Phillip Island Classic Preview

Movies, songs, popular culture, motor sport. What do they have in common? Yup, it’s obvious, they all have something to do with time, specifically “the past”. But why should motor sport be involved in what happened, not what’s coming?

The Victorian Historic Racing Register doesn’t really care because they know that the Phillip Island Classic, to be held over the ninth to the eleventh of March 2018, pulls people to the picturesque Phillip Island race circuit in droves.

There’s something a bit extra special about this meeting. Along with a strong presence of members of the Group S racing family, the weekend will commemorate fifty years of Formula 5000 racing and with over thirty five sparkling examples of these thunderous machines expected. Legendary Australian touring car driver John Bowe will be in attendance and on the Sunday will showcase a 1974 March ex F1 car. He’ll be with fellow racer and noted collector Guido Belgiorno-Nettis in a Ferrari F1 car formerly raced by Italian driver Michele’ Alboreto. Both will be racing these historic machines against two younger drivers that have years of experience between them already, Tom Tweedie and Tim Berryman.

The categories include the smaller and fascinating Formula Ford and Formula Vee, Groups Q and R, and pre WW2 cars in the Group J and some Group K, with post WW2 cars in Group K also. WW2 itself will be represented, in a motor racing sense, with the inclusion of Group L, a category for cars built between 1941 and 1960. These cars are those built especially for competition, be they factory backed or one-offs. There’s a sub-category in the Ls, known as “square riggers”. These are primarily MG TCs sans mud guards, windscreens, and headlights.

But people don’t attend historic motorsport events such as this to just and merely goggle over the eye watering range of cars on track and on display. There are the personalities in attendance such as the aforementioned JB. This weekend will also have five patrons there.

Better known as “KB”, one of Australia’s most loved drivers, Kevin Bartlett, a two time winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship and a Bathurst 1000 winner, will be on deck.

Alfredo “Alfie” Constanzo, an Italian born, Australian raised, driver, a four time Australian GP competitor and four time Australian Drivers’ Championship winner, is there.

Alan Hamilton, who won the Australian Sports Car Driver award twice ,and along with Alfie is a four time winner of the Gold Star Championship, is slated to appear.

Two time New Zealand Grand Prix winner John McCormack, who also won the Australian Drivers’ Championship three times, is scheduled to be there.

And New Zealand’s MBE awarded driver Ken Smith, won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1976, 1990 and in 2004 and raced Formula Ford, Formula 5000, Formula Pacific, Formula Mondial and Toyota Racing Series. Ken has competed over 59 consecutive seasons on the motor racing circuit. He has won the Gold Star Drivers Award five times, Formula 5000 Revival three times, the Penang Grand Prix three times, the Selanger twice and the Malaysian Grand Prix once. In 1995 Ken was inducted into the New Zealand motorsport Hall of Fame.

Australian cars of note will be there. An Australian Grand Prix winning (Frank) Matich A50 and an MR8 Elfin 5000 campaigned in the US by Garrie Cooper and Vern Schuppan will be on track.

Rare Spares ambassador for eleven years, JB says of the event, “it’s the second best race track in Australia and there’ll be 550 classic cars at this weekend’s Classic.” John drove three cars in 2017 and for 2018 says: “I’ll be driving something that’s very rare, an Allard J2X from 1952 owned by Carroll Shelby that had raced in the American sports car scene.” This will be the first time this car has competed in Australia.

John acknowledged the support of his good friend Joe Calleja, current owner of the Allard, including the opportunity to drive his 1969 Group N Mustang.

Of Rare Spares JB said:” Without Rare Spares there would not behalf of the Aussie classic cars on the road that there is now.” John mentioned a recent club meeting he attended along with his great mate Dick Johnson and just how many cars were there that had used Rare Spares.

John’s relationship with the Phillip Island Classic goes back to 2000, and he’s driven a range of cars and 2000 first event, covering range of cars including a Le Mans style car to a 1970’s Porsche. John invites all Rare Spares attendees and fellow car enthusiasts to come and say hi!

Are you heading down to the Phillip Island Classic? Or have you been in years past? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and tell us your experiences in the comments section below.

Ute Racing in Australia, What’s Next?

Over the past 2 decades, the V8 Utes became a staple on the travelling Supercars roadshow, with drivers jumping behind the wheel of modified production XR8 Falcon and SS Commodore Utes as a support card to the main events. The racing was fierce, fast and often akin to a dodgem car race as carnage often ensued! The category was used as a proving ground for young talent with well-known racers such as Warren Luff, Grant Denyer, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty cut their teeth against a host of series regulars like Ryal Harris, Craig Dontas and Kim Jane.

