AUSTRALIAN HILLCLIMB CHAMPIONSHIP, Bryant Park Yallourn – 26th to 28th Oct

The Gippsland Car Club and its members are to be congratulated on the successful hosting of the AHCC at Bryant Park last weekend. Around 100 competition vehicles from all over Australia converged on what is arguably the best hillclimb venue in the country to showcase the finest in what this sport can offer – and it didn’t disappoint. Friday’s timed practice session was mainly used by those unfamiliar with the track to settle in and learn the foibles of the tricky 1.3km clockwise layout. Five official runs were then conducted on Saturday, but light drizzle meant that everyone was hoping for a fine Sunday when another four official runs at the hill were scheduled.

To everyone’s delight, Sunday dawned fine and sunny. Malcolm Oastler (NSW) was Chief Designer and Technical Director of the BAR (formally Tyrrell) Formula One team before moving to Jaguar Racing as their Chief Designer in 2003 and 2004, he obviously knows his way around open-wheelers and on Sunday smashed the outright Bryant Park record in his home-built, turbo-charged, Hayabusa-engined OMS28 Formula Libra car. Local driver and race car builder, Brett Hayward in another home-built, Hayabusa-engined special also broke the previous outright record, but couldn’t match Oastler’s times.

TOP THREE OUTRIGHT PLACE-GETTERS

1 – Malcolm Oastler. 43.10
2 – Brett Hayward. 43.95
3 – Greg Ackland. 45.51

 

Not everyone was vying for outright honours and there were plenty of classes to cater for the wide range of vehicle types and engine capacities within the field. The Sporting Register was represented by Alan and David Richards in their 2-litre Datsun 120Y Sports Sedan, Jim McNiven in his BMW M3 which ran in a new class for Road Registered cars with engine capacities between 2 and 4 litres; and Steve Schmidt driving his Morris Cooper S in the up to 2-litre Group N Historic Touring Car class.

Alan and David swapped fastest times between themselves all weekend in what was the first successful outing for this car in close to two years since the engine was updated to a Nissan SR20. Both drivers were more than happy just to have completed the event, but at the end of the day Alan’s final run of 62.07 eclipsed David’s best time by little more than a tenth of a second to place them 5th and 6th in the class.

Jim’s M3 BMW was up against a current model Mercedes 2-litre, turbo-charged, all-wheel-drive hot hatch and Jim knew from the outset that he was out-gunned. Never-the-less Jim drove hard on each run and managed to get his times down below the psychological one-minute barrier with a 59.87 on the second-last run of the day. There was no catching the Merc though – its best time was almost two seconds faster.

Steve’s Cooper S was engaged in the usual titanic battle all weekend with the similar Cooper S of Peter Weymouth-Wilson. This time, however, Peter was watching from the sidelines whilst his son Steven took control behind the wheel. During the weekend the class lead changed back and forth between the blue and green Minis with both drivers posting personal best times on top of previous PBs. Youth eventually triumphed over experience, even though your correspondent’s best time of 61.52 was over a second faster than what the car and driver had achieved previously.

It was tremendous to see so many Sporting Register members supporting the event with their presence, either as spectators or as volunteers. John Moss fulfilled the roles of Assistant Clerk of Course and Eligibility Officer whilst his wife Marlene helped out in the canteen, which seemed to be very busy from the word go! If I have missed naming any other Club members who assisted with the running of the event, I apologise and thank them along with all the other volunteers whose time and commitment helped make this event the success it was.

Next year’s Australian Hillclimb Championship will be run at Mt Panorama, Bathurst. I believe it will run in the reverse direction to the 1000km race, starting on Conrod Straight and running uphill through Forests Elbow, the Dipper and the Esses, finishing the other side of Skyline. A pretty steep climb for a Mini !

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MID-WEEK RUN to Mirboo North – Wednesday 17th October

The Darnum Stump Tea Room was a good choice of a meeting point for the first summer mid-week run. Although the day was overcast the event was well supported and the room soon filled with club enthusiasts sharing morning tea. Outside, an impressive line-up of cars announced that the Gippsland Sporting and Classic Car Register was in town. Several cars had the hood down, as if to challenge the rain clouds (this turned out to be not such a good idea!)

