of plague as well. Ah, well – focus on Saturday, shall we?

We began with much grunting and heaving, as cars are required early at scrutineering, but in a cunning move sponsored by the local chapter of chiropractors and cardiac surgeons, engines cannot be started before 9:00am or it wakes up the sheep over the hill a few km away. Hence, cars on soft, wide race tyres and welded diffs must be pushed off their trailers and pushed around the pits. Bewdy.

We had one hiccup with scrutineering, where Terry’s harness was found to be out of date. It was at about this time that the Richards’ Datto expired, and they kindly allowed us to borrow their harness for the day. Thanks also to Mike Whitford in the garage next door, allowing us to borrow his passenger harness and fit it into Terry’s car for the Sunday. Whew!

The first practice session for the day was for those who had not driven the Island before. To speed the learning process, they were also allowed to take an instructor with them. My weekend was improved considerably when James not only asked me to ride with him in the Bimmer, but was OK with me driving the first couple of laps, so I got to have a (controlled) punt in an E30, and found what a lovely stable and well-handling car they are.

James must also have enjoyed himself, as he came back from his session – grinning and hardly stopped all weekend. How did the rest fare?

Terry proved reliable but needed jump-starting before each drive (the car, not Terry)

Rex had a good run, but was concerned that the car was apparently losing boost.

Robyn was also very reliable, very quick, but came in cursing drivers who rudely moved into his way – a true race driver.

Glenn was quick to settle, but late in the day a flat tyre was found: on removal it was discovered the tyre sidewall had ruptured! I suggested this was pretty wimpy as the tread was still good, so why couldn’t they keep driving? – this idea was not received well.

Murray was re-familiarising himself with the car and circuit, and settled to some useful times. At the day’s end we at least had all cars still running, though the Falcon apparently had a soft pedal and needed its brakes bleeding.

As a result of having 49 other cars out there during sessions, and progressive improvement with experience, our drivers’ times were generally all over the place. But, in keeping with the spirit of the event, we averaged, discussed, consulted the stars, threw a handful of sand trap material over the left shoulder and pulled out a figure for each driver: this was then re-discussed, negotiated, allowances made for the next day’s weather that we knew little about, and the all-important forms lodged, allowing us to head home to a well-deserved rest before a team dinner at Rusty Waters Brewery, where the cheery noise levels were apparently intended as pre-race training for trackside.

SUNDAY:

It was as well we weren’t playing for sheep stations, as the way things turned out, we would be lucky to get home with a lamb cutlet. Here’s how the big day unfolded (unravelled?):

Weather: cold! Sometimes wet, and REALLY windy. Seriously windy.

When the time came, it was a requirement that each team fronted a grid girl/person/animate object whose duty was to stand on the grid for 30 wind-swept, chilly minutes, to give something for the cars to hit, and to grip the team sign furiously so it didn’t end up in Bass Strait, possibly still attached to said grid bod. As there was a noticeable shortage of volunteers from our team, all drivers mysteriously suddenly having to check something on their cars, it came down to my good self to perform this duty. With the weather so challenging, the grid looked more like a local gathering of Michelin Men. Having said that, the attendants included a bearded man in a dress, complete with fishnet stockings…perhaps he had taken a wrong turn on his way home Saturday night?

Murray was to start for us: excited by the increased bite of air-free brakes, he locked up into MG, left the track and arrived nearly last, to the relief of the team, and the return of dad’s blood pressure to double-digits.

There were bag pipes, a parade lap, and the field was waved away.

Terry took the next stint, and then the first of the official printouts arrived, to confirm what we had feared: we were, in fact, going backwards! At this stage we were 55 laps down (due to penalties), and officially second last. A stoic description was offered that we had consolidated our position in the field, and could really only progress forward. This too, seemed unappreciated.

A word of explanation here, lest you unfairly form the opinion our drivers were poor. Lap timers are vital in this event. We had a small number of volunteers promised for the day, but they failed to arrive, possibly having read the weather forecast, leaving us just with Edward & Aiden, two stalwart Yr 9 schoolboys in shorts, headed for a baptism by fire. Neither had any experience, so with training on the job, limited supervision, stuff-all relief and difficulties with weather, communication and spotting cars on the track, it was never going to end very well. The lapboard was not always seen, so the one critical piece of information the needed was often not there, so our times all over the place. When rain came, everyone scurried inside so drivers were left with limited visibility, demanding conditions, and no feedback! Super-strong gusty winds all day also meant the pit board operator was tossed about, and every time the board did make it to a showing, it was touch-and-go whether it would be slammed against the pit wall or torn from the operator’s hands. Undeterred, (well, they had little alternative), the drivers soldiered on:

James improved his times, but found it difficult to get down to his nominated times on a cooler and busier track.