After well over 300 races, the category came to an end at the closing of the 2017 season, making way for the new SuperUtes category in 2018. To say the reception for the new format has been mixed is an understatement, as understandably many are upset at the prospect of aussie V8 powered utes being replaced by diesel powered duel cabs. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at everything we know about the new category and make a few predictions on how the racing will unfold at round 1 at the Adelaide 500 this weekend.

Based on the popular ute segment that is dominating Australian new car sales, the category is open to the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 with all bar the Navara slated to be on the grid in Adelaide.

The utes will require a minimum weight of 1800kgs, rear-wheel drive, turbo-diesel power and a control gearbox, rear axle assembly and ECU. Riding considerably lower than their production counterparts and producing power around 340bhp (250kw) and 500 ft/lbs of torque the utes will be lapping the circuit at a fairly brisk pace!

Past series champion Ryal Harris, popular competitor Craig Dontas and 2016 Dakar Winner Toby Price headline the driver taking to the new series with the latter competing in select events that don’t interfere with his international desert motorcycle racing commitments.

The big question all spectators are asking is “will it be exciting?” and with only short clips from testing gracing the Supercars website no one really knows. The utes are not alarmingly fast, nor do they sound particularly great, however all will be forgiven if the racing is good! Come quarter past two on Saturday afternoon all will be answered.

As for our predictions? It’s hard to bet against Ryal Harris although everything Toby Price touches he seems to be able to drive/ride the wheels off it. We anticipate the first of (hopefully) many battle royal’s in Australia’s newest racing category.

What do you think of the new SuperUte series? Who do you think will take the chocolates this weekend? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Group S At The 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour

The Bathurst 12 Hour as an event continues to grow in both size and stature. After moving away from a production car based race, in a contentious decision at the time, to a GT based program, the success of that decision has been validated. However, man does not live on GT alone so there were a number of support categories including the Group S cars. Under the current regulations, Group S covers a period from the 1940s through to the end of the 1970s.

Groups S itself is an umbrella that covers three sub-categories; Group Sa, Sb, and Sc. Sa is for the more elderly cars, starting from early 1941 through to the end of December 1960. It’s this category that appeals to the drivers of British cars such as the MG-A, Sunbeam Alpine, or the “Bugeye” Sprite.

Sb cars cover a slightly more compressed timeframe, being January 1961 through to December 31 1969. There’s a vast appeal here to many marques, so Corvette Stingrays, Alfa Romeo GTVs, Porsche 911s, Shelby Cobras, and more will feature.

Group Sc rounds off with an inclusion of cars from January 1970 through to December 1977 (although we’ll see cars from 1979 racing) and Porsche stars here with the ever green 911. There’s the occasional De Tomaso Pantera, Datsun 260Z, and Triumph TR6.

Naturally, being historic car racing, there’s categories within categories, with engine capacity classes being applied. Group Sa has: Saa, Sab, and Sac, covering up to 1300cc, between 1300cc and 1800cc, and over 1800cc

Sb covers a larger range. Sba and Sbb are the same as Group Sa, with Sbc ranging from 1800cc to 3000cc, whilst Sbd is from 3001cc.

Sca is slightly different, covering up to 2000cc, then Scb just 2001cc to 2600cc, then Scc 2601cc to 3500cc before finalizing with Scd from 3501cc and up.

2018 has a pretty full calendar for these venerable machines with fourteen race weekends; March 2018 has the annual Philip Island Classic whilst mid April has the inaugural Shannon’s Nationals at the new South Australia Tailem Bend circuit. There’ll be visits to Morgan Park in Queensland, Winton in northern Victoria, and December sees the final round for the year at Sydney Motorsport Park for the fabulous Tasman Revival meeting.

The Group S cars are a production based category and the cars themselves do not have to have a specific racing history, unlike the Groups A and C cars which MUST be the original racing car. The www.groupsracing.org.au website says: “Group S cars are not historic racing cars; they are historic production sports cars, modified within the limits of Group S eligibility criteria.” 

Group S ran three races at Mt Panorama during the B12 event. Race 1 was Friday February 2 and was shortened to five from the scheduled seven laps. It was a fifty five car field that featured vehicles from all three sub categories with twelve different marques and it was a fifty one car field that finished the five laps.

Ian Ross in his 1966 Shelby GT350 managed to beach his classic machine at the Chase in lap one which resulted in a safety car being called out for three laps. Of the fifty one that finished race 1, sixteen were Porsche 911 and one of those, piloted by Geoff Morgan in the Sc class, took the chequered flag. In fact, the first three cars were Scc followed by two Scd. The quickest Sa car was in the Sac category, Zack McAfee in his tidy 1956 Austin Healey.

