Barbagallo Raceway – Wannaroo, WA; 21st – 23rd October 2016
Dramas on the high seas when Hanjin Shipping company went to the wall to the tune of £8 billion. Our UK origin containers were scheduled to depart on one of their vessels just days before bankruptcy was announced – fortunately an 11th hour missing bit of paperwork meant they didn’t set sail.. Some quick foot work from Sarah to find an alternative arrangement – from Southampton, instead of Felixstowe where they were located dockside, and some even quicker footwork by Dave Innes, not renowned for taking ‘no’ for an answer (in this case – NO; you cannot have your containers, as they are bonded!) – a week later and they were on their way to Southampton – and a huge sigh of relief when they trans-shipped at Singapore: next stop Perth, just in time for Thursday inspection at the track by the Australian bug control! Less drama from USA, for J.R Mitchell, bringing two Lotus 18’s for himself (FJ 727; 9071/25) and Nick Grewal; and Doug Elcomb’s Dreossi from Canada, as well as an RT 4 and Chevron B17 FA for Travis Engen. The NZ container was only for John Rapley’s Brabham BT6, FJ-13-62, and Phil Foulkes in the ex-Chris Atkinson (NZ), late Lotus 20/22 (20-J-935).
Since we arrived for the first ever FJ race in Western Australia in 2012, Formula Junior is the talking point here, Marty Bullock’s Lotus 27 came back in the UK container, with that of Dave Innes, whose family emigrated here from South Africa. In fact, the first social event of the tour, as Mair and Duncan landed from London was with John and Clare Innes in Freemantle, where the mobile phone dinner code was breached to enable live timing to be followed of the exciting FJ races at the Silverstone Finals.
Other WA FJ’s included Marty’s ex-Roger Ealand Wren for Col Bob Birrell, Mike Rowe in the ex-Roger Ealand Koala, which featured on the FJHRA magazine front cover (Issue 158) on its visit to Zagare a few years back; John Rowe (no relation) in his Lotus 18, while Bob Juggins drove the Cooper-Climax F1 that John had in Europe in 2015. There were Elfins for Bruce Edgar (6319, on all discs) and David Watkins (629 on drums). Joe Ricciardo (father of Daniele) was due to debut his BT6, but it had not quite finished its pre-race restoration so Joe was confined to his F5000 McLaren. Peter Boel, keeping his Lola Mk 5 for Eastern Creek, and then for NZ and North America, had hoped to be using the recently restored Panther FJ of Neil McCrudden. The car was at the track, but delays to CAMS paperwork prevented it running, so Peter had a test run in the McEntee on Thursday, unfortunately damaging its Elfin front bodywork in the sand trap. WARM managed a hasty fibreglass repair job so Vern Williamson’s drive was saved, while Peter Boel drove the Macon MR 7 that WARM had brought to Europe in 2013 in the Formula Classic event, joined by F2 Lola owner Paul Bason in Marty Bullock’s F2 Chevron B34. Marty also lending his B20 to Dick Ward, an ex-Malaysian racer of the 80’s.
Across the Nullarbor Plain, 1200kms, came Robert Buckley with the Gosford, Bill Norman with Lynx 116 and Max Pegram with the Front Engined Gemini Ford Mk II. The rest of the Australians taking the easier route by air, with the cars in the Melbourne container including Elfin guru Bill Hemming, also running his F5000 MR8,and AFJA President Kim Shearn, with David Price, with the Lotus 20/22, which David’s daughter Melanie often drivers, Melinda being relegated to F.Ford for this weekend. Also present were Melbourne’s Peter Strauss, and the ex-Denny Hulme Brabham BT6, Noel Bryen with his Rennmax BN1, supported by Tony Simmons. Tony was also entered, but his Brabham BT6 would not be ready until Sandown Park, 2 weeks later. Completing the four car Front engined entry was Norm Falkiner in his beautiful Red Stanguellini. Finally, three further cars sat in UK containers, Erik Justesen being unable to make this first race of the Tour with his U2, and the unfortunate John Chisholm with his Mk II Gemini, sadly burdened with arrangements for very elderly parents: also Greg Thornton’s 20/22, while he raced his HF1 at COTA.
