The Levels – Timaru – Southern Classic; February 10-12 2017

This was the fourth meeting of the New Zealand leg of the FJ Diamond Jubilee World Tour.

Cars were unloaded on the Thursday afternoon and prepping, rebuilding, fettling and polishing began in earnest to get them ready to try the Levels track; many for the first time.

The circuit layout is a short run to a chicane, followed by a tight corner leading to a long straight before entering a series of twisty bits and back to the start/finish straight.

Friday morning free practice took place for those cars back together; Tony Pearson now had two drive shafts in the Bandini – always useful. Practice enabled the drivers to learn their way around the track. As a spectator, qualifying appeared to go well but some of the drivers seemed to have a different opinion:

  • Tony Pearson – “Interesting, trying the car following the rebuild of rear diff and drive change.”
  • Graham Barron – “I hope my fellow drivers appreciate that I am now dropping clean oil on the track rather than dirty oil.”
  • Lance Carwardine – “Zero fuel pressure, regulator had been knocked back to zero whilst working on the car (school boy error).”
  • Crispian Besley – “Clutch hydraulic problem, pipe has a hole and the clutch slave seals have let go.”
  • Vernon Williamson – “Thoroughly enjoying it, I love the Levels.”
  • Colin McKay – “Went well”
  • Erik Justesen – “For the first time whilst in NZ, I believe me and the car can finish all the races left.”
  • David Innes – “All good with the car just need a better driver for it.”
  • Robin Longdon – “Driver Too Bl**dy slow. Mrs Longdon; He couldn’t get his a**e into gear.”
  • Bruce Edgar- “Frustrating gear issues – kept dropping out of third.”
  • Doug Elcomb – “A bit frustrating, couldn’t find a gap, car is fine and I like the track.”
  • Richard B-M – “Track disappeared in a cloud of steam on me – core plug blew out, Fireman rushed over and was disappointed that there was no fire for him to put out, but still had to lift engine cover so he could check I wasn’t having him on.”
  • David Watkins – “It was a very quick cornered track, short of grip, car running well after previously experienced problems.”

Most of the Formula Junior ladies took the opportunity to join the arranged bus tour and enjoy the local attractions and escape the race track for a day.

Following free practice, there was more of the usual rebuilding, sourcing/scrounging of bits, bodging on cars to prepare them for races 1 and 2. Friday night BBQ followed next with the entertainment of England, in the form of Jan Anstiss, beating the South Africa contingent at Rugby and a spectacular rainbow followed at the conclusion.

Race 1 Front Engine

Having qualified in first position, Tony Olissoff had to pull off the grid when smoke or steam was filling his car, leaving Michael Sexton and Jac Nellemann to have a good battle for the lead with Paul Halford a close third. Crispian Besley got a great start making up at least 7 places before the first corner. Max Pegram (Gemini) had a drive shaft universal joint let go at that first corner ending his race. For the first five laps Graham Barron kept Erik in his mirror, however, on lap six Erik and Crispian were able to pass the Gemini. Doug was at the back of this group for the race. A gap had appeared before the next group made up of John Rowe (Lotus 18), Brian Searles (Panther Mk1), Allan Cattle (Volpini), Kevin Anderson (Cooper T52), Duncan (Alexis) and Richard Bishop-Miller (Autosport) prior to Alan Cattle breaking a push rod in his Fiat powered Volpini. Tony Pearson (Bandini), Colin McKay (Gemini) and Nigel Russell (Stanguellini) had a battle of their own, changing track position a number of times before Nigel Russell’s Stanguellini twisted its rear axle casing. Following the conclusion of the race no explanation could be given for the smoke /steam from Tony’s car.

Race 1 Rear Engine

Martin Bullock (pole) and Noel Woodford (second) got a great start. Third place man Robin Longdon slipped back to ninth as they all entered the first corner, allowing Neil McCrudden to move into third. However, this was to be short lived when on lap three he had a spin, unfortunately catching Dave Watkins in the process. The safety car came out for the rest of the race allowing David Innes to take the third place he had snuck into just prior to its deployment. With only 7 secs a lap splitting the fastest times of these cars it was a great race to watch for those first laps, especially at the tight corners of the track. Dave Watkins had wheel and suspension damaged, as a result of the racing incident; bodywork was damaged to both cars.

Race 2 Front Engine

18 cars took to the track, with Nigel’s Stanguellini missing due to the twisted axle and Max’s Gemini Mk2 due to the lack of a drive shaft. Colin McKay opted to start from the pit lane. Both Mike Sexton and Jac Nellemann beat Tony Olissoff to the first corner and Jac was able to take the lead from Mike, sliding the Alfa Dana down the inside of the sweeper and making space between themselves and the chasing group. Paul Halford was able to pass Tony Olissoff on lap one and keep Crispian Besley and Tony in his mirrors for the rest of the race. Vernon Williamson and Graham McKay had a close race as did Doug Elcomb and Erik Justesen, ahead of Allan Cattle, who found himself in no man’s land for most of the race. John Rowe and Kevin Anderson had a close race for the most part, but Kevin could not find a way through. Then a gap to the Panther of Brian Searles, prior to the battle of Colin McKay and Richard Bishop-Miller, where track position changed frequently in the last three laps, Colin the victor over the line with Duncan and Tony Pearson crossing the line three seconds later. It was a great opportunity for the spectators to watch these fine machines show what they can do, with good battles throughout the field.

