FJ Diamond Jubilee World Tour Australian Sector, Race 3 Report; Sydney Motorsport Park – 18th – 20th November 2016

With two weeks between races, Mair and Duncan continued their enjoyable stay with Bill and Debbie Hemming at Brighton Beach, a trip to the zoo to make first hand acquaintance with the Platypus and supper out by the sea at The Baths, Middle Brighton, was followed by a day trip to Merricks Beach, near Philip Island for lunch with Kim and Marie Shearn, overlooking the ocean, joined by Doug Elcomb.  Wednesday, and Doug and the Rabagliati’s flew North to rejoin Margaret Ealand at Durinbar near Murwillumbah for 5 days. Doug ventured up Mount Warning, while Mair and Duncan opted for more leisurely pursuits, although there were two enormous storms during the visit to the idyllic Ealand home, eventually flying on to Sydney, dining that night  in the wind with Tony Simmons at the harbourside fish restaurant, next day visiting the famous Opera house to see the ballet; Nijinsky; and then on Wednesday, the Eastern Creek organiser, Richard Cardew had kindly arranged a visit to the new Gosford Classic Car Museum, an hour and a half train ride out of Sydney.  It houses a massive collection of over 450 cars and motorcycles in a former Bunnings superstore building financed to a tune of $A 100 million by Tony Denny, who made his fortune selling second hand cars in Eastern Europe: certainly some intriguing Eastern offerings included Trabant, Lada, a couple of GAZ and a multitude of Skodas.  A plethora of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Ramblers and Holdens proliferated, only a BT7A I.C. Racer, a Swallow Doretti  # 1014 in pristine condition (I would hope so for the circa $A 150k price paid!) and Buckle Dart really making the whiskers twitch. At midafternoon we were met by “Power without Glory” author, Terry Wright and Ray, and headed to Garry Simkin’s new abode, at Jilliby  about 30 mins further north.  Taking advantage of the Chinese fuelled Sydney property price boom, Garry had bought himself a traditional Australian style verandah house – with large ‘shed’! A very well equipped garage with lathes and paint booth saw Garry working on his latest Mk 9 Cooper acquisition, Mk 9/28/55 from Derry Greeneklee; readying his Mk 4 Cooper-Vincent HRD twin 10/41/50 for Eastern Creek and wondering whether he ought to find a buyer for his longtime owned JBS 500.  For supper we headed back down the trail tracks to Woy Woy and “Bayview”, the local saloon before Terry kindly gave Doug and us a lift back to Sydney.

Thursday and all FJ congregated towards Eastern Creek, with most at the Alpha Hotel, with its popular downstairs bar and grill room.  Dave Innes and Marty Bullock had already extracted the Koala from the WARM container and headed for the workshops of David Kent, Lynx 117 FJ owner, to fit the bear’s newly repaired gearbox.  Audi had the track for the day, so access was only from 5.40pm, to unpack the containers, and a glass of wine with Lynx 116 owner Bill Norman and, lady,  Larrie Bailey, who were early arrivals in the ex-Roger Ealand “Koala” motorhome.  Erik Justesen and Poul Porse had driven up from Manley, and almost everyone congregated in the Alpha Grill that evening.  Pat Barford having arrived back from the UK with Susan, and JR Mitchell and Travis Engen back from USA.  Chris Drake had, however, not made the return trip from the UK, and although the Lotus 18 was ready and waiting in the pits, family problems had intervened for FJHNA founder Nick Grewal after another successful London to Brighton Run, so he too was a nonstarter.  Bob Birrell has returned back to the UK after Sandown, although the Wren, too, was in the stalls, however it was gradually stripped of parts as the weekend progressed to keep other FJs serviceable!

