FESTIVAL OF MOTORSPORT THIS YEAR'S VHRR Phillip Island Classic meeting had everything going for it, and then it was blessed by the one thing that puts the motor racing experience at Phillip Island up there with the best in the world, lovely weather.
It was a pleasure being able to take Sienna and Olivia Richards with us. They’re the lovely young daughters of the late Jason Richards, an amazing driver, and my good mate. Sienna and Olivia really enjoyed the weekend.
I was pretty busy competing in 11 races all up, involving three very different cars in very different classes. But I have to say that more than anything else it was fun, genuine fun, jumping out of one car and into another. That’s because when I was a kid reading about the exploits of my racing heroes, the likes of Jim Clark, Jack Brabham or Dan Gurney, it was normal for them to compete in a range of vehicles. They drove sports cars and open wheelers, in various engine-capacity classes, often at the one meeting.
Motor racing stars then were multi-skilled and versatile. By contrast professional motor racing is extremely specialised today and demands a more intense and narrower focus.
The cars I drove had little in common apart from the fact that driving each of them was both a privilege and a pleasure.
Joe Calleja's Corvette is a beast that's hugely enjoyable to drive. Its engine performance is awesome, no surprise when Steve Makarios built it. But you can’t disguise the fact that it's from an era when cars were flawed, with brake performance and grip levels that limit their performance. I will label it a wayward car – you’re always chasing it somewhere.
The Volvo 240T was central to my getting started in touring cars.
So it's special. You work at driving cars from that era with no laboursaving devices, no power steering. With about 340hp it’s a bit more powerful than it used to be and there’s some ongoing work on things like dampers. But it was no match for the 600hp Sierras. It was a lot of fun out there in the Volvo, though, mixing it with M3 BMWs and Group C Commodores.
Joe's March 741 is a Formula 1 car from my favourite period in the 70s, before the ‘downforce-era’ commenced in the late 70s. The pre-downforce cars produced more entertaining racing than what followed. From the driver’s perspective it’s a car that demands your attention and produces lap times at Phillip Island competitive with current GT class times.
AS THIS GOES to press I’m gearing up to compete in the Bathurst 6 Hour at Easter. It’s a terrific meeting for fans of Production Car racing, a first-class event that I’m certain has a huge future. I’m teaming up again with David Wall in a Mitsubishi Evo IX, the car we claimed third in last year.
Whatever the actual result was as you read this, you can be sure we gave it our very best shot.
Here’s a bit of news: My amazing Wilson Security/ PAYCE Torana is currently getting a bit of a freshen-up in the body department. When it re-emerges from Gary O’Brien’s Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars workshop it will be sporting a new A9X look. Join us at the big Supercar Meeting at Winton Raceway (Vic), May 19-21, for the next TCM round and see how the Torana turned out.