Terry was surprisingly quick in the mighty Excel, but found it hard to reliably match his times from Saturday. He was also understandably reluctant to drive if the track was very wet-something to do with FWD, a locked diff, stiff suspension, little weight…!

Robyn again proved quick and reliable, but we couldn’t always feed him lap times as needed.

Murray and Glenn were chasing their times with good success. Glen went out for one session, only to come almost straight back in – apparently the Falcon was a bit bored and decided to dismantle a front wheel bearing. A new replacement was fitted, and the car ran faultlessly for rest of day.

Rex continued to lose boost in the Mazda, couldn’t get down to his nominated times, and eventually put it on trailer.

The day got a little better as the event progressed: at one stage we rose to the dizzying heights of 42nd but quickly returned to form and settled back down to the ooze-filled bottom layers of the timing chart, not to rise again.

I had to leave just before the end of the event to go to work, leaving Robyn to finish. We came an astonishing 47th outright of 50: on reflection, not too bad really for a team basically driving largely in ignorance of lap times, in an event where this is critical information – a bit like driving an economy run and not knowing how much fuel you have.

Thank yous:

  • to the drivers, who did their best, and helped look after each other.
  • To Robyn’s mate Terry for assisting where possible
  • The race track café for sustenance, and especially:
  • Aiden and Edward, for efforts and endurance beyond the call of duty.

How might things have been, if we had people turn up to help on the day? Ah, well. There’s always 2019.

-Maudy

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PERSPECTIVE ON THE PHILIP ISLAND 6 HOUR RELAY 2018 – Allan and David Richards

I have just read our beloved team manager’s article on the blog, so I won’t even attempt to write anything as elaborate as he.  Thanks Joel for saving me the trouble.

I will however try to write a little of our woes.

“To cut a long story short” as often the saying goes – After our engine disasters of last year, it was obvious that our engine would need to be rebuilt, that’s when the first problems arose;  Parts!

We have a Nissan SR 20 engine originally fitted to a Nissan S13 Sylvia rear wheel drive, when Mr Google is asked to give info on this engine, all we could get was specs of a CA 18 engine which was first fitted to this car later followed by the SR 20, the CA 18 of course if an entirely different animal and you wouldn’t believe how many different SR 20 derivatives there are, and they are all different.  We eventually gathered the parts together, the engine gasket kit being sourced from Queensland as an example.

David was finally able to down load the appropriate engine specs which were delightfully vague and lost a lot in the translation. In due course the engine was assembled complete with new modified camshafts, however when we couldn’t get it to run, professional help was enlisted.  Unfortunately things went from bad to worse and two weeks out from the event we had a “New rebuilt”  engine with a blown head gasket,  camshafts which weren’t correctly ground in the first place, and eight bent exhaust valves.

Long-time friend and Nissan Guru Dennis Cope came to our rescue, got the car running and dynoed  two days before the event.  Finally we are ready, we thought, as the car was washed polished and loaded onto the trailer. How wrong we were.

As my competition numbers happened to be on the car, I went out to practise first on Saturday morning. The car felt good, very responsive and early times were starting to look promising. Then disaster struck.  I didn’t see the hoard of black cats run across the track , but I did see the oil pressure gauge drop to an alarming 10 psi, so I switched the engine off and rolled to a stop, ironically just out of “Siberia” which is where the car stopped two years ago when the bottom radiator hose blew off the CA 16 engine.

As Joel reported in his article we took the Datsun home and returned on Sunday with my MG Midget, which was fun but slow, at least we didn’t break our lap times.

A big thank you to our long suffering team manager Joel, and rather than take any more space,  ditto to everyone else Joel thanked, without such a team effort this event just doesn’t happen.

Allan Richards.

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THE 6-HOUR REGULARITY RELAY, Philip Island GP Circuit – 28th & 29th July

Honestly, I feel I need a 150% pay rise before I’ll consider doing this again.

I’ve just put the kettle on a third time because I keep nodding off waiting for it to boil, every joint has sent several complaints to my operating centre and my ears are ringing like a church bell.

I found myself asking why I would subject myself to such discomfort? I sat down with my very sterile cuppa and took a long hard review of the event that I had just returned from; the Phillip Island 6 hour Regularity Relay…

For the ragtag group that call themselves Team Wild Dog the battle started long before we put tire to tarmac.

Two of our regular pilots, Mark Revitt-Mills and Ron Brooks had to hang up their helmets this year for health reasons, but that didn’t stop them from cheering us on from pitlane. With Phil Finger (and his financial department) taking a much-earned break after 13 years of 6-Hour madness; Team Wild Dog was in need of 3 new drivers.

