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Tasman Revival 2006: Race Report

Over the years I’ve written quite a number of these race reports – you might think I’d be getting quite comfortable with the role by now.

But as I write this, my last report, it seems just as hard as the first time I wrote one while John Sexton was still editing this magazine. I think the fact that so much work, by so many people, went into the organisation of the Tasman Revival, I should really try to do it justice. Fact is, as so often happens, I didn’t get to see much. Luckily you will see that I’ve enlisted the help of some friends to add their comments. Nonetheless this will be less a race report and more just a series of observations. Maybe a future report?

And, as usual, you will find some details in some of the Group Gossip reports later in this magazine; in particular turn to Steve Wood’s coverage of the event where you’ll find some details of the racing amongst the cars that were the real feature of this event.

Sights and Sounds

For many, what set this event apart from our usual Eastern Creek event was the attention to some of the ‘niceties’ that we don’t usually get the time to prepare. One of these was ‘The Tasman Experience’, a marquee filled with cars, photos, videos and even a place to relax with a cuppa. The hay bales would have reminded some of the atmosphere of the era we were celebrating and there was always someone standing in front of one of the television screens watching the footage from events that took place forty years ago.

As for sounds – on Sunday we were treated to Bill Boldiston’s band who perched themselves at strategic points to entertain the competitors and spectators; it’s not often you get to hear nice music on your way to the dummy grid.

On the track it wasn’t all racing, with a demonstration run of Tasman-period cars as well as a parade of Morgans carrying a pretty impressive array of people closely linked to the original event we were honouring. And there was also another parade – this time of Historic Formula One cars. The track was a busy place all weekend – especially on Sunday.

And the weather? Well, running at the beginning of December was always going to be a risky gamble and on Friday, when by some reports the thermometers hit 43 degrees, we were all wondering how we were going to last the weekend. I could almost hear the collective sign of relief from organisers all over Sydney when on Friday evening the rain started hitting roofs and that managed to cool things down to an acceptable level for the remainder of the weekend. When’s the last time you remember racers welcoming the rain?

Friday and Saturday

The plan was that Friday and Saturday would be run very much like a ‘normal’ Historic racing weekend, with all the Groups that would normally be involved in a typical two-day event. That said, can anyone remember the last time we had sufficient M and O Racing cars entered to force the two Groups to be split into their own events? The result was that it was necessary to limit both Groups N and S to a single grid – and that meant some late entries missed out. A lesson there?

Regularity

You will find a very thorough report of the weekend’s Regularity events in Richard Cardew’s column. And of course this weekend wrapped up the year-long contest  for the Ian Forsyth Memorial Shield and I’d like to add my congratulations to Graham Leese for winning this prize.

As far as I can see from the results nobody managed to get onto my “Mr Consistency” list – i.e. placing in the top three in more than one event over the weekend. It wasn’t helped when one of the events was red-flagged, leaving only three events in which to achieve it. I do note that the Formula Vee folks seem to have done very well all weekend – looks as though they are getting the hang of this Regularity business.

Sports Racing Cars

At the start of the weekend the number of entries for the earlier M&O sports cars as well as the later Q&R cars meant that each of these groups had races scheduled on their own. As it turned out, some last-minute withdrawals meant that both fields were quite a bit smaller and in the end they were combined for the Saturday afternoon event.

Amongst the M&O competitors Nev McKay (Mallock U2) made the trip from Macau worth while with a comfortable win in Friday’s race. But on Saturday morning it was Keith Berryman’s Matich SR3 that pipped Nev (just 0.5 seconds) for the win. Where were you on Friday, Keith? Too hot?

Qualifying for the Q&R cars saw Peter Harburg with clearly the best time in his Lola 610 but that’s the last time Peter featured in the result sheets – another victim of the heat? That left it to Ray Hanger to steer his Rennmax BN6 to three straight wins.

The combined Saturday afternoon event was another victory for McKay ahead of Scott Whittaker (Milano GT2) and Keith Berryman.

Group S

If you run an Sa or Sb car and like a lot of racing, this was your event; you had no less than six events over the weekend. The later (1970s) Sc cars, being from a later era than the featured 1960s period, finished their weekend on Saturday. To add ‘insult to injury’, the Saturday afternoon race was red-flagged so they missed out on even more track time. There was an attempt to rerun it on Sunday morning but the records again show it lasting only a single lap; what happened everyone?

However, if winning is the cure to all woes, then Sc people would have had a lot to smile about; the first five places in all three races were taken out by Sc Porsches, with Bill Pye the consistent winner ahead of Geoff Morgan. The closest challenge to the front-running Porsches was Michael Byrne is his giant-killing Lotus Seven.

Early times indicated that the fastest amongst the Sb cars were going to be Ian Ross (Shelby American), Tony Dains (TR6), the MGBs of Spud Spruyt and Brett Morse, Stuart Littlemore (Morgan Plus 8) and Laurie Sellers (Marcos GT). In the end there were three different winners over the three events: Ian Ross, Spud Spruyt and Tony Dains.

