Words: Chris Ralph
Photos: Phil Wisewould
After a year of intense competition, the final margin in the 2023 HTCAV Championship was just two points, and a Cortina beat a Mustang under the well-honed, class-based rules designed for Australia’s most diverse grid.
No other racing category provides the spectacle of the Group N Historic Touring Cars. With a grid representing the post-WWII explosion in car manufacturing, JUST CARS Historic Racers come from Australia, America, England, Germany, Italy, France and Japan.
They run eight cylinders, six cylinders, four cylinders – or no cylinders at all. Engines and diffs are in the front or the back, they can have two or four doors, they’re built between 1952 and 1972 and weigh between 600kg and 1500kg or so.
They look different, sound different and drive differently from each other. But somehow, they all compete equally for the HTCAV Championship.
Silver Fox sneaks under Black Pete!
Would two-time and current Champ Pete Meuleman in the all-black 289 Ford Mustang make it a triple in 2023? Or would ex-Charger driver and former champ Les Walmsley charge through the Cortina pack to get enough points from his best five rounