Words & Photos: Mike Ryan
Perfect conditions greeted participants and spectators for the eighth running of the Geelong Revival Motoring Festival this past 22-24 November. And the big crowd that came to the 2019 Revival were spoilt for choice when it came to attractions on the sprint track, in the pits and through the adjacent display areas.
While classic and modern cars of all types, sizes and configurations were in action on the quarter mile sprint course over two days, there was even more variety in the adjacent static displays. From classic and modern cars to hot rods, drift cars, motorcycles, vintage boats, trucks, military vehicles and even high-powered beasts used for tractor pulls, there was plenty for visitors to see.
A Long History
As the name suggests, the Revival is a resurrection, specifically a resurrection of the Geelong Speed Trials, which were first held in the bayside Victorian town in 1956. Back then, a section of Ritchie Boulevard – a public road on the Geelong waterfront facing Corio Bay - was chosen by members of the Western District Car Club to host a timed quarter mile (400m) sprint course in the style of the Brighton Speed Trials in the UK.
That course presented a unique challenge, though, as the road was curved and not a straight shot like traditional drag strips.
In its early days, the event saw all sorts of contemporary competition machines campaigned, but as the Speed Trials evolved, it became a showcase of historic machinery and something of a nostalgic motorsport event.
The Speed Trials attracted more than its fair share of driving talent over the years, too, with the likes of Sir Jack Brabham, Doug Whiteford, Lex Davison, Bob Jane, Glenn Seton, Norm Beechey, John Harvey, Craig Lowndes, Alan Jones and Dick Johnson amongst the “locals” who competed. The event attracted international guests, too, including Johnny Herbert, Win Percy, Pedro Lamy, Mika Hakkinen and Sir Stirling Moss.
Last held in its original format in 2003, there were several attempts made to bring speed trial action back to the Geelong waterfront, but none were successful until a cadre of passionate local enthusiasts launched the Geelong Revival in 2012.
Every year since, the Revival has seen all manner of competition machinery – new and old – bring the sights, sounds and spirit of the original Geelong Speed Trials back to the ‘City by the Bay’. The same stretch of Ritchie Boulevard is used, too, albeit with the benefits of the latest timing technologies and modern safety barriers, but entrants still face the same challenges in mastering the tricky quarter mile course now as back then.
As in previous years, the cars made up the bulk of the 200+ entries in the 2019 Geelong Revival sprints and were split into ‘Modern’ on the Saturday and ‘Historic’ on the Sunday, with invited cars running demonstrations each day.
Covering a variety of classes, Saturday’s sprint field saw a healthy quantity of late-model Commodores and Falcons, a near-new pair of Hyundai i30N hot hatches, Mustangs new and old (including a supercharged Roush ‘Jackhammer’), an original Honda NSX, Chevrolet Camaros, a BMW M3, Subarus, Nissan Skylines and various Porsches.
Some older machinery – under the ‘Big Bangers’ banner that was a theme for the event – was also entered, including a ’73 Cortina, Valiant Charger, XY Falcon GT-HO, a ‘78 LX Torana SS, various Clubmans and even a ’65 Ford Anglia.
Sunday’s field included familiar historic racers, like the George Reed Monoskate Special and its So-Cal Special companion, driven by Graeme and Louise Raper, respectively. Model T and Model A Fords were well represented, with MGs in quantity, too, as were Elfins.
The 50th Anniversary celebrations for Bolwell’s Nagari saw a trio of these Aussie-made sportscars hit the track, while the 60th Anniversary of the Mini attracted an even bigger entry, including a couple of rare Mini Marcos GTs.
Classic Aussie Holdens, an Austin A35, Renault R8, Hillman Hunter, V8-engined Ford Capri Perana and Porsche 356 also lined up on Sunday, with rarer cars including a TVR 2500M, a TVR-lookalike J&S Hunter coupe and a 1949 Healey Silverstone.