Amongst the Sa competitors Rick Marks (Elva Courier) won the first two while Les Schwebel (Turner Mk II) won the third.

M Racing and O Racing

You will read much more the weekend’s activities for these groups in Steve Wood’s column in the Group Gossip section. Of course the most notable thing to say about both of these groups was the wonderful turnout – I count nearly seventy entries all up over the weekend.

Leading up to the event I’m aware that one of the concerns of the race committee was “after Thursday practice and two days of racing, how many cars will still be running come Sunday?” Well looking at eighteen rows of cars spreading nearly down to Eastern Creek’s final turn for the Sunday afternoon Tasman Revival race it seems we needn’t have worried.

Formula Ford

One of the racing groups that finished up on Saturday afternoon was Formula Ford, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get to ‘enjoy’ a wide variety of conditions. Grant Burford touches on the weekend in his column for those of you interested in these wonderful little racers.

Doing a bit of interesting analysis of this group of competitors turns up something I always suspected; amongst the three fastest qualifiers the oldest was 32 while the youngest still has a while to go before turning twenty. Anyone observing our typical drivers around the pits couldn’t help but note that this is certainly well below the norm amongst our competitors.

For the record congratulations go to Nick Lubransky (Reynard) for two wins while Tom Tweedie (Elwyn) and Laurence Burford (Royale) each had one.

Group N

Following practice, the always popular ‘tin tops’ seemed to be shaping up for a Mustang vs. Camaro tussle at the front with Des Wall qualifying fastest in his Ford just a couple tenths ahead of Michael Donaher’s Chev. When Wall pulled up after just one lap in the first race he handed the win to Donaher ahead of Scott Bargwanna’s Torana. But for the remaining two events it all went Wall’s way.

Amongst the Nb cars Scott Fleming (Lotus Cortina) spent the two days chasing Grahame Hill (Mustang) with those two finishing in that order in all three events.

And a similar battle took place between the two leading Na contenders with Bruce Smith (MG Magnette) winning all three ahead of Allan Bryson (Austin A30).

Q&R Racing

This was another grouping of cars whose racing finished on Saturday afternoon. Practice times indicated a potentially great battle between Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Ferrari 156/85 and Chris Farrell’s Spirit Honda. But for one reason or another the on-track battle never quite eventuated. In the first event Guido’s car failed at the start, leaving it to Chris to win comfortably. On Saturday morning something must have happened to Farrell at the start and he spent the rest of the race working his way back through the field. Meanwhile Guido spent the race chasing Vivian King’s Ralt RT4, passing him on the final lap for a one second win.

Chris was back in front to win this group’s third event, this time ahead of Peter Warren’s March 80A. And finally, with neither Chris nor Guido finishing the final event, it was Vivian King’s turn to win, with John Dimmer and his Tyrrell 004 all the way from the US second. In fact, looking at the results, John was clearly coming to grips with the Eastern Creek track and gradually working his way forward all weekend. Next time?

JKL

It was an encouraging turnout for these, the oldest cars in our competition, with some forty cars turning up for the weekend. When the results from practice were available it was clear that the front-runner, barring difficulties, was going to be Keith Simpson in the Penrite Lola Mk1. One other interesting ‘twist’ was that the Sa bugeye Sprites moved in with this group – likely a bit weary of being monstered by Sc Porsches.

As expected Keith easily won the two Friday/Saturday scratch events with Richard Longes (Cooper Climax) and Mick Arnold (Sharp Holden) doing their best to keep him in sight. Interestingly, the five Sprites finished all in a ‘clump’ – all five lined up in a row!

This grouping was the only one all weekend to have handicaps scheduled and Saturday morning’s event was won by Percy Hunter – in my MG TC! How’s that? Interestingly the next two places were taken by Tony Caldersmith who was debuting his recently completed Gemini FJ followed by his brother Brian in his Lotus Elite (or was it Sir John Whitmore?).

So that wraps up the first two days – seems like enough racing for any weekend doesn’t it? But we still had…

Sunday

The day dawned with everyone wondering what the weatherman might have in store. Nobody wanted a repeat of Friday’s heat so the damp conditions seemed like a reasonable compromise. As it turned out it was a pretty good day in all. And I think everyone was relieved that the big event – the Tasman Race – was held on a dry and pretty quick track.

Sunday’s events were structured a bit differently from the earlier part of the week; as already noted, in general the post-1970 cars had finished their weekend at this stage and Sunday’s events were for the ‘older generation’.

Due to all sorts of reasons – not the least being my need to get this all done before Christmas – the following reports will be very abbreviated. At the time of writing this I have already noted a number of thorough and excellent reports in a number of commercial magazines that I know many of you read.