Unfortunately for Morgan race 2 was a fizzer on the final lap as his car’s distributor failed. This handed the win to fellow 911 pilot and Morgan’s good friend, Wayne Seabrook. There was a measure of carnage at the rear of field on the first lap with Colin Goldsmith’s immaculate 1959 Austin Healy being punted by a spinning Steve Constantinidis is his 1972 Corvette.

Race three was curtailed to five laps in a time critical finish. Seabrook again took the chequered flag. Doug Barbour in his 911 finished with a flourish by spinning on the final lap and managing to still snare fourth.

A sidebar here is just how quick and nimble some of the smaller engine cars were. Race three had Damien Meyer in a 1275cc MG Midget from 1970 finish in thirteenth position, ahead of cars such as a DeTomaso Pantera with its 351 Ford engine and a 928 Porsche with a 4.5L block. That was a great follow up to his 17th in race 1

Did you catch the classic car action at the Bathurst 12 hour? What did you think? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

A look at John Bowe’s On-Track achievements

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and Australian Motorsport icon, John Bowe, was recently inducted into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame, joining names such as Brock, Webber and Brabham on the illustrious list. Throughout his hugely successful career, Bowe’s resume stacks up against some of the greatest in the history of the sport. In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at a few of the highlights on Australian shores throughout his career (so far!).

Back-to-Back Australian Drivers Championships

In the mid 80’s Bowe went on a tear through the 1984 & 1985 Australian Drivers Championships behind the wheel of a Cosworth powered Ralt RT4, winning 9 of a possible 12 races across the two year span. The two championships really kickstarted a career that would result in him becoming the only person in history to win the Australian Drivers Championship, Australian Sports Car Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship.

Bathurst victories with Dick Johnson

Bowe joined forces with Dick Johnson to take victory on the mountain on two occasions. First in 1989 behind the wheel of the light switch powered Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, and the second occasion in 1994 in the Ford EB Falcon. The Sierra was so hit and miss that the DJR cars were almost guaranteed of victory provided they made it to the finish line. The duo qualified on pole and led almost every single lap around the mountain to earn Bowe’s first Bathurst victory. In 1994 the team came from 10th on the grid to victory after Johnson had a mishap during Saturday’s Top Ten Shootout – a very impressive performance!

1995 Australian Touring Car Championship

The 1995 ATCC driver lineup reads as a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s most talented racing drivers with names such as Brock, Seton, Perkins, Johnson, Skaife, Crompton and Richards gracing the starter’s flag each weekend. None were a match for Bowe and his Shell Racing DJR EF Falcon, who went on to win four events to win the title by an impressive 27 points over Glenn Seton at years end.

2014 Bathurst 12 Hour Victory

In 2014 John Bowe joined forces with Craig Lowndes, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards to win what as at the time the fastest Bathurst 12 Hour yet. Behind the wheel of their Ferrari 458 GT3 the team completed 296 laps to beat out a number of highly touted local and international teams. The win came in Bowe’s 29th consecutive year racing at the famed circuit.

What do you consider John Bowe’s greatest motorsport achievement? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Final Holden built on Australian Shores

The final Holden built on Australian shores has rolled off the Elizabeth production line. On October 20 at 10:45am, the final four Australian built Holden’s were ‘officially’ completed with a red VFII SSV Redline Commodore the final to leave the facility. The Commodore, on black wheels with a manual transmission was the 7,687,675th Holden built and will be kept and used as a museum piece. The other cars down the production line on October 20 were the final Holden ute (SS), wagon (Calais) and ‘limousine’ (Caprice).

With a 6.2 litre LS3 up front, the last SS will also go down as Holden’s fastest production model to date with 304kw and 570nm on offer (Not including HSV models). With accessories that include FE3 suspension, a sunroof and HUD, the final commodore is testament to the journey Australian built cars have come on over the last 7 decades. In terms of power, safety and usability the final Commodore (and Falcon for that matter) is hardly bettered in terms of ‘bang-for-buck’.

After 69 years of manufacturing, Holden ceased manufacturing operations in October, leaving hundreds unemployed and bringing an end to a huge part of Australia’s manufacturing history. Employees were taken by bus to the Adelaide Oval for final knock-off drinks and treated to a show by the legendary Jimmy Barnes. The Elizabeth plant, in Northern Adelaide has been sold to an unidentified owner who will turn the facility into a business park.

With this closure, we bid an official farewell to Australian automotive manufacturing and look back at the many classics produced on our shores. Stay tuned to the Rare Spares Blog where we will continue to take a look at the many classics produced on Australian shores.

Do you have any Holden stories you would like to share? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.