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rising over the track only to be immediately plunged into mayhem when the eagle eyes of the scrutineers spotted some out of date harnesses and extinguishers.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.
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!