Sports Racing Cars: The field for the morning five-lap dash was made up of M and O Sports cars and by Sunday their numbers had been whittled down to just an even dozen. Nonetheless they put on a good show, in less-than-ideal track conditions, with no less than three of those twelve at one stage taking the lead. Nev McKay in his Mallock was the initial leader but fell back to second when Ian Pope (Lolita BMC) passed him on lap two. Then on the final lap it was Stewart Mahony’s turn to lead to the chequered flag in his Bolwell Mk 4.

In the afternoon’s drier conditions several more cars turned up and it was Keith Berryman’s turn to lead all the way in his Matich SR3 ahead of Bruce Lynton’s Elfin 300.

Racing Cars – Division Two: These races were essentially for those racings cars that weren’t taking part in the actual Tasman Cup Revival race. The field was made up of Formula Junior, Formula 2 and 3, Formula Libre and Formula Vee cars – quite an interesting mixture of open wheelers.

As with other groups, the previous two days had cut the numbers somewhat but it was still a good looking field of twenty cars that lined up for the start of the morning event. The still damp conditions weren’t good for lots of passsing and as it turned out the first four cars held their positions throughout the five-lap event.

For the record, those four leaders were Tom Tweedie (Lola T60 F2), Peter Strauss (Brabham BT6 FJ), Jonathan Williamson (Lotus 22) and David Kent (Lynx FJ). As far as I am aware that’s the first outing for the newly restored Tweedie Lola – not a bad start at all!

In the afternoon Tweedie retired after just one lap, leaving it to Strauss and Williamson to battle for the lead; after a couple of passes Williamson won comfortably ahead of Strauss.

Touring Cars: Overall, Sunday’s results for these cars were much the same as the first two days with Donaher (Camaro) winning in the morning and Wall (Mustang) in the afternoon. Main difference right at the front was that Scott Bargwanna (Torana), after leading for a couple laps, managed to hang on for a second place in the afternoon event. The Nb battle between Grahame Hill’s Mustang and Scott Fleming’s Cortina continued while the Na cars moved to run with another group.

Marque Sports: This traditional name applied to the Group  Sa and Sb production sports cars running without the later Sc cars on Sunday. It was quite a different sight watching two MGBs battling at the front without the usual line-up of Porsches. And didn’t they battle. The MGBs of Spud Spruyt and Brett Morse had a race-long tussle and there was seldom more than a car-length between them, with Spud finally crossing in front. In the afternoon the same thing happened but in the end Brett was given a one minute penalty for a jumped start, handing second place to Stuart Littlemore (Morgan Plus 8) who was right there at the front in both events.

Les Schwebel (Turner) took out the Sa honours in both events with Rick Marks (Elva Courier) second.

Vintage & Post Vintage: The JKL cars enjoyed their second handicap event of the weekend which Brian Caldersmith  (Lotus Elite) won easily ahead of Garry Simkin (Cooper Vincent) and John Anderson (Cooper Butler).

The weekend’s final event saw Keith Simpson (Lola) back in front ahead of Greg Neal’s Plymouth Special.

The Big One – The Tasman Revival: Okay, I have left what we all came for to the last and I will say right up front that the rush to get this magazine out means I can’t really do it justice; hopefully in later editions someone will be able to sit back and write a full and comprehensive report.

First, in the morning a five-lap ‘warm up’ event was held; it was really more of a ‘practice session’ but for the record the top three were John Smith in the late John Dawson-Damer’s Lotus 49, American Phil Harris in his very quick Brabham BT23C and Spencer Martin in Paul Moxham’s recently restored Brabham Alfa.

Then, the race everyone had come to see. And regardless of how high anyone’s expectations were for this event, I believe the race exceeded anything anyone could have hoped for. First, the huge field came to rest on the starting grid for a photo session followed by the playing of the National Anthem; possibly in other circumstances the ten-plus minute break might have had spectators fidgeting to get started but I think for most it simply allowed us savour the sight as well as build up the expectations. I don’t recall anyone complaining.

Then the cars were started again, one more warm-up lap and we were ready to race. The flag fell and the biggest spectator crowd I’ve seen at Eastern Creek was treated to the sweetest sight and sound  – I simply can’t find the words to describe it.

Then, for the next 25 minutes and 11 seconds we were treated to 15 laps of ‘as good as it gets’ nose-to-tail racing between the two leaders – John Smith’s Lotus and Spencer Martin’s Brabham. Phil Harris did his level best to keep in touch but as the leaders began to lap traffic he fell a bit behind.

I don’t know how many times the leaders passed each other but in the end the Lotus was probably always going to out-drag the Brabham to the line – which is how it ended. In all nine cars finished all 15 laps without being lapped – I think that’s close racing in anybody’s view.

That’s it – as I said, I’m sure many more words will be written and I’m just as keen as you to read them.

Wes Dayton

Via; The Oily Rag

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