First to jump on board was Steve Bakker and his Silver WRX STI, filling our somewhat usual ‘wildcard spot’. Next was Nic Revitt-Mills, whom didn’t hesitate to jump in the Blue VN saloon and carry on the family tradition. Last but certainly not least was Rob Duncan and his Red VN Commodore who answered our 11th hour call when Ron had to unexpectedly withdraw.

Out team was rounded out by the other usual suspects: Dave and Allan Richards in their 120WHY and our resident jester Paul Zsidy giving the Revitt-Mills VN a workout and a half with Nic.

After some minor paperwork shenanigans and a certain cursed Datsun giving us grief right up until 2 days before the event, our motley crew was ready to kickstart the 6-Hour! If only we knew that our dramas were only just beginning.

We filled garage 29 with spanners, spare parts and high hopes as the sun was rising over the track only to be immediately plunged into mayhem when the eagle eyes of the scrutineers spotted some out of date harnesses and extinguishers. After some scrambling and a mad dash across the island for a borrowed harness Rob was sent out to start the batting and get his first taste of the GP Circuit.

“It was that first lap as I left the pits and passed under the bridge that it hit me; I’m on Phillip Island! Just that was worth the money!” commented Rob when I asked for his opinion of the track.

Next out was Allan for some very promising laps before returning to the paddock shortly after he left. The unfortunate engine issues had not been as resolved as first thought. They did however catch the eye of the professional photographer. There were more photos of the Datsun taken during those few laps than the rest of the team combined over the whole weekend!

The major setback didn’t stop the fellas though. They promptly packed up the Datsun and headed home to go and get Allan’s yellow MG Midget.

The rest of the qualifying day had its hurdles with safety cars and scheduling confusion resulting in:

A blistering 1:55.69 for Steve and his WRX, dangerously close to the 1:55 restriction but putting a very large grin on his face that he was still wearing the following morning.

Paul breaking the cardinal rule of borrowed vehicles by driving it quicker than the owner by 2 seconds.

Rob getting very comfortable between 2:09 and 2:11 lap times.

And poor Nic never getting a solid run without safety car interruptions before the VN’s Battery dropped a cell and we couldn’t get it started in the garage.

Nevertheless, we settled on our chosen times, packed up and gathered at the Rusty Water Brewery for dinner.

We had a whopping 30 odd team members and friends from 4 teams attend, so it wasn’t long before the friendly mudslinging and laughter filled the room. Once we were soundly fed and inebriated the group slowly dispersed to various accommodations and rested our weary heads whilst dreaming of 6-Hour glory.

Sunday morning greeted us like a slap in the face with a wet fish, or at least something as cold and damp. The clouds had done their best to rain on our spirits and had the teams in the pit paddock murmuring thoughts of adjusting times for the weather. When I asked my team what they wanted to do all agreed that we came for the fun and left our times as they were.

As 10:00am drew closer our excitement grew. The sky slowly cleared, the Bagpipes played along the grid, Allan sang the National Anthem, the safety car led the starters away and then the 6-Hour Relay began!

That was precisely the moment that all the gremlins came rushing out to meet us. Steve returned almost as fast as he’d left, his boost gauge was telling him that the engine was only receiving half the pressure it should be. The Team rushed Nic and the blue VN armed with a new battery out and I decided that it was time for me to visit the hardest working person on Phillip Island; the barista at the coffee stand.

I received my steaming cup of temporary energy, turned around and spotted the VN parked neatly behind me, A loud knocking noise could be heard from the engine as Nic shut it down. The crew had jumped to action in my absence and sent Allan out to battle the corners and slight drizzle that had popped in for a short visit. All before 10:30AM!

Team Wild Dog looked like they were down to two cars, many heads were tucked under the bonnet of the blue saloon diagnosing the knocking noise and Steve was pulling all sorts of pipes out of his WRX in search of his lost boost.

The crew eventually found a loose rocker retaining bolt in the VN that also damaged the start of the thread in the head. I was able to make a hasty repair employing the delicate art of hitting with a hammer and the crew hurried to get the rocker covers back on and sent Paul out. Steve had conceded defeat and decided to run with less power so by midday we’d returned to full force.