The invited cars included a 1966 McLaren M1B racer (of the type seen in Can Am), a 1981 Ralt RT4 (created by Ron Tauranac of Brabham fame for second-tier Formula competition), plus more modern fare in the form of a 2017 Tesla Model S and the latest version of Honda’s NSX supercar.
Proving the event doesn’t take itself too seriously, another of the invited entries was “The World’s Fastest Couch’. You may remember this “vehicle” when it was created back in 2011, ostensibly as a stunt to promote a brand of iced coffee. The couch was real, though, as was the Suzuki GSX 1400 engine powering it. And the 163.117km/h top speed it achieved was definitely real – real enough to be officially recognised in the Guinness World Records.
Despite the Ritchie Boulevard course not being suitable for dedicated drag cars, Chris Dalton took his HQ Kingswood onto the track in the invited class and proceeded to delight the crowd with a big display of tyre smoke on each run!
In the lead up to the 2019 Geelong Revival, the event lost two of its greatest advocates and hardest working volunteers in Max McGinley and Rod Stewart.
Event organisers described Max as vital to the Geelong Revival Motoring Festival team, as he was willing to take on a number of roles and responsibilities, from handing out fliers at car shows, to setting up static displays, directing parking and assisting the public.
As the event grew, Max continued to be an enthusiastic supporter and was often the man who could round up volunteers at short notice.
To honour Max, a Chrysler Valiant Charger was entered, wearing the livery that he and Brian Ovenden drove in the 1973 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst.
Rod Stewart, a member of the Rotary Club of Queenscliff, came on board at the very beginning of the Revival and had been one of its hardest working volunteers since, taking on the less glamorous jobs, like packing away tents, fencing and equipment, and doing it all without complaint.
Following the event’s ‘City Cruise’ from the outskirts of Geelong to the CBD on Friday 23 November, sprint action got underway on Saturday 24 November with the Modern classes.
Dry, warm and bright conditions greeted the field and ensured the grass hill overlooking Ritchie Boulevard – a natural grandstand - was well-populated with spectators.
In the practise sessions, various drivers knocked out 10-second lap times, including Craig Dunbabin in a ’99 R34 Skyline, Michael Bailey in a new Porsche GT2RS and Greg Bass in an ’04 Subaru WRX STi, but Sally-Anne Hains set the benchmark of 9.80 seconds in her AWD 2010-model Porsche 911 (997).
Also flying the flag for the ladies, Celine Lloyd was quickest in the first run for the 3.0 to 5.0-litre Touring Cars, setting a 12.79 in a 2017 Holden Commodore Motorsport Edition. Close behind in a class that included everything from an ’84 Gemini to a late-model Renault Megane, was Paul Farrell in a new MY19 Mustang.
Hopping between different cars all day, Celine also ran the fastest time in the under 2.0-litre Sports/Supercar class with a 15.96 in a Toyota 86.
Chris Thompson put a Gen 2 Camaro ZL1 just ahead of a current Dodge Challenger in the first run for the Big Banger (5.0-litre and up) class, while a striking – and fast – addition to the Up to 5.0-litre AWD class was Jeff Beable’s Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk that set a 10.80 on its first run.
The second runs for the Modern classes saw similar times.
In a class that included Supercars driver Tony d’Alberto in an original Honda NSX, Hains was unable to get under the 10-second mark. Neither could anyone else, although a few did get close on Run 2, including Rod Moody (Cheetah Formula Libre – 10.39), Christian Fitzgerald (Nissan GT-R Nismo - 10.10) and the Tesla P100D of Mark Tipping (10.50).
Kevin Mackrell, who set the fastest time overall in 2018, was back in ‘Viagra’ his Chev V8-powered Datsun 260Z, but was off the pace, with only a couple of runs completed. Hains, meanwhile, found her mojo on Run 3 to put down a 9.80 that equalled her practise time and booked her a place in the Top 10 Shootout at the end of the day.
