Round 3 Write-up - Thunder in the Park (3-5 January 2010)

3 -5 December 2010

The first of the combined Central Muscle Cars and Northern Muscle Cars rounds had a massive grid with nearly thirty muscle cars entered from both clubs. The battle for the chocolate fish was going to be hotly contested with drivers eligible for points in both series.

Justin Butcher XD FalconCloudy, humid weather greeted the teams for Friday practice as Thunder in the Park got under way. Northern’s Justin Butcher was out in the Falcon along with Andrew Turner in the Commodore, both putting in quick laps and showing they weren’t there to make up the numbers. Colin Sargison was back on track in the yellow HQ, getting back to racing after his round one absence. Clarke Hopkins was looking to consolidate his championship position, looking for a strong result and looking for his driving suit and racing license which he left at home. Racing stalwarts John Elliott in the GTR XU-1 and Tony Gordon in the big block powered Corvette seemed to be the ones getting the most enjoyment out on track and by the end of Friday practice these two experienced drivers were talking up a great weekend of racing.

Tony Gordon CorvetteSaturday’s heat was something the drivers were going to have to contend with. Northern Muscle Car drivers Colin Meadows and Tim “they’re not slicks” La Trobe had their cool suits on while Central Muscle Cars’ hard men Colin “Sarg” Sargison and Greg “Mr Cool” Cuttance needed no such assistance to beat the heat with Sarg saying “I just wind the window down”. Shane Wigston was first to fly - with the HQ sliding the Kumhos he shot over the top of Ford Mountain and commenced a series of quick laps. Paul Stubber’s Camaro had a massive lockup into the hairpin, but still pulled off a 1:02.850 on his first flying lap, another massive lockup destroyed the front right tyre and Stubber spent most of qualifying in the pits. Bruce Anderson had the title of “Mr Consistency” stitched up, showing the punters that he still walks the walk in the Mustang. Colin Meadows laid down a spectacular 1:01.987 which saw him nail the top spot, adding a new fastest lap for the ZR-1. The Northern drivers were ecstatic, they were one up, but Central wouldn’t let that last.

Colin Meadows CorvetteRace 1 was looking like a scratch race showdown between four cars. Northern’s Colin Meadows had the pole with CMC ace John Colebourne’s SS Torana right next door; right behind them Stubber and Wigston sat ready on the second row. Meadows almost leisurely left the line in the ZR-1 in contrast to Colebourne who leapt sideways and had to get out of the throttle to get the SS heading in the right direction. Stubber was off like a rat up a drainpipe and by turn four the Camaro had a commanding lead with Wigston left to hunt down Meadows and Colebourne. Bruce Anderson seemed to lose power off the start in the Mustang, Central’s Clarke Hopkins got a blinder and the grey A9X led Northern drivers Justin Butcher in the XE falcon and Tim La Trobe in the Mercedes into turn 1. John Elliott moved up several places off the start, but as he entered turn two he was squeezed by Tony Van Tiel to the inside of the turn and onto the grass, barely escaping unscathed as cars streamed past. By the time Elliott had gathered it up he was already in the sights of a charging Stubber who laid down a 1:01.835 on lap four to claim the fastest lap for Central.

Tim Latrobe Mercedes 500SECTim La Trobe’s Mercedes Benz was moving through the field, working hard over the kerbs. Greg Cuttance and Andrew Sinclair were locked together with Cuttance seemingly unable to shake Sinclair in the Commodore. Both drivers showed strengths in different spots on the circuit until Cuttance seized the advantage in the Falcon. Colin Meadows ground to a halt at turn three with a fuel pump problem and Tony Boyden’s Commodore retired with a tyre rubbing badly on the guard. Stubber rounded turn one and saw the ZR-1 on the infield and cruised home for the final few laps, finishing ahead of the charging Tim La Trobe, Shane Wigston bringing the HQ home in third. A chirpy Stubber saying afterwards “the start is everything, I thought if I could beat Colin down to turn four I might have half a chance”.

It was now one all.

Muscle Cars on the trackRace 2. Sunday was cloudy as the teams worked to get the cars ready for race two, a reverse grid event. The cars left in groups at fixed intervals to encourage a little group racing as well as allowing the apex predators like Colebourne, Meadows, Stubber and Wigston to do their thing and work their way through the field. By the end of lap one a swarm of muscle cars coming over the crest of Ford Mountain was on show to the growing crowd. Ron Findlay’s potent Perana , John Elliott’s GTR XU-1, Greg Honnor’s ‘65 Mustang and Brendan Mason’s “Big Red” ‘70 Camaro thundered over the top with increasing amounts of throttle. Behind them Tony Gordon’s big block Corvette sporting the widest wheels on the track, Bruce McRae’s raucous HQ GTS350 and Bruce Anderson’s Mustang added to the show. For the second time in as many laps Stubber locked a brake big time into the hairpin as the Camaro seemed to squat and unload the front right. Another tyre was shredded and the race was over for the defending champion. Bruce Dreadon in the tough black ’66 Mustang and Tony Van Tiel in the XA Falcon coupe swept past the limping Camaro as it entered the pits.

