Words: Darren Knight and Chris Ralph
Photos: Phil Wisewould
From a pole position time almost five seconds clear of P2, to his triumphant power slides in the last race, Paul Stubber, the globetrotting Aussie who perhaps races in more categories in more places than anyone, put on a fantastic show at the 31st Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport.
“Wow!” yelled the commentators as the smoke fired from the tyres of Stubber’s famous yellow ’69 Camaro drifting out of Turn 12. It put a huge smile on the face of every spectator… that was their money’s worth, right there!
48 Cars for Qualifying
As described in our preview of the Phillip Island Classic (JUST CARS #291), the Under 3-Litre and Over 3-Litre classes were combined this year, meaning a jumbo field of 48 cars were entered.
Heading the horsepower list were twelve Mustangs, eight Toranas, six Camaros and three XY Falcons. Unsurprisingly, the big end of town took the first 25 qualifying spots, with the exception of James McNiven’s 1972 Mazda RX2 and Gabriel Digenis’s ’71 BMW 2002, who engaged in their own battles through the weekend.
The older and smaller capacity cars were well represented further down the field, with Minis, Cortinas, EH Holdens, a Valiant S series, Volvo and Citroen all driving just as desperately.
Race One, Friday afternoon
From the front row, Adam Walton (1966 Mustang) made a great start, but his lead lasted little more than the firstcorner before pole man Stubber went through at Southern Loop (Turn 2) and began to build a substantial lead.
Having started from pit lane, former race winner at Phillip Island, Tasmanian Darren Pearce (1968 Camaro) came in after one lap with ignition problems later traced to a detached wire.
Aldo De Paoli (’69 Camaro) moved into second as a big battle erupted between Walton, Andrew Taite (’67 Camaro) and Terry Wyhoon, who was guest steering Geoff Munday’s ’68 Camaro.
The two ’69 Mustang fastbacks of F5000 racer Darcy Russell and Queenslander Ian Mewett both ran wide at the hairpin (Turn 4) and lost a few spots before re-joining. SA’s Rob Smith (1972 Torana) and Phil Shepherd (’63 EH Holden) had a ding-dong struggle in mid-pack, as did the two Volvos of Andrew White (1964 122s) and Jim Schilling (1969 142).
On his way to a dominant victory, Stubber lowered his own four-year-old lap record to a neat 1.45.500, with De Paoli making it a West Australian 1-2 (both Chevs originated from the same AMS workshop in Perth, albeit several years apart).
Walton was an impressive third, with his Mustang running the “little” 289 Windsor in a first-generation body shell, while fellow Sydneysider Taite just beat home the hard-charging Andrew Williams (1972 Torana) for fourth. Wyhoon was sixth in front of former Torana racer Craig Allan who was debuting in the ex-Daryl Hansen/Chris Stillwell/Graham Hunt ’69 Mustang fastback.
Race Two, Saturday morning
A big accident in the early stages of race two saw the red flags unfurled, bringing a premature end to the race and no official results recorded.
The abandonment was due to a big bingle from Williams, who, coming onto the main straight, hooked a rear wheel over the outside of the notorious ripple strip on the Turn 12 exit and cannoned into the pit lane wall. The Torana, one of the fastest in the country, suffered heavy damage front and rear.
Williams was unhurt but unhappy, later declaring the Torana would return to race again one day.
Race Three, Saturday afternoon
Further drama ensued at the start of race three when, on the run into Doohan Corner (Turn 1), four drivers found themselves alongside each other - two of those being Andrew Girvan (1973 Torana) and Pearce. In the ensuing melee, Girvan suffered a hefty whack in the driver’s door, ruling him out for the rest of the weekend. Pearce also received damage but was able to continue.
Once racing resumed, the two ’69 Camaros of Stubber and De Paoli again broke away, as Allan locked horns with Taite in a close dice. That battle was mirrored in the duel between the ’64 Falcon Sprint of Queenslander Marty White and the ’64 Mustang 289 of Harry Bargwanna.
Midway through the 8-lap race, Island debutant Graham Wrobel (1967 Mustang) was being harassed by Torana racer Mark Brewster, but Queenslander Wrobel ultimately prevailed.
Stubber took another untroubled win from De Paoli, with Taite making it an all Camaro podium after just holding on in front of Allan’s Mustang. Walton was next, then Daniel Van Stokrom (1972 Torana), Andrew Lane (’69 Mustang) and Mewett.
Star of race three was Digenis, who put many a larger-engined car to shame by hurling his 2-litre BMW 2002 up to 18th place.
Race Four, Sunday afternoon
Fuel tanks were brimmed in anticipation of the extra required for the 11-lap finale, which unusually for Historic Touring Cars, would also feature a rolling start.
The huge grid did look impressive as it thundered down towards Bass Strait, though some drivers further back could have been a little closer to the car in front. (Watch a few NASCAR races guys!)
Queenslander Brian Wood placed his ’71 XY Falcon into the kitty litter at Southern Loop on the opening lap, triggering a short-lived Safety Car period, before re-joining.
When the green flags came out, Stubber wasted little time in building a gap over the following De Paoli, but when De Paoli appeared in pit lane on lap 4 (thanks to gearbox dramas in his Hugger Orange Camaro), Allan stepped up.
The Safety Car came out again after Shepherd dropped his EH into the sand trap exiting turn 11. Racing soon resumed with Taite and Lane (the proprietor of Hogs Breath Traralgon, who gets faster every meeting) engaged in a close battle in the top half dozen.
Further back, oldies danced a quickstep, with the S Series Valiant of Ben Dahlstrom and the FWD Citroen of Michael Stupka going toe to toe.
The two snappy BMWs went out in sympathy: Rob Van Stokrom snapping a rocker and pulling in after three laps; and Digenis snapping a half shaft and losing a wheel at MG corner on the penultimate lap.
Lady racer Helen Lindner was having a happier time in her ’64 Mini Cooper S, lowering her lap times as she competed in her first proper meeting in nearly eight years.
Meanwhile, at the business end, Mewett wrestled fourth place off Taite before his sleek blue ’Stang locked up a diff and spat a tailshaft, spearing off dramatically at the Turn 4 hairpin.
With a handy lead over Allan’s Mustang in the closing laps, Stubber began his now traditional wowing of the big crowd, hooking the Camaro into some huge drifts onto the front straight, showing the skills developed racing Late Model Speedway in the USA for three months of the year – catch it on YouTube!
Allan and Walton completed the podium, the latter earning the coveted Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting award for consistent effort at the pointy end - and a huge 11-second improvement in his lap times from 2019. Taite was next, then David Tessari in the ’71 HQ Monaro.
Picking up his best result for the weekend, category legend John Mann (’69 Camaro) finished sixth, just ahead of Lane’s Mustang. NSW’s Mark Le Vaillant (1971 XY Falcon) was eighth, followed by Graeme Wakefield (1968 Mustang), with Marty White rounding out the top ten and also clinching the Nb class for pre ’65 cars.
More than a dozen retirements meant the big field had shrunk a bit by the end of the 11-lapper, as some of the old cars, giving their all, wilted under the strain.
The 2020 Island Classic meeting was another huge effort by all, from the organisers down to the competing teams and drivers.
The spirit of historic touring cars was best demonstrated this year by the heart-warming sight of Mini legend Ted Brewster, who turns 85 in April, finishing Race 4 in 17th place ahead of… his son Mark in a Torana. Bragging rights for the grandkids!