Our leader, John Fowler, soon had us assembled for a briefing, while he explained the intricacies of a journey to Mirboo North using generally deserted back roads including the fabled Grand Ridge Road. Armed with maps and run sheets, engines were started, and we were soon on our way.

John had rather cleverly divided the run sheet into sections, headed Gainsborough Road, Warragul-Leongatha Road, Grand Ridge Road through Seaview, Trida, Hallston, Allambee South, with the run concluding at Mirboo North and the Mirboo North Commercial Hotel. Here we were joined by four more cars, bringing the total to around eighteen with 38 participants. Most parked in the secluded car-park at the rear of the Hotel.

Travelling along these winding roads certainly showcased the variety of the beautiful Gippsland countryside from open grazing land to forests with some steep areas. Many drivers stopped to raise the roof as rain caught us up in the hills. However, one hardy soul in a red MGB (Rolly Ruck) carried on hoodless despite the rain, only getting wet when the cars in front slowed him down. Oh well! At least it was dry at Mirboo North!

The Mirboo North Hotel proved to be an excellent venue, and the friendly staff quickly took orders and served well priced quality meals and catered for those with special dietary requirements. This was an enjoyable conclusion to an excellent day out and was coupled with a lot of happy talk about the run and the cars around the 3 long tables.

Following the meal, people chatted for quite a while then drifted off, while some explored the shops in Mirboo North. Later in the afternoon, torrential rain slowed the journey home for many participants.

This mid-week run was a great event. Thanks are due to John & Jan Fowler for their meticulous organisation. We now look forward to another mid-week run.

Joy Wright  BMW E30 318i

Photos by Ken Wright.

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PHILIP ISLAND SOCIAL RUN, Sunday 21st October. Organised by Colleen Eccles and Trish Brooks

Cool overcast and wet conditions greeted the owners of the fourteen or so vehicles gathered in the Warragul Woolworths’ car park for the commencement of the Philip Island run (end destination altered to San Remo). Following a briefing by Ron Brooks outlining the proposed route with the promise of great driving roads with stunning views, some of which Ron suspected, most drivers would not have travelled before. Perusing the route instructions I recognised some of the excellent roads i.e. the Torwood/Topiram and Bass Valley roads that I had travelled on previous occasions , but there were a number that were unfamiliar to me  and I was keen to see what they were like to drive.

As we all headed off to our first destination, morning coffee at Kernot, the skies started to clear the further we travelled from Warragul, making the drive more pleasurable but this still didn’t encourage any of the roadster owners to put their tops down. The roads on the first leg didn’t disappoint, especially the Kernot-Krowera Rd which had all the right ingredients of a great driving road – winding, narrow and stunning views. How lucky we are to have these roads so close to home.

Travelling on the ‘follow the leader’ principle with each driver keeping a’ line of sight of the following vehicle’ meant that the group travelled at a good pace, no one got lost and all arrived at our destination around the same time. Trish and Colleen arranged for a morning coffee break at the Kernot Food & Wine store including being entertained by a local band (requested to start playing a little earlier to coincide with our arrival). The coffee and the band were excellent and made you appreciate why the Kernot Food & Wine store is such a popular destination each weekend for locals and those in the know. I would recommend it if you’re looking to do a weekend drive with great roads, and a destination with good reasonably priced food and wine plus very good music. The Kernot Food & Wine store ticks all the boxes.

The second leg of the run was to take us to San Remo on back roads via Woolamai, Kilcunda and Anderson. Once again the roads did not disappoint with some of the roads providing great elevated views of Western Port Bay and with the skies now cleared it was quite a stunning vista. On arrival into a busy San Remo we all hunted down an appropriate parking spot and made our way to the Western Port Hotel for an efficiently served and pleasant lunch.