Colebourne chased the HQs of Wigston and Sargison ahead, Anderson’s Mustang sandwiched between them. Wigston passed Anderson and cleared off, a committed Colebourne saw his chance and went down the inside of a very wide Sargison HQ at turn one, finally deciding the Torana should try its hand at green-keeping in a wild move to pass the HQ. The Corvette of Colin Meadows was looking to pass Dreadon and avoid the cars battling ahead, it was getting fast and furious out there. Hamish Andrews in the VH Commodore was leaving a trail of mist and at the hairpin as the rapidly-closing-under-brakes John Elliott arrived in the GTR XU-1 the lack of traction forced him out wide, losing position in his battle with Ross Francis in the XTGT. Steve Malam in the yellow big block powered Camaro held out the closing Greg Honnor in the Mustang to take the win with Brendan Mason scoring the remaining podium spot in the big red Camaro. A cheeky Steve Malam saying after the race “what a difference good tyres make”.

It was back to advantage Northern with one race to go, the handicap.

Tony Van Tiel XA Falcon CoupeRace 3. Always a crowd favourite, the handicap race provides plenty of action with exciting racing guaranteed as the faster cars move through the field. Group2 rookie Shaun McGovern in the VH Commodore would lead the field off, the apex predators starting their hunt from pit lane. Stubber and Meadows shot the gap and were up to speed pretty quickly, setting after the front running cars. John Elliott held a strong lead in the GTR XU-1 but Greg Cuttance was on a mission and he slipped Tony Van Tiel in the XA Falcon coupe and was closing the gap to Elliott. Tony Gordon’s Corvette was skating around Greg Honnor’s Mustang while Bruce McRae’s GTS350 was all over the back of the Perana of Ron Findlay. Colebourne slowed through turn one and parked the SS Torana on the infield at turn 4. The yellow flags came out and as the field slowed the cars seemed to gather and bunch. Clarke Hopkins’ A9X mirrors were filled with the sight of Murray Brown, driving the race 2 winning Malam Camaro, and Defending Champion Paul Stubber’s Camaro coming together. Both cars spun off the front straight and collected the fence heavily, with Brown coming to rest outside the old grandstand and Stubber eventually stopping across from the member’s grandstand. As both drivers emerged from their cars the crowd erupted in cheers and with the marshalls on the job the track was cleared to resume racing pretty quickly.

John Elliott's GTR XU-1Shaun McGovern led the restart, the Commodore quickly despatched by the GTR XU-1 of John Elliott with the Fords of Francis, Cuttance and Findlay and the Commodore of Andrew Turner in hot pursuit. But waiting for the restart had killed the clutch on the Cuttance Falcon and he parked it. Findlay followed, retiring the Perana with mechanical problems. Bruce McRae was now all over Andrew Turner, the mighty HQ GTS350 looking for a way by the Commodore out of the hairpin. Bruce Kett was jostling for position with Tony Gordon as they came over Ford Mountain. The Corvette came off second best to the Camaro and Gordon, incensed, retired with a lap to run. Tony Van Tiel’s XA Falcon coupe managed to stay out front of Greg Honnor but the GTR XU-1 of John Elliott would cross the line ahead of them both to record his first race win in Central Muscle Cars as well as the first win by a six cylinder engine car in a Central Muscle Cars race.

Coming away from round two, Clarke Hopkins sits atop the Group1 points with Greg Honnor alongside him, the defending champ Paul Stubber is in third. Bruce Kett has stormed to the top of the Group 2 points race with John Elliott ahead of Greg Cuttance who sits in third. It was a successful weekend for both clubs with Northern drivers finishing in the points in all three races. Central drivers dominated the round but the Northern drivers are committed and looking to make the points in the next event. Round three in the Central Muscle car series is the January 28–30 Amon Festival meeting at Hampton Downs, a track where the Northern drivers will have a distinct advantage over the Central drivers who haven’t raced there yet. These festival events aren’t to be missed so I’ll see you there.

By Kim Murray

Posted: Sat 04 Dec 2010