Race 2 Rear Engine

Martin Bullock utilised his pole position and by lap four had made a gap on Noel Woodford, who had produced a further gap to the tightly fought battle between David Innes and Peter Anstiss, (Peters wife Jan stated he needs a better engine). A succession of position changes for Phil Foulkes (Lotus 20/22), Robin Longdon (Lola 5A), John Delane (Lotus 18), Jim Blockley (Caravelle), Robs Lamplough (BT2), David Kent (Lynx) and Peter Boel (Lola 5A) made it interesting to watch. A gap appeared to John Rapley (BT2/6) and another before the chasing group of Colin Nursey (Lotus 18), J R Mitchell (Lotus 18), Bruce Edgar (Elfin), Lance Carwardine (Lynx) and Nick Grewal (Lotus 18). No drama’s to report just great racing for an appreciative audience.

Race 3 Front Engine

Jac took the lead at the start and retained it throughout, closely followed by Michael Sexton. Crispian Besley’s distributor cap backed off, causing him to come into the pits and allowing Paul Halford and Tony Olissoff to battle for third and fourth, with Tony passing Paul in the fourth lap. A short gap before Graham Barron, who held his position in front of Doug, Vernon and Erik who were having their own private battle. A gap appeared on lap three before Alan Cattle and John Rowe, leaving the Panther, Alexis, Colin’s Gemini Mk2 and Cooper T52 of Kevin Anderson to have a race of their own. The Autosport, BMC and Bandini used their strong points to keep in close proximity of each other, taking interesting lines at times.

Race 3 Rear Engine

Good clean start, however the two American Lotus 18s of Nick Grewal and JR Mitchell collected each other on the first corner when JR got a wheel on the grass and put him into a spin. The safety car was deployed for 2 laps to allow cars to be recovered. Noel Woodford was in the lead for lap three with Martin Bullock in second until lap four where he spun on spilt oil at the first corner causing him to slip to 13th. David Innes had improved on his start position of fifth to third by lap three and avoided Martin’s spin to take second place. Phil Foulkes in the Lotus 20/22 kept the fellow Lotus 20/22 of Peter Anstiss in fourth. Another close race, the rest of the cars followed with Colin Nursey getting his Lotus 18 in a spin on the oil, but he caught it to be able to finish the race. Lance Carwardine finished his second race of the tour (plagued with issues). A new radiator would be required for JR plus the chassis was damaged and body work would need to be repaired – a handy Lotus 18 body mould would be found just down the road courtesy of Barry Leitch.

Race 4 The Grand Prix race

There had been talk of a reverse grid race, but after discussions it was felt it would be less of a risk to do a normal grid. (Unsure why they called it the Grand Prix Race)

Michael got a good start and took the lead with Tony able to pass Jac on the second lap and retain the position to the end. Paul Halford held fourth throughout, defending the position from Crispian from lap two. Graham Barron had a very steady race to achieve sixth finding himself on his own in lap four. Erik and Doug continued their previous battle for seventh and eighth followed by John Rowe, Vernon and Alan Cattle. A short gap before Max in the very recently fixed car and Kevin Anderson – then another gap before the Panther led the battle at the tail of the grid – Duncan, Colin McKay, Richard B-M, and Tony Pearson.

Race 4 Rear engine Grand Prix

Good clean start, interesting first corner with them nose to tail and at times three abreast, the first six positions were decided on lap one. The cars were so close on the track it was impossible to record and track position change. Great race to watch.

Race 5 Front Engine

17 cars took to the track, however the author’s thoughts were elsewhere when Richard pulled off at the first corner with fuel carb issues. It was a good race with various groups having their own battles. As always most drivers were happy with their race on such a great track.

Race 5 Rear engine

The drivers were now used to this track and the race positions had almost been sorted during qualification. Racing was very close making it good to watch from a spectator point of view, with the only interesting point to note that Robin Longdon had engine problems and came into the pits early with a number of drivers following him and not taking the chequered flag. (School boy error).

Canterbury Car Club awards at the dinner went to Doug Elcomb for the Canadian Dreossi (Rear Engine car) and Crispian Besley collected the front engine award for John Chisholm’s Gemini MkII.

Formula Junior awards went to :

Class D, Paul Halford, Alan Cattle, Tony Pearson.

Class B, Jac Nellemann, Mike Sexton, Tony Olissoff.

Class C, Noel Woodford, John Delane, Jim Blockley.

Class E, Martin Bullock, David Innes, Peter Anstiss.

by Karen Bishop-Miller