All the remaining Sandown contingent were present, plus the WARM team; supplemented by Geoff Fry in the Jolus, although not the prototype which he also owns. Tony Simmons was out in his Brabham BT6, the engine dyno tested, Alan Telfer’s Lotus 20, John Medley’s NOTA # 22 to add to the front engined brigade, although delayed until Sunday with trailer issues, and the F3’s of Paul Littler, BT 15 3.11.65/AM 147 ex-Denis Lupton; Jamie Larner T72 Cooper-Ford  F3-18-65 running as a FC with twin weber carbs; and Robert McConville, in fact with a T75 F2 Cooper, F2-3-65.  Sadly, the three additional cars from WA for Joe Ricciardo (Brabham BT6); Brian Searles (Panther Mk 1) and Lance Carwardine (Lynx 111) were still not ready, but still hoping to join the WARM container for NZ, while Peter Boel returned, this time with his own Lola MK 5A BRJ54, ex Brian Berrow-Johnson. Grant Craft (Brabham BT2) was back again, and he, as lone FJ, was also entered in the O and invited M race.

Most interesting, however, was a car that arrived for display on Saturday; the Stan Brown FJ, a real time warp front engined FJ with BMC motor and gearbox, very reminiscent of the Sadler, although with FIAT type leaf spring suspension, front and rear, and now owned by Howard Tucker, former owner of Lynx 108.

Several past and present FJ owners were to be seen, Richard Nitchske, with wife Edwina, racing his Elfin 300 sports; New Zealander Kevin Anderson flown over from Christchurch, and working to get his T52 Cooper out.  Gremlin FJ owner, Geoff Findlay, now moved to Berry, NSW from Perth WA was with us; the Gremlin remains for sale due to lack of available time.  Also seen were Peter Barclay, who has left his Brabham F3 in Europe for another season with F3/1000 and FJ; and fellow lawyer Ian Bailey, whose daughter was driving in FF, but hopes to get her into their Lynx FJ Mk3 #112 when it is ready. John Barnes, whose father Noel died in 2007, and contemplating selling the family Lotus 20 FJ (Currently with 1300cc ANF engine); and Lotus 41 H/c. Ex BT2 owner Colin Haste racing his Lola T560; previous BT6 racer John Pymble in his Van Diemen RF82 FF; Philip Harris, friend of Duncan Dayton, in his BT23C; Richard Carter, racing a BT23B; and Dick Willis, without Ausper T1, only in the Regularity with his 1957 Gladiator sports, with an Arnottesque front, and of course from USA, JR’s client and ex-Lotus 18 owner and ex ICC CEO, Travis Engen driving both Chevron B17B and Ralt RT1.  Finally, two stalwarts of the Australia Historic Racing scene, Ed Holly, very happy to have sold his ex-Denny Hulme BT6 to Marc Evans in the UK and Bryan Miller, shortly to relinquish his longtime position in issuing CAMS papers.  Only Garry Simkin represented the ‘air cooled’ brigade in his Cooper, Andrew Halliday being there himself, but still working on the Mk IV: he was to recount a sad story of not returned telephone calls and other promises and the like, after receiving an invitation for the Brabham tribute this year at Goodwood; in the end, no Brabham Speedway car for the Revival.

Friday was untimed practice, starting with a first drivers briefing and formalities, which were a bit disjointed, with tickets in the HSRC tent at one end of the track, and signing on and scrutineering combined at the other end! Scrutineering, seemingly, being kit only, as CAMS cars have a ‘log book’ and only an annual or half yearly ‘tech’.  No timekeepers were present that day, so, unlike Melbourne, no time sheets.  It was very hot so most people restricted themselves to 1 or 2 out of the 3 FJ sessions.  Duncan was happy with T1, with a 2m 14s while Pat Barford was not feeling so great after T1, so also called it a day.  David Reid did not arrive until the evening having repaired the Cooper gearbox, but largely being involved in a major archery tournament during the previous week.  Marty Bullock had a swaybar problem in his 27, while Dave Innes broke the ‘Sandown weld’ on his drive shaft, so it was a late night session at David Kent’s workshop to reweld that.  There was, again, much jollity in the Alpha Hotel Bar and Grill that night, JR recounting to Duncan the histories of many of the FJ’s, and less authenticated models, that had passed through his workshops, and elsewhere, over the years.

