There aren’t too many events on the motor enthusiast’s calendar that drains a camera battery quite as quickly as the Phillip Island Historic Race meeting. Growing in stature every year, this 3-day event attracts the cream of Australian historic race cars and an increasing number of high-profile, international entrants. All the grids were full and the racing, closely contested.
A group of 10 Sporting Register members assembled in Drouin for an early-morning run down to Lang Lang, where by pure coincidence, we arrived at the Sth Gippsland Highway intersection just as the Shannons Cavalcade cruised past on their way to the Island. We tagged onto the end, mingling with Hot Rods, American muscle cars and even a V10 Viper which dwarfed your correspondent’s little Bugeye. It was a magical feeling cruising down the highway surrounded by so many classics and like-minded devotees. At San Remo, the pace slowed across the bridge and dawdled along to the GP Circuit where we gathered on the hill overlooking the very fast Turn 1.
One could spend hours admiring the various Car Club displays along Shannons Walk which is located along the top of the main straight, then there’s the attractions inside the large pavilion near the pedestrian bridge over the track. Once on the inside of the track, it’s hard not to act like a kid in a lolly shop. All pit garages are open for inspection and the various marquees are full to overflowing with all types of classic racers. Glenn Campbell was racing his Alfetta GTV in the Group Sc Sports class this year and several Sporting Register members were noticed crewing for other teams. These historic cars have personalities characterised by their stance, smell and sound which evoke fond memories of times when parity had more to do with industrial relations than laptimes. The patron of this year’s event was John Bowe, a multiple Australian Championship winner whose career began in Formula V and is probably best remembered for his long-term relationship with Dick Johnson Racing and the Sierra Cosworths in particular. When John was not signing autographs, he was kept busy competing in both a March 741 Sports car and the Mark Petch (NZ) entered Volvo 240T in the Group A and C Historic Touring Car class alongside fellow touring car aces Jim Richards (JPS BMW 635C) and Glenn Seaton (Sierra Cosworth). Allan Moffat, Bob Holden and Alfredo Costanzo were also faces amongst the crowd.
The cars were the real stars, however, and none more so than Pedro Silva’s 1965 Ford GT40 Targa Florio from the UK which was one of the 22 internationals competing at this year’s event. At the other end of the scale, but no less appealing, was the Austin A30 driven by Rhea Sautter from Germany. Unfortunately, the little Austin suffered gearbox problems during the first race on Saturday and failed to make the grid for the afternoon event. It wasn’t through lack of effort though, with Rhea and her team working feverishly in the pits to a supportive audience. Whether yours is a GT40, a Porsche 917 or an A30, the passion and the appreciation are the same.