Vice President Laurie Ardill accompanied Peter Axford and Dale Ashby to the 2014 Philip Island Classic Festival of Motor Sport meeting. This story appeared in the AROCA SA April 2014 magazine.
Peter and Dale were anxious to give the newly finished Class S Montreal and 105 a run along with the other magnificent machinery that presents itself each year. Monty made the trip but unfortunately time beat the 105 completion, so Pete was forced to fall back (?) to that beautiful Junior Z.
So fully loaded with the precious cargo we left Eurosport on Wednesday afternoon with the plan to overnight at Bordertown. This would allow for an easy Thursday and reach the circuit before the 5.00pm curfew. Dale caught up at Bordertown later that evening and we set off early on Thursday (after checking the tie down straps). We arrived in convoy at around 3.00pm after an uneventful journey over the West Gate Bridge, traffic was light for a change.
This allowed us to park the cars in the specially allocated covered area(by Clerk of Course, David Wright), next to some significant Alfas and directly opposite the impressive Gibson Motorsport Nissan Complex, eight Group A historically amazing 4 wd and turbo`ed racing cars form the 80`s.This complex had its own kitchen, barista coffee, tv and video set up together with story boards of the history of the cars and people. We were in great company!
Our side of the garage contained the Bill Magoffin (ex Bathurst Gil Gordon) Group C 105, a couple of serious Group S 105`s, the magnificent Alfa 750 Giulietta Spider of Paul Chelayer and the Giulia Super of xxx, a 1932 1750 in black with 12000 kms on the clock together with John Lawsons trusty original (with patina) 2300 xxxx.
So well settled and with documentation signed off we were ready for a cool beverage at one of Cowes thirst quenching facilities, followed by a great pasta meal at the Isola de Capri (our regular)it was time for and early night. Start times are 7.00 am each morning for us although they do not allow race engines to fire up until the penguins are at school at 9.00am. This 9.00 start up was a source of fun as the course announcer would count down giving a 3 minute warning followed by the 10,9, 8 etc when the paddock would burst into life from the most amazing historic engines, Formula 1and Formula 5000 included. The winner of the bottle of wine for being first to fire up on Sunday was Andrew Newall starting up the sensational Ford GT40, from the UK.
Friday dawned looking a bit like Philip Island Weather, cool and a chance of a shower wind off the South Pole blowing rain parallel to the ground. We don’t need or deserve this! However practice was dry and our team was happy. Dales smile was reminiscent of Dan Riccardo`s as the Monty performed to expectations. What would it be like on a wet tarmac?
Pete circulated the Z in the wet but Dale decided not to risk his new and precious love but did a couple of test laps.
Saturday dawned fine but cool and after early scrutineering we were ready to go. 9.20 on track with another session at 1.00pm gave us time to wonder among the 500 or so cars competing. There were great tests of memory back to Warwick Farm, Sandown, Bathurst, Mallala etc and Tasman series (F5000`s) cars and drivers from the period where racing was really dangerous on circuits lined with Armco or straw bales or nothing. In those days spectators were so close they could almost touch the passing racers. We have come a long way.
Anyway Team Eurosport circulated in excellent fashion for the whole weekend both cars performing with no hiccups, especially amazing for the Monty straight out of the box. Pete doing has best time ever in the Z, Dale learning the Monty.
On Saturday night we joined 200 other guests at the formal dinner which celebrated the 88th birthday of one our living legends, Sir Jack Brabham. That alone was worth the trip. One of the visiting Americans Ernie Nagamatsu read a touching letter from Dan Gurney to Sir Jack that showed the respect he is held in the world of motor racing. Gurney was the first person to win a GP in one of Jacks Brabhams.
We all sang Happy Birthday and shared his cake.
On Sunday afternoon we were peering under the Monty bonnet when we were surprised to see Allan Moffatt come along side sharing our view. He was impressed with what he saw and passed on a message “don’t forget the right foot also controls the brake”. What a treat that was!
Sunday night saw a return to Café de Isola for a relaxing refreshment and meal and early to bed for a long drive home. Dale left at 4.15am and Pete and I at 7.00am, getting us to team HQ at 5.00pm.
Among the highlights of the meeting is the ability to visit the pits and talk to drivers who when approached were all friendly and giving of their time. One of our faves was Roz Shaw visiting from the UK with a real Alfa GTAM, magnificently turned out in the orange and yellow Jagermeister colours. This car was a bundle of bits from Denmark and restored by Roz, a great character who found the circuit “daunting”. She races the car in an Italian race series.
Other cars of significance were;
- F1 World Championship Cooper of Jack Brabham
- His 1966 World Championship winning Brabham BT19, of 1966
- A Brabham Indy 500 car
- A field of Formula 5000 `s racing on track displayed some old names, Johnny Walker, Teddy Yip/Alan Jones.
- Other F1 cars,
- The Brabham that was first to lap Bathurst at 100mph (now owned by Victorian Peter Strauss with whom we sat at Dinner, some stories there)
- A full field of recent Holden/Ford 5 litre Touring Cars
- Old Yeller an American “special” built by Shelby that appeared in Viva Las Vegas with Elvis driving and a Shelby Cobra, a real racer which starred in Herbie the Love Bug.
- A lovely Chevron sports car brought over from the UK
- 60`s, 70`s and 80`s sports cars (Elfin, Lotus, Matich, Lola etc. etc.)
- Lago Talbots from the 50`s
- Historic touring car races (Toranas and Falcons etc.)
Apart from all the above we caught up with some wonderful Alfa folk, including Tony Wise, Ian Hyland, Vin and Marie Sharp (on the road to recovery), John Lawson with his vintage Alfa`s and Gil Gordon and son Nathan. Gil a lively character was the original owner of the Bill Magoffin Bathurst 105. We discussed the sponsorship by a Geelong ‘relaxation centre’ and wondered how the sponsorship was paid. There was no conclusive answer!
500 cars, 47 events (some serious racing) with all drivers approachable, car Club display areas and the Shannons pavilion to drool in. Really the event is so good you might just have to go and see, touch and be excited yourselves.
At this event they don’t do F18 fly by we got a great Sabre Jet display, last year we got five Tiger Moths,m sensational.
We will be there in 2015, perhaps we can arrange another convoy!