Saturday, up early, another briefing, and the Juniors were soon out for their qualifying, only David Reid missing with clutch problems, and the NOTA yet to arrive: the Cooper T75 electing to run in Group M only.  Greg Thornton was a masterful 1m 45.61, over 8 laps, followed by Bill Norman (Lynx) in 1m 46.99 in only 3 laps, just short of his FJ lap record of 1m 46.84s.  Noel Bryen (Rennmax) was keeping it on the island this year and next up, using local familiarity ahead of Marty Bullock (27), and the two F3’s of Jamie Larner and Kevin Taylor (BT21), the latter going really well.  David Watkins (Elfin) led the drum brakes, ahead of JR and the Dreossi, and Erik Justesen (U2) had the measure of Pat Barford (Lola Mk2) in the fronts.  Duncan was very happy with a very consistent 2m 12.02s.  Poor Robert Buckley (Gosford) hardly made the second corner before the points broke.  Bill Hemming’s qualifying time in the Elfin of 2m 01.2s compared with Duncan’s best time in the same car last year of 2m 00.08. (NB  Bill was to go well better than this in the races!)

Race 1 followed after lunch, with Greg again having the measure of the field, slowly drawing away from Bill Norman.  Behind these two, there was a superb scrap between Noel Bryen and Marty after Jamie Larner (T76) had gone off on the first lap with seized brakes.  Sadly Tony Simmons’ weekend was to be over already when a cam follower broke, while Kim retired with continuing engine/electrical problems, and Max Pegram saw his Sector Trophy chances dissolve as his weekend came to an end with the Gemini Achilles heal; a broken drop box.  Erik Justesen continued to lead the fronts until moments before the flag when he seemed to slow (again!) and Pat Barford pipped him by 0.3s.  Duncan had a good battle with Paul Littler’s BT15, and just managed to hold him off on the last straight sprint to the flag, by 0.1s. Similarly, David Watkins’ drum braked Elfin just beat Bruce Edgar’s disc braked version by another 0.1s, with Bill Hemming (Elfin) second in class.  Mike Rowe spun the Koala and stopped on track, without damage, though with difficulty in restarting.

Saturday night was a much enjoyed Italian evening at the old Distillery Woodfire Restaurant. Almost all the FJ drivers and their wives/partners attended, although Neil McCrudden was left in the paddock surrounded by a mass of gears after finding that first/reverse out of a 4sp FF had erroneously been fitted after problems at Barbagallo.

Formula Juniors were out second race on Sunday for the Roger Ealand Trophy.  Greg again demonstrated his superiority by breaking Bill Norman’s FJ lap record by 1.2s, leading home Marty Bullock and Noel Bryen, with Bill Norman almost catching Noel at the line, and Kevin Taylor’s F3 in fifth.  However, behind these five, there was a terrific dice, led firstly by Don Thallon (MRC) from Phil Foulkes (Lotus 20) and Peter Strauss (Brabham BT6). Lap 5, and Foulkes had taken Don; a lap later and Strauss had too – and at the flag, it was Strauss back on form, with Foulkes 0.1s behind, and Thallon, suddenly down on power, now 1.2s further back, ahead of Peter Boel’s red Lola Mk 5A, just beating David Watkins’ Class D Elfin, with Dave Innes, in trouble with no clutch on his 27, behind Watkins.  JR (18) topped Bill Hemming (Elfin) on the last lap for second spot in Class D, these two having been split till lap 4 by Neil McCrudden, who pulled in, still with gear problems .This time Erik Justesen made no mistake over the front engined class, Pat being over 10 seconds behind but still well clear of John Medley (Nota).  Duncan again held off Paul Littler, this time by 0.5s, and lowered his personal best to 2m 10.72s in the process.  Unfortunately, Grant Craft (BT2) was an early retirement, with a suspected fuel leak from the fuel vent.

Margaret Ealand kindly presented the Roger Ealand Trophy as a perpetual FJ Trophy at this event, amid much snapping of photos to an appreciative Greg Thornton with his mother, and Ron Tauranac present.

A busy day, and next even for the fastest Juniors was the main Tasman Trophy event.  Some confusion as to who could and would start, but in the end, 10 FJ and F3’s joined the 33 car grid.  It was a good race at the front with Richard Carter (2.5 Litre 23B) the victor and Laurie Bennett (Elfin 600) in third, and Travis Engen (B17 B) and CAMS and FIA Representative, and integral part of the Australia Sector logistics organisation, Paul Hamilton (Elfin 600) in 6th and 7th respectively.  Peter Strauss in his BT11 was 13th, however sadly the race ran out under the safety car, when Greg Thornton, perhaps with a little red mist in trying (and succeeding) to outperform many faster cars, came unstuck out of T2 and in the close melee of faster cars behind, a flying Kevin Taylor (BT21) could not avoid him and both cars were damaged, although fortunately neither written off, nor were drivers hurt, both wisely having a precautionary check up. Some consolidation, Kevin had lapped faster than Greg, and only 0.11s slower than his FJ lap record.  Noel Bryen followed, while Peter Boel, Neil McCrudden and Kim Shearn had been having a good scrap, and all running well at least, before the SC came out.