Marty, Dave Innes and Bob Birrell were already at the track, sorting arrangements on Wednesday, and then to Bada Bing restaurant joined by Basons, Juggins’ after delayed honeymoon on Rotnest Island, and Mair and Duncan after three days at Bunker Bay, relaxing, whale watching et al – ALL so kindly staying with Marty and Michelle Bullock at Double View; and Yorkshire farmer, Jim Clark, who was to drive Marty’s Lotus Cortina; Jim being billeted with Paul and Peta Sawyer nearby. Neil McCrudden of WARM, took in the New Zealanders and Vern Williamson (and lent his the McEntee FJ to drive). John and Annette Rowe were kindly hosting Pat Barford and Ian , while Chris and Angie Drake were in a small motorhome at the track.
It was 8.45 orders for all on the Thursday to unload. Certainly, as always – Marty and Dave were there! Some FJ’s ventured out for free testing, Ian getting used to Pat Barford’s Lola MK2, while Pat relaxed, having stepped onto the plane on his very first day of retirement after selling his business and working out his time post sale. Doug Elcomb’s Dreossi had the porcelain on #4 spark plug disappear and he took off the head to ensure no bits had gone down the wrong way.
First briefing was 7.45am on Friday, and we had to deal with scrutineering (viz handing in our HTP), signing on (as evidence of attending the briefing) and hiring (50 AUS $) our Dorian transponder. The Circuit itself is some 45 minutes from suburban Perth.
First official (free) practice
First official (free) practice saw the fastest cars holding back, so it was Noel Bryen, Eastern Creek competitions organiser in the Rennmax BN1, clear of Kim Shearn (20/22) and current AFJA Champion Bill Norman (Lynx Mk3). David Watkins (Elfin) was well up, with Max Pegram leading the front engines, while Norm Falkiner’s Stanguellini looked and sounded beautiful and going better @ 1m 18.40 than all later times during the weekend. Duncan was happy at 1m 21.46 ahead of Bob Birrell, getting used to the Wren. John Rowe, gearbox repaired overnight with parts flown in, and Vern Williamson (McEntee), having worked down at WARM with Neil McCrudden for the last week prepping the cars, while poor Neil never got out of the gate with a flooding engine.
Practice 2 was only a short time before qualifying, with the times starting to take shape, Marty Bullock (27) at 1m 06.21 leading Chris Drake (Elva 300) and Bill Norman. Impressive fourth was Bruce Edgar (Elfin). Ian Phillips (Lola Mk2) pipped Max Pegram (Gemini) for the fronts. Duncan sat this one out, fortunately as it was to turn out. The session was red flagged when the Koala took to the gravel without damage.
Qualifying was both truncated and disrupted: Peter Strauss’ BT6 had an electrical failure, causing a red flag while he was towed in, so it was basically a three lap sprint, for grid positions, with Marty Bullock fractionally quicker at 1m 06.13, followed by Drake, Noel Bryen, Bill Norman and Bruce Edgar, the latter docked 10s from his grid position for passing under a red. Max Pegram had full measure by over a second from Ian Phillips, while Duncan was midway in a group of five at the rear, sandwiched between Stanguellini and the Wren, but came to a halt with the exhaust pipe parted from the manifold – all thankfully welded up thanks to Neil McCrudden, the WARM team and Jamie Kerkhoff in on site garage 54. Peter Strauss and David Watkins had problems so no lap times; Jeff Brown was too deep in paperwork and missed it, while Neil McCrudden was still hors de combat.
The start was pretty chaotic with cars failing to find grid lines, and a couple slow away with yellow flags waving. The first four were as expected, Chris Drake sliding delightfully just unable to keep up with Marty Bullock, and Bill Norman just falling back slightly at the end, with Noel Bryden’s Rennmax just too far adrift to capitalize. Dave Innes was a consistent fifth, next up Kevin Taylor (BT 21 F3) just failing to catch Kim Shearn (20/22).
Ian Phillips came out the winner by half a second from Max Pegram in the front engines, the first of their four race scraps. Bob Birrell and Duncan had a good scrap too until the Wren’s faster line speed paid dividends. Peter Strauss again failed with engine maladies, David Watkins (Elfin) pulled off on the last lap with VW gearbox casing broken, and the WASCC had seen fit not to allow Neil McCrudden to get the 20/22 across the track to our central pit areas, after a night session with ‘Jamie’ to get the 20/22 running.