Following our satisfying and relaxing lunch Trish Brooks introduced Phillip Island Winery owner, singer and motoring journalist Tim O’Brien to give the car club group a talk on the life of a motoring journalist and how the industry operates. Tim is a very warm and open speaker and his revelations on how the car industry controls and manipulates car reviews was an eye opener for some and reinforcement for others. Tim’s opening words of ‘never never never’ rely motor vehicle review, were reinforced by his stories of how car manufacturers, with inducements of travel, luxury accommodation, gifts etc, ensure only positive reviews ever reach the public domain.

Tim grew up on a farm in East Gippsland and has had quite a varied career from a school teacher, motoring journalist with the VACC, an online motoring review developer as well as a singer (he released a single in 1968 which reached number eight on the Australian charts). To finish off his talk Tim sang three songs and his singing and guitar work was excellent.  With such talent it made you wonder why he didn’t continue his singing career rather than becoming a motoring journalist. It was a pleasure to listen to him.

Finally we must thank Trish Brooks and Colleen Eccles for an excellent event which provided a variety of great roads, music, food and a very interesting talk.

Words by Phil Barnard. Photos by Ron Brooks.

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BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul CBD – Sunday 14th Oct.

Hawaiian shirts, shorts and thongs may be unusual attire for a pleasant Spring morning in Warragul, but it was obvious by the huge turnout of convertibles this month that Summer isn’t that far away. Daylight Saving also doesn’t seem to have affected the early bird arrivals, Ian and Mary Hodge drove down from Melbourne in their recently Club-plated Citroen DS, arriving almost an hour early. The Citroen obviously cruises a fair bit quicker than Ian’s MGTF, so they had plenty of time to enjoy a feed at Frankies before the crowd arrived. Your correspondent also arrived early after giving the Z4 a quick hose down and chamois at the car wash to remove the remains of splattered bugs gathered the previous morning on a Bimmer Club run through the Yarra Valley. At 7:30am there were around a dozen vehicles already in position with more arriving every minute.

With well over a hundred sports, classic and collectible cars on display throughout the morning, this month’s event was up there as one of our largest turnouts, and the car park was buzzing with activity. As usual, the diversity of vehicles was just as interesting as the vehicles themselves.  From the stately English classics from Rolls Royce and Bentley to a tiny Austin 7 Special; from a Willys Jeep to a V12 Aston Martin Rapide there was something to interest everybody. As usual there were several cars making their debut appearances as well as some that were being offered for sale. A couple of first-timers that particularly caught my attention were Cliff Holton’s stunning British Racing Green, Series 1.5 E-Type Jaguar and a rare little Riley Elf from the 1960’s that was marketed as an up-market version of BMC’s Mini, complete with generic Riley grill, wood-grain dash and an extended boot tacked on the back.

This month vehicles with an English heritage seemed to outnumber all others – with MG, Austin, Leyland, Austin Healey, Triumph, Daimler, Sunbeam, Jaguar, Morris, Riley, Rolls Royce, Bentley and even a Bayliss-Thomas. There were plenty of German makes and models scattered around – a couple of VW Beetles, Z3 and Z4 BMWs, Mercedes SLs and a pride of Porsches this month including four Boxster’s, a couple of 911s, a Cayman and a 944. Italian marques were less prevalent, but just as spectacular with several Alfas, a Maserati and Mark Sanford’s beautiful mid-engined Lancia Montecarlo. American muscle included a big-block Pontiac Firebird that looked as if it came straight off the set of Smokey and the Bandit, a tidy 50’s Chevy and an early Corvette that sounded magnificent. Several classic Mustangs offered a visual contrast to the single late model offering in an unusual, but very attractive burgundy paint job. A pack of MX5s and a couple of Nissan Z cars flew the flag for Japan and Australian makes were well represented with a range of late and early model Holdens, a couple of Fords and Bob Russell’s VE Valiant.

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OCTOBER MONTHLY MEETING, Drouin Golf Club – Thursday 11th Oct

With Daylight Saving delaying the onset of darkness until later in the evening, an opportunity now exits for members to bring their special vehicles along and display them outside the Golf Club’s function rooms prior to our monthly meetings getting underway. It was nice to see a typically eclectic display of sports and classic cars lined up there this month whilst their owners soaked up the last of the sun’s rays with a drink on the terrace.