No-one else went under the 10-second mark for their remaining timed runs, but Fitzgerald and Tipping did go close, as did Nick de Jong in a 2007 Ford Territory turbo that was an incongruous a sight on the sprint course as Beable’s Jeep.
With de Jong, Tipping, Bailey, d’Alberto, Dunbabin, Bable and Fitzgerald all in the Top 10 Shootout, Hains still prevailed - a 9.94 was down on her best of 9.80 (which in turn was slightly slower than Mackrell’s 2018 time), but still comfortably ahead of next-best Bailey with a 10.58 in his Porsche and Tipping with a 10.61 in the Tesla.
On Sunday, 25 November, it was the Historics that would be the main attraction and the highlight for many, with all sorts of classic iron in action and a bigger sprint field overall than the previous day.
Noel Inman obviously didn’t get the memo about the Ritchie Boulevard course being unsuitable for drag cars, as he not only turned up in his well-known ‘Tall T’ 302-engined 1922 Model T, but also proceed to set the fastest time in practise of 10.98 seconds. The first timed run of the day saw Inman repeat that time, again being the only driver in the 10-second bracket.
The Rapers – Graeme in the Monoskate Special, Louise in the So-Cal Special and Henri in the ’49 Healey Silverstone – were quick in the Historic Racing and Sports Cars class, but not quicker than Stephen Duniam, who laid down a 14.61 in his 1958 MG-Jaguar Special.
Dunaim repeated the dose in Run 2 before Graeme prevailed in Run 3, but overall honours in this class went to Duniam.
It was a similar story in many of the other Historic classes, with Claire Greig dominating Formula Ford in her FF84 (best time of 12.58 seconds), Ben Rawson’s Elfin Malmark the star of Racing and Sports Cars (13.22 best), Ben Walsh excelling in Touring Cars 2.0lt – 3.0lt with his ’71 Mazda Capella (13.91 best) and Paul Black the king of the Touring Cars 3.0lt – 5.0lt class with his LJ Torana (13.13 best).
Special classes for French cars and Minis were keenly contested, with Bill Hamilton the fastest in the former (Peugeot 505 V6 – 13.04 best) and Craig Volk the latter (’78 Mini – 13.31 best)
Despite getting slower with each run after his blazing start, Inman still made Sunday’s Top 10 Shootout and had the likes of Graham Alexander (Chev Camaro), Chris Dalton (Ford Mustang), Paul Johns (Chevrolet Corvette) and Kevin O’Neill (Holden FE Special) for company.
In what proved to be a more tightly-contested affair that Saturday’s Top 10 Shootout, Inman prevailed by less than two tenths of a second over Alexander – 11.42 to 11.60 – with Dalton, O’Neill and Adam Cieciura (Ford Capri) also in the 11-second bracket.
At both ends of the Ritchie Boulevard sprint course there were big fields of display cars each day.
At the Eastern Beach end, themed displays for Japanese cars on the Saturday and French cars on the Sunday proved popular, with BMWs also in this space, while clubs and individual display cars filled Steampacket Gardens and the approach to Cunningham Pier at the opposite end of the sprint track.
There was also a big motorcycle display at Customs House. And speaking of ‘big’, the new for 2019 Big Wheels display attracted a bunch of tractor pull vehicles, including a wild machine powered by a trio of Chev 327 V8 engines.
A display of Mad Max replica vehicles and 4x4s also featured in this section, which backed on to the driving demonstration area where Drift Cadet was offering drifting passenger rides in their Toyota 86s all weekend.
Given the success of the 2019 event, the Geelong Revival is already locked in for 2020. With sprint action and static displays, driving demonstrations and passenger rides, kids activities and other family-friendly attractions, all in a great location, the event has a winning formula.
The 2020 Geelong Revival Motoring Festival is scheduled for 27 – 29 November. Go to https://geelongrevival.com.au/ for more info and updates as this year’s event draws nearer.