Race 2 on Saturday afternoon was short for Duncan who broke a drive shaft on the line, Norm Falkiner elected not to start, but Neil had got his car over in the lunch break, so 24 cars made the start. Marty was to set a fiery pace, bringing the FJ lap record down to 1m 06.05, while Chris Drake and Bill Norman were closer this time – too close – as coming up to the last corner on lap 6, Bill had his front-disc brakes fail completely, and it was a split decision – the kitty litter or Chris Drake’s rear end – fortunately the former, and only light damage, so Marty led Chris by less than 3s, with Kevin Taylor (BT21) making a late chase to miss fourth place by only 5/100th of a second, Noel Bryen holding on to third. Another terrific front engine battle between Max Pegram and Ian Phillips saw the Lola just failing to win by 1/100th second on the line, after a determined catch up in the last three laps.
Saturday night was the FJ party, so kindly organised by Marty and Michelle Bullock @ the Densford Construction workshop – transformed for the occasion – a splendid BBQ buffet, washed down with lashings of wine and beer for some 100+ guests from the FJ and F5000 groups in attendance, with much camaraderie.
The Alexis had been brought back to the workshop too, and early am, Marty and Bob Juggins, with Duncan holding the spanners (!), set to change the drive shaft – load up – and raced back to the event, with Mair behind in the Toyota sedan literally getting back across the track with 5 seconds to spare as the F Vee cars left the pits!! Not a road trip for those with fears of the police and speed limits!!!
Race 3 was somewhat different – Marty Bullock, Chris Drake and Kevin Taylor were adjudged to have moved forward at the start, and awarded THIRTY second penalties, so although the Bullock, Drake one-two was the norm on the track, it was Noel Bryen, Dave Innes and Kim Shearn who took the official honours, with Marty and Drake next up, ahead of Bill Norman, who had started from the back, his front brakes now working again, and had worked up to 7th with Kevin Taylor, just behind after his penalty. J.R Mitchell had another good race, keeping the hungry Koala at bay, while Bill Hemming (“I’m too old for running a F5000 and a Junior at one meeting”!) was just ahead of Jeff Brown in his ex-Barbados BT28, formerly driven by Tim Schenken. Max Pegram and Ian Phillips were kept apart by rear engined cars, Pegram – Edgar – Phillips this time, while Duncan had a terrific scrap with Bob in the Wren, but frightened the little bird into submission with his enthusiastic cornering, despite the Wren’s front line speed!! John Rowe pitted briefly to secure his petrol cap, Peter Strauss’ engine problems continued, and Norm Falkiner lost a plug lead, while David Watkins was still in gearbox problems.
In the lunch break, Mair gathered all drivers and some of the cars for a Group photo and a ladies shot too by local photographer David Nicolson.
The final race was 10 laps this time, and a terrific race between Bullock and Drake, a second apart at the flag, with Noel Bryen also close behind in third; however proceedings had been interrupted by yellow and oil flags at Turn 1, after David Watkins’ gearbox finally exploded, leaving oil on the corner, which caught first Strauss (going well at last), and then Bruce Edgar, who crumbled his nose and radiator against the stricken BT6. Earlier the unfortunate Wren had been nudged off the track by the hungry Koala, fortunately with only minor damage, so Duncan was left to play with Norm Falkiner, and came out ahead, while the front engined battle was a Phillips victory, as the leaders split them, and Ian was awarded the overall Front Trophy on equal points, but one lap to his credit. Neil McCrudden was the only other DNF.
Kim Shearn and Duncan gave the class awards, and a few hidden credits, with thanks Marty Bullock and Dave Innes for all their work in ensuring that the show happened.
A mention of Bob Illich, Brabham F1 Mechanic of the 60’s, who was with us this weekend, as was Jim Handman, F3 racer in Europe in the 60’s too. The latter helping Norm and the Stanguellini.
Finally came the official prize giving and Duncan said a few works for the UK visitors and there was much acclaim generally for Marty.
A really great weekend at a top ten track for FJ’s