However, the repair to the VN Saloon had proven to be only temporary. Paul couldn’t push the car close enough to his nominated time and it survived just long enough to finish a full session before Paul returned to the pit paddock with the knocking sound back under the bonnet. The very disheartening call was made to retire the car. Steve was also unable to close in on his nominated time with the underpowered car slowing him down… and then eventually stopping. The watchful timers hadn’t seen him when expected. An official appeared and handed us a replacement sash to get Dave out on the track and we all feared the worst when the recovery crew delivered the WRX to the pit paddock. A very frustrated Steve began frantically searching for what caused his beloved car to almost die around turn 4… and promptly discovered that he had ran out of fuel.

Steve very sheepishly left to refuel and I’m relieved to say that the gremlins decided to leave Team Wild Dog alone for the rest of the day.

By 1:00pm Team Wild Dog had slid from 42nd, to 45th and were sitting at 47th. However just as our hopes were at their lowest, Rob had found his rhythm and started closing in on his lap time. the 1:30pm report had caught the start of his session. Just 6 bonus laps had launched us to 28th. His best lap of the weekend was 2:08.175 gaining us 10 bonus laps, by 2:00pm Rob and his commodore had carried us to 19th! with the rest of the crew just turning over laps, an already exhausted Rob went out for a third session and managed a couple of low 2:10’s and gained 2 more bonus laps.

At 4:00pm John Bowe himself waved the chequered flag, Allan crossed the line for our little team and we all hurriedly packed our belongings as the rain that had threatened us all day finally arrived.

Allan, David and Steve went and witnessed the Trophy Ceremony and returned with large grins. Team Wild dog had finished a respectable 16th (later returned to 17th when another team’s imposed penalty was revoked post event)

What a day!

It’s a very clear indicator of how tight the competition has become when just 22 bonus laps was the difference of 30 positions. Dave and Jean Bellenger, along with the help of many nameless hands that I can’t thank enough, have created a truly spectacular grassroots event.  

So now I sit at my desk, with my phone informing me that I have walked/ran 37 km over the weekend (that’s 8.3 laps if you wanted to know) asking myself why I’ve done it for the last 7 years. The answer is actually really simple:

It’s so much bloody fun!

Would I do it again? Yes. 150% Hell Yes.

Thank-you’s:

David and Jean Bellenger, their admin and organising team.

The CAMS officials, scrutineers, paramedics and fire marshalls.

A huge thank you to the volunteer flag marshalls, without them we don’t get to play.

Neil and his staff at The Rusty Water Brewery, for hosting our rowdy bunch again this year.

Gippsland Sporting and Classic Car Register for inviting me yet again.

Mort and Robbie FitzGerald for the accommodation.

TEAM WILD DOG!

Drivers: David Richards, Allan Richards, Rob Duncan, Steve Bakker, Nic Revitt-Mills, Paul Zsidy.

Timers and Lap Board: Vincent Scollo, Shari Barmos, Ron Brooks, Sarah Revitt-Mills.

Pit Crew; Paul Revitt-Mills, Andrew Shears, John Mahy, Mark Revitt-Mills.

Cheer Squad: Phil and Jean Finger, Sue and Eden Revitt-Mills, and the Daikoku Heavy Club.

Thanks for reading!

Joel Martin

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JULY MONTHLY MEETING, Drouin Golf Club – Thursday12th July

We were down a little on numbers this month, but considering it was the middle of our Retiree Winter Excursion Season, having 45 bums on seats wasn’t too bad of an effort. The Golf Club surprised us with a buffet dinner and laid the room out with five beautifully presented round tables of 10. The food was nice, but by the time the final table was called up there wasn’t much in the way of choice or quantity available. We hope this serves as a learning experience for next time.

For a while it looked as if our featured display car might be a no-show, but it wasn’t long before the dim glow of Lucas 7” headlights coming up the drive put our anxieties at rest. David and Claire Richards had brought along their 1967 Morris Mini Deluxe which has been named Misty after its colour, Mist Grey.

David had been secretly yearning for a Mini ever since driving one at the old Morwell Hillclimb track as a mere youth. It was the handling and responsiveness that ticked the boxes, but the search for a suitable shell to build up was unsuccessful. Instead David picked up his father’s “Cooperised” Mini Deluxe when Allan upgraded to his current Cooper S.

This is a very tidy car that has never undergone a full restoration. The bodywork is in original condition whilst the mechanicals have received some gentle enhancement. The 1100 engine is 0.040” oversize, it benefits from having some headwork and balancing done and it now breathes through a 45 DCOE Weber and long-centre-branch exhaust manifold. Ignition is electronic and the alloy wheels enclose upgraded disc and drum brakes from a Cooper S which match the performance of the engine. The interior has been tastefully customized with a sports steering wheel and a pair comfortable reclining seats from one of the last series of Rover Minis.

David and Claire use the car regularly on Club outings and have participated in several Fly the Flag tours.

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