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.

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 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.

John Bowe 2017 Touring Car Masters season review

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and our long-time friend John Bowe has just wrapped up his 2017 Touring Car Masters campaign at the Newcastle 500 over the weekend. In what was a hard fought series Bowe and his Torana SL/R 5000 spent many rounds at the front of the pack and even led the series coming in to the final round. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, as he could do little to stop the hard charging Steve Johnson on the tight streets of Newcastle’s East End. In this week’s blog, we’ll take a quick look at Bowe’s incredible season.

The 2017 TCM season kicked off way back in March at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, and for Bowe the season started with a bang. Bowe was challenged early in both races 1 & 2 before recording victory in both, while a 6th in race 3 was enough to guarantee him the round victory. Round 2 at Winton saw one of the biggest accidents in the category’s history and unfortunately Bowe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Race 1 went swimmingly for the number 18 Torana as Bowe worked from 23rd on the grid to take the win, a monumental effort around the short Victorian circuit.

Race 2 was where it all went pear shaped for a large number of the TCM field as Jason Gomersall span in front of the following pack as he rounded the 2nd corner on the first lap. Gomersall span into the path of Eddie Abelnica and his XB Falcon before being collected by Mark King’s Camaro, leaving both cars with very heavy front end damage. The ensuing pack had nowhere to go, with a number of cars finding each other or the surrounding walls. Bowe was sandwiched in the middle of all the action and the resulting broken ribs ensured a non-start for race 3 and a short stint in hospital for the fan favourite.

Bowe was able to make a speedy recovery from the massive shunt to line up only four weeks later at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin. It wasn’t quite a fairytale comeback as a gearbox issue left the Torana in a plume of smoke early on in the first race. Some quick work was done to the Torana and he was able to make it back on to the circuit for races 2 & 3, finishing in 2nd and 1st respectively.

On to Queensland Raceway and after recording his 90th victory in the TCM category Bowe left the event sharing the championship points lead with Adam Bressington. The ‘paper-clip’ as it’s known in the industry provides a unique challenge to competitors with a number of difficult breaking sections wreaking havoc on the TCM field. Sandown provided a unique challenge to competitors as race 1 was run in terribly wet conditions. The conditions provided a shuffle in the running order with Bowe finishing in 8th. Race 2 was abandoned while Bowe was out in front after Gomersall parked his Torana in the tyres at the end of the back straight. Wrapping up the weekend with a 2nd in race 3, Bowe was able to take the lead in the championship over his rivals.

While Bathurst wasn’t a bad weekend for Bowe by any stretch of the imagination, the event began the late season run of Steve Johnson. Scoring 4,2,2 finishes throughout the weekend was enough for Bowe to maintain the championship lead, however closing quickly was Johnson who took 2 of the 3 victories throughout the weekend at the mountain.

Bowe entered the final round with a 5 point lead, however was only able to manage 3rd in both races, making up ground throughout the first half of the track but struggling to keep up with the big Mustang of Johnson and the Camaro of Bressington down the more open sections of the track. The championship went to Johnson who won both races and the image of Bowe congratulating Johnson post-race will be go down as one of Australian motorsports great moments of sportsmanship.

As well as TCM racing, Bowe has kept busy piloting a number of different race cars throughout the country this year at a host of different events. Take a look at his Facebook page to keep up to date with all of the incredible cars John gets behind the wheel of – very impressive!

What was your favourite moment of the 2017 TCM season? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar.

Calder Park

Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander.

Oran Park

Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names.

Hamilton Street Circuit

Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint.


Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear.

With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface!

Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.