Words: Darren Knight
Photos: Phil Wisewould and Ian Smith
Thanks to the pandemic and the longest city-wide lockdown in the world, this year’s edition of Historic Sandown on 5-7 November was the first since 2019. To say competitors were looking forward to it would be a champion understatement, despite the stringent control on numbers that saw the paddock appear almost deserted.
New unofficial lap record
Touring car legend John Bowe joined the fun, getting behind the wheel of Joe Calleja’s stunning Fastback Mustang to headline a strong entry of almost 30 cars. Bowe’s pole time of 1.19.118 was 0.1111 faster than Paul Stubber’s track record in a Camaro, set at the same meeting in 2014. But track records can only be set during a race, so the old mark still stands. Andy “Hollywood” Clempson and Michael Miceli’s Fastback Mustangs were next best in qualifying, ahead of the Camaros of Brent Trengrove and Tony Hubbard, with Bill Trengrove’s Falcon Rallye Sprint rounding out the top six.
Race One – Saturday afternoon
Bowe blasted away from pole to quickly build a fair-sized margin on his pursuers as Pete Meuleman (Mustang) pit lane start was hampered further by the appearance of safety vehicles in front of him as he approached turn one! The Boss powered Mustang of Michael Miceli was retiring in a cloud of smoke immediately after the start with a split sump.
Hubbard was also out early with the Chev stuck in gear as Brent Trengrove and Clempson ran in close company. Further back in the field, Michael George (Lotus Cortina), Ben Dahlstrom (Valiant) and Don Knight (Cortina) were also locked together. The similar Ford of Simon Browning had snuck ahead of that trio after a rocket start, while the FJ of Phil Barrow was making a welcome return after a T-boning at Mallala some months ago. It looked so good he won Best Presented Car, but on track, a broken fuel line ended the comeback temporarily.
Brent Trengrove slowed momentarily with clutch issues (later traced to a slave cylinder problem) but continued and had enough time in hand to stay in a podium position. Bowe took an easy win from Clempson and Brent Trengrove, followed by Dom (son of Tino) Leo in the ex-Chris Stern ’68 Mustang and 2019 HTCAV Champ, Harry Draper (Datsun 1600).
Race Two – Sunday morning
Heavy rain late on Saturday afternoon and evening had thankfully cleared to an overcast but dry Sunday morning.
For Race Two, Bowe again galloped away as Nathan Gordon (Torana) made a blinder to be briefly in fourth until the big bad V8s got into their stride and shuffled the Aussie Six back a few spots.
Brent Trengrove held third again until slowing and eventually retiring, while father Bill (Falcon Sprint) was showing encouraging pace having not started Race 1. After being campaigned at the pointy end for many seasons by W.A.’s Bill Meeke, the Sprint has misbehaved at virtually every meet since it was added to the Trengrove stable.
Hubbard, meanwhile, was powering up through the order as the Cortina punch-on behind him went up a notch with Knight diving down the inside of Browning at turn one before George bested them both near the end.
Further back, two absolute HTCAV stalwarts in Eddie Dobbs (FE Holden) and the amazing 86-year-old Ted Brewster (Mini) ran in tandem during the early going until Dobbs eventually shook Teddy off.
Clempson retired in a massive plume of smoke after the oil filter broke a seal and pushed out nearly seven litres of oil. A quick-smart reaction from “Hollywood” saved the 351 Windsor from any damage.
Richard Hill (Mini), Andy White (Volvo) and Rob van Stokrom (BMW) all mixed it up with John Clarke (Mustang) at various times as Bowe took another untroubled win, followed by Hubbard and Leo, then Meuleman, Gordon and Bill Trengrove.
Race Three – Sunday afternoon
Bowe hooked up nicely again and soon had the customary buffer out in front as Clempson and Brent Trengrove wasted little time slicing through the field from the back.
Bill Trengrove was also quick away as the naughty Falcon finally looked able to put two solid races together. Further back, the Cortina trio climbed over each other with Barrow joining the party in his Humpy Holden.
Clempson, however, was going like a train. At the end of the first lap, he was in seventh, then fourth by the second lap. Having passed Dom Leo for third on the third lap and leaving Brent Trengrove in his wake, Clempson then set about the second-placed Hubbard, closing on him impressively.
On lap five of eight, the `Stang rounded up the Camaro the end of the back straight, then plunged down into Dandenong Road corner - at an unabated pace. Clempson speared off the racing line, skipping across the gravel trap made firmer by massive rains and cannoned into the tyre barrier, the car bucking up into the air and landing rear end first on top of the tyres.
Red flags came out to end the race as medical and safety cars appeared instantly. Andy was despatched to hospital where five broken ribs and a punctured lung were diagnosed. Later, forensic examination found a fatigue crack in the car’s brake balance bar, which failed, leaving no connection between brake pedal and master cylinder.
Clempson’s pace down the hill suggests this occurred at the very fastest part of the Sandown circuit - it must have been an horrific ride. The pits were hushed until word came back that he was conscious and talking.
The whole category wishes Andy a speedy recovery, with the paddock set to be slightly less raucous in his temporary absence. Mr A. Clempson did not receive the sobriquet “Hollywood” for no reason!
And on a cheerier note…
No doubt Andy will be pleased to hear he was still awarded third in Race Three behind John Bowe and Tony Hubbard as the red-flagged results were reset to the previous lap. Off the podium was Brent Trengrove, Leo (winner of the Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting Award) and Meuleman in the Nb Mustang who is getting faster at every meeting.
There was no mood for prize giving after the Clempson event, so it will now take place at Island Magic at Phillip Island (before this issue goes on sale), where another strong field will greet the starter. You can read all about that adventure in the next issue of JUST CARS!