The Kiwi contingent arrived with expectations of a big weekend of racing during Fathers Day weekend 5-6 September. A full field of 27 cars was entered, including three from Australia. Sydney turned on some great spring weather that was certainly warmer than what most of us are used at this time of year back home. The Eastern Creek circuit is definitely a drivers’ circuit with plenty of elevation changes and twisty parts as well as a long straight leading into Australia’s fastest corner on any race circuit in the country.
The meeting format was a varied one for the cars, starting with qualifying on Saturday morning. Paul Stubber showed the visitors how to set fast times with a very competitive 1:44.1. Shane Wigston put in some top laps with a best of 1:44.5, followed by Bruce Anderson in the Ford Mustang with a 1:45.5. An early victim was Joe McGinnes whose Falcon GT lasted one lap and then expired.
Race 1 was the first scratch race of the weekend and gave us great close racing without serious incidents. Paul Burnet did give us some entertainment on the grid with a stall that then saw him sit out the race watching from the sidelines. The top five cars slowly pulled away from the field and there was some excellent racing right through. Paul Stubber was leading with half a lap to go and went slightly wide on one corner. This was all Shane Wigston needed to take the win. Paul Sinclair in the Commodore drove a steady race for third with a hard-charging John Colebourne winning the battle against Bruce Anderson. The first race saw seven cars retire but these muscle cars teams really work together to get all vehicles back on track.
Race 2 saw the first reverse grid race of the weekend which apparently is unique to Kiwis at such a high profile meeting. Dr John Elliot in the classic spec XU-1 led the field away in the first group with Glenn Humphries, followed by the rest of the grid with five second gaps between each row. The race was progressing well with the field slowly compacting lap by lap. Glenn led for the first few before being passed by Colin Meadows in the A9X Torana. Colin battled hard but in turn was caught by Craig Stacey in the AMC Javelin showing better pace than the previous race.
Unfortunately next there was a series of incidents that caused a lot of drama and heartache for three members of the Kiwi muscle car team. A few spinning cars left a lot of smoke and dust across the track at the bottom end of the circuit, causing bad visibility for following drivers. Mandy Sinclair’s Commodore, Bruce Kett’s new Camaro and Shane Johnson’s Mustang were all involved in a mass pile-up that saw the red flag come out just after lap five. The end result was three badly bent cars and some driver injuries. Bruce Kett went to hospital but thankfully was released a few days later. The race was therefore declared and Craig took the win. Second was Colin with Bruce McCrae third in the Monaro. A sad end to what was otherwise a really good day’s racing.
Race 3 was held mid morning on Sunday with Sydney turning on another fine day. We were back to the standard grid start format. Paul Stubber in the Camaro got away well (or was it Jason Richards) and wasn’t headed all race. The Holden of Shane Wigston had a puncture early on and had his first DNF for a while. Paul Sinclair had a great battle with the improving Torana Coupe of John Colebourne and there was only 0.3 seconds separating these two at the finish line. Billy Dunn in the Camaro also had his hands full with Colin Sargison with an even closer 0.03 seconds margin for fourth place. The cool conditions of the morning brought about fast times with the Paul Stubber Camaro clocking the weekend’s fastest lap time of 1:43.9. Eastern Creek was proving to be a tough track and was taking its toll with only sixteen finishers for this race.
Race 4 was the second reverse grid event for the Muscle cars and everyone was a little apprehensive about the way this one would play out with the knowledge of the previous handicap race on Saturday. We didn’t have to wait long for our entertainment to begin because as the start lights went out signalling the start for the first grid to commence racing we saw a couple of very enthusiastic runners from near the back of the field start at the same time as the front row rather than waiting for their 40 or so second handicap, I’m sure the second row who were patiently watching for their start got a small fright as a White Falcon Coupe and a bright yellow HQ flashed past unexpectedly. Meanwhile the real race got away without any further drama. Mike Ellis in the Black Falcon Coupe finally had a better run after battling electrical problems all weekend and took the win from Craig Stacey who also went well in Saturday’s handicap race. These two just made it to the line because Paul Sinclair and Shane Wigston were only fractions behind. The two keen lads who jumped the start were told after taking the chequered flag that they had been excluded from the results. We can see why the fans love this type of racing.
Race 5 was the biggest race of the weekend, titled the NZ Muscle Car Feature Race and run over eight laps. Shane Wigston was back at the front of the field and dispatched the opposition and took the win by the biggest margin of the entire weekend. Paul Stubber could only make one lap before retiring and joined another six cars with a DNF beside their name for this event. Rumour has it Angus Fogg arrived back in the pits on the back of the recovery vehicle to a warm welcome from his racing friends. Paul Sinclair continued his weekend with his third podium and John Colebourne was becoming more prominent as the day's racing went on. The trophies were a great reward for good clean racing.
The last race of the day was expected to be one of the highlights of the Muscle car masters event and was billed as a NZ VS AUSTRALIA CLASH. The concept was that a full grid of cars consisting of 23 vehicles from each of the NZ Muscle cars and Biante touring cars classes would race off for Tasman supremacy. The Kiwis mustered and turned up with over twenty cars but our Aussie hosts could only come up with five. Jim Richards in his Falcon Sprint showed the spirit and turned up ready to race. The race was actually one of the best of the weekend with the first three cars swapping positions regularly. Jason Richards went extremely well and headed off Shane Wigston with Jim Richards taking third. All three were Kiwis really but Jim lists his residence as Australia. NZ took the Trans Tasman trophy by a clear margin and have laid the challenge down to the Aussies to come over and win it in NZ.
Overall a great time was had by most and a lot of interesting cars were raced and on display. Great support from the crowd and a well-run event by the organisers from both the NZ Muscle Car group and the hosting club in Australia.