The second Tasman race, for the slower cars, following up after lunch, with another very late call to decide who could/would run. Don Thallon (MRC) had entered, more to test his car, and shot off into the lead.  Once satisfied that all was ok, he backed off, allowing a great battle between John Virgo’s 1954 Riley Special and Mike Rowe’s Koala which Mike won on the last lap, with John Medley (Nota FJ), John Rowe (18) and Norm Falkiner (Stanguellini) behind, and Geoff Fry (Jolus) and Alan Telfer’s 20B ahead of a couple of MGs.  Sadly, Garry Simkin (Cooper Mk IV – HRD Vincent – 10/41/50) had expired on its last lap in its first LM race when the rear chain link came adrift and had gone home.  First ever outright victory for the Koala FJ!!

Last FJ race of the event was not only the decider for the Class Trophies of the weekend, but also for the Ron Tauranac Trophy for the World Tour Australia Sector.  A delightful plaque trophy was award to Ron at the 1964 Temperado F3 Series and appropriately called the “Juan Manuel Fangio” Trofeo  – remember JM did drive a FJ in the Monaco GP Junior demo event for ‘Anciennes Pilotes’ in 1959 and later tested one as well.

One extreme peculiarity of this meeting, was that the scheduled race time was calculated from the time that the cars left the holding area, rather than the grid start when the red lights went out! SO some of the races were surprisingly short!! This one was “12 minutes” for which we got 5 laps, and the leading 3 cars lapping in 1m 47s – get it?? So the leaders’ first “lap” was 5m 56.95s.

This time it was Bill Norman’s turn for victory, but it was close and Noel Bryan was only 1.6s behind at the flag, with Marty Bullock 3rd, and Don Thallon’s MRC, now finally restored to health, a lonely 4th.  Battle Royal behind with Peter Boel (Lola 5A) taking 5th spot from Phil Foulkes on their penultimate lap, but Phil got by again and held it by 0.22s. Dave Watkins led the drums, just ahead on the road of Neil McCrudden (gearbox problems all resolved) and Kim Shearn, both going well at least, as was David Reid in the T59. Erik comfortably won the fronts, while Bill Hemming (Elfin gathering in Adelaide the following morning), Norm Falkiner (Stanguellini) and Geoff Fry (Jolus) elected to miss this last race and head away, while poor Bruce Edgar (Elfin) was sidelined with a loose axle in the rear upright, and David Innes had decided not to risk further damage with his clutchless 27.

Duncan set to calculate the class awards, and the ceremony took place in Suite 03 which had been staffed with tea, coffee and biscuits for the Juniors all weekend. Kim Shearn (AFJA President) made a speech of introduction, Richard Cardew spoke for the HSRCA, and then Duncan led the class prize giving with each winner receiving their trophy from Margaret Ealand. Erik, Pat and Duncan (F); David Watkins, JR (to much acclaim) and Kim on behalf of Bill (D); for Class E, a worthy Bill Norman, with Greg and Noel, equal, but Greg second on number of wins. Margaret then said some very nice words, and of course remembering Roger – of course he would have won!!

Finally, the Ron Tauranac Torphy – presented by Ron himself, the greatest Formula Motor racing living legend of our time – Ralt, Brabham, Ralt and others too – a great cheer for Ron and then the Trophy – truly deserved, to Marty Bullock, and a most worthy winner for all his contribution to the running of the Australian Sector – equally popular.

So sadly, all over – the containers were packed with a storm forecast, but never, fortunately, to come. Another very pleasant evening in the Alpha Bar and Grill and then planes to various destinations before we reassemble at Hampton Downs in January, but for many, also the FJHRA AGM and Lunch on December 4th at Banbury Cross beforehand.