Around 50 members and friends attended this month’s meeting. Dinner was buffet style, but unfortunately it was very poorly catered for, resulting in our members on the last two tables fronting up to virtually empty food serveries and having to make do with the remains of the coleslaw and slices of corned beef – certainly not value for money and very disappointing, especially as it’s not the first time this has happened!

General Business was handled with aplomb by Ray and his conscripts and this led into a presentation by Glenn Campbell centred on his recently acquired 2008 BMW M3 (E92) which was on display in the dining room.  Glenn began by reading a note from his wife Pam, addressed to the Club. She wrote, “My husband has a problem, he doesn’t know when to stop buying new cars …. and, he is aided and abetted in these actions by certain members of this Club! Can you please help?”

The M3 is the most recent manifestation of this problem. Glenn saw the M3 advertised and after a chat with Ray, they took off on a whim to Sydney to check it out. It is a fairly rare 6-speed manual version of the E92 M3 which is powered by a normally-aspirated 4-litre 309kW (414 bhp) V8 that spins to over 8000 rpm. This 10 year-old coupe was in very good condition, fully equipped with a stack of options and showing only 106,000km on the odometer. They bought it on the spot and drove it home the next day via Canberra, Cooma and Cann River, sharing 2-hour stints behind the wheels of both cars.

The M3 is a little bit faster than Glenn’s Porsche 911, which being an auto, doesn’t have the same driver involvement. Both Ray and Glenn agree that the M3 is a very quick and competent car, and it sticks to the road like glue, they love the way the M3 handles, although the active suspension’s three settings of hard, very hard and ridiculous take some getting used to. There is also a programmable “M” button which can be set up for motorsport purposes and Glenn’s intentions may include some track time at some stage in the future.

At almost $200,000 when new, including options and on-road costs, this is one hell-of-a-lot of car. Today you can pick one up for less than $40,000 and if you’re prepared to take the gamble on reliability, do the leg work to find one that’s been well-maintained; it’s a temptation that’s difficult to resist.

 In response to Pam’s concerns, I can only recommend that Glenn continue to regularly attend the self-help group which convenes several times per week at Frankies in Warragul for breakfast therapy sessions.

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PRESIDENT’S 100 – Sunday 30th September

It was always going to be a big ask to gather one hundred of the Club’s classic and sports cars together in one place at the same time, but “President’s 100” sounds so much better than “President’s 50”. There were however, more than one hundred of our members gathered at the Latrobe Airfield, but with everyone wearing high-vis, it looked more like a tradie convention – the car park thankfully reflected a different demographic.

Thirty-five cars departed Shell’s Warragul Roadhouse in a convoy that seemed to stretch out for miles along the lesser-used scenic backroads along our route. Despite the fairly simple convoy instructions of following the car in front and not loosing the one behind, there was the inevitable hiccup mid-field, but very little time was lost and the convoy regrouped on the outskirts of Traralgon. The airfield car park already contained a goodly number of our members’ cars when the convoy arrived – a count later revealed a total of 55 members’ cars and it’s lucky there weren’t too many more otherwise we’d have been spreading out onto the tarmac.

Sporting Register member, Ian Honey, is also a member of one of the aviation clubs based at the Airfield and he was instrumental in inviting us to use the venue which included their clubrooms, kitchen and BBQ. Ray Youlden and Jaime Drysdale had arrived earlier and seemed to be well in control of the food situation, they were turning out sausages and onions faster than Bunnings on a long weekend.

Once lunch was over, Ian took us on a tour of several hangars containing a range of small aircraft belonging to members of the aviation clubs. Apart from the wide range of aircraft types and designs on display, one aspect of the tour that hit home was the enormous amount of space required to store these be-winged things and the issues that must be involved when wishing to take one plane out of a hangar without having to move all the others as well. A hangar that that houses four planes would comfortably accommodate a dozen classic cars!

A big thank you to Ray Youlden, Ian Honey and the members of the aero clubs involved, for hosting this very popular event and giving us an insight into what goes on behind the gates at the Latrobe Airfield.

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