THUNDER DAYS

IF NOISE AND SPEED ARE YOUR THING, SANDOWN WAS THE PLACE TO BE

WORDS DAVE CAREY PHOTOS DARREN GERLACH

ďTHIS YEARíS EVENT WAS BILLED AS THE RETURN OF THE THUNDERĒ

After two days of variable Melbourne spring weather, the sun shone on the 24th Historic Sandown in early November. Promoted by the Victorian Historic Racing Register, Historic Sandown is the third of the holy trinity of Victorian classic racing events after the Phillip Island Classic and Historic Winton and over 340 cars were entered.

Billed as the ĎReturn of the Thunderí, a nod to the 12-car field of Formula 5000 open wheelers headlining the meeting, Sandown indeed served up thunder claps with large grids of Group Nb/Nc and Group A and C touring cars and big banger CanAm and Australian sports cars battling it out over short, sharp sprints. Plus there were Group S and M sports cars, Group O racing cars, Historic Formula Ford, and huge MG and Regularity grids, with entrants coming from all over Australia and overseas.

Tribute was paid to the late Lex Davison, who died 50 years ago at Sandown after he had a heart attack in his Brabham-Repco during practice for Tasman Series race.

Davison, who spawned a racing dynasty, won the Australian Grand Prix four times in 1954, í57, í58, í61.

Australian great, Frank Matich, who passed away earlier this year aged 80, was

GEOFF MUNDAY 1975

ELFIN MR5B

IíVE BEEN racing for the last 30 years and itís my passion. These cars were fearsome in their day and still are. Theyíre good fun to drive and very fast and they test you. It would be lot easier [on the body] to drive something like a Lotus Cortina but I used to watch Max Stewart and Garrie Cooper when I was young and Iíve always wanted to own a Formula 5000. But I canít lie, they are tough [to drive].

This is a Garrie Cooper-driven car and my first open wheeler and it was important to me to get an Australian Formula 5000. I actually owned it in 1990 but never drove it.

I sold it to Gavin Sala in the early Ď90s who then sold it to New Zealand and I bought it back from a museum there. Gavin and Brian Sala have helped me get it back to the condition itís in today.

Iíve not long stopped racing my TransAm and Iíve thought about giving it away, but I just love racing these things two or three times a year, although the car could probably do with a younger and braver driver with a bigger set of knackers.

Theyíre pretty valuable now because theyíre not making them any more, of course, but this is what Historic racing is all about. Itís about the cars, not the drivers, we just enjoy driving them. Itís got about 500 horsepower from a 5.0-litre Repco and we do 160mph up the back straight at Sandown.

Your bumís only a couple of inches off the ground and they get there fairly quickly.

They donít mess around; theyíre pretty exhilarating.

also remembered. Good enough to have been offered a drive with the Lotus Formula One team by Colin Chapman, Matich chose to stay in Australia where he was a prolific winner in sports cars and open wheelers he designed.

Matich won the 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship in a Matich SR4 Repco (now owned by Nigel Tait and on display at Sandown) and the 1970 Australian (McLaren M10B) and New Zealand Grands Prix (McLaren M10A) and the 1971 AGP in a Matich A50. He was also the best performed Australian in the famous Tasman Series, winning five times against Grand Prix greats like Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren.

ďTHE CARíS GOT 450HP BUT IíM PROBABLY ABOUT A 300HP DRIVERĒ

DAVE RAMSAY 1972

FORD XA FALCON GT HARDTOP

THIS CAR is a replica of the McLeod Ford coupe that John Goss and Kevin Bartlett raced at Bathurst in 1973. Goss qualified that car on pole, one second quicker than Peter Brockís LJ Torana, and it led for about 100 laps before getting tangled up with another accident and was retired.

The exterior of the car is almost identical to the original and both John Goss and Kevin Bartlett have seen the car and were fairly complimentary about it. The only deviation is 16-inch rims, rather than 15s, but itís only a subtle change thatís hard to pick.

Itís got a 351 with 2V heads, rather than the 4V heads they ran back in the day, but it has about 450 horsepower which is probably a little more than they had in í73.

It has a 750 HP Ultimate Holley carburettor Ėthey would have probably run a 1050 Dominator Ėand a five-speed Tremec instead of a four-speed Top Loader. The only other difference is I have stripped out the interior but they would have had to leave the whole interior in.

Because itís not an actual Group C car there really isnít a class for it so I run it in Regularity. Iíve always loved the old Bathurst coupes and I do a lot of track days with the Ford Coupe club so I thought why not build a tribute to the McLeod Ford car. I do most of the Victorian Historic events, Winton, Sandown, Phillip Island and we just went to Baskerville. Iíve been racing at club level for about 10 years and Iím happy at the level, this is good enough for me. The carís got 450hp but Iím probably about a 300hp driver.

LILO ZICRON 1966

LOLA T70 SPYDER

I LOVE the Lola T70 Spyder itís my favourite car to drive. I love my McLaren M6B too, itís a much faster car but a little harder for me to drive because itís tight and Iím a big guy [laughs]. The Spyder is more comfortable and itís an ex-Dan Gurney CanAm car.

Itís got a 5.7-litre small-block Chevy, wetsumped, built to FIA Appendix J rules, with a Hewland gearbox. Itís got close to 500 horsepower, nothing spectacular, normal horsepower for its day and itís safe and fun to drive. If you put more power in a car than what it needs youíre just going to fight it.

They werenít built for 600-700 horsepower with the brakes they have, they start breaking. Itís all about having fun.

Itís my first time at Sandown but Iíve been to Phillip Island for the last few Historic races.

America has got a lot of tracks and people but this [Sandown] is just phenomenal. I owe it to myself to race at just about every track and drive Phillip Island Ė itís a fantastic track you donít want to miss Ėand Sandown which is a pretty historical track because there have been some great events here is so much fun.

I love Australia, the people are so friendly, it feels like home and the camaradarie here is just great. I love bringing friends here and every year we introduce more [Americans] to the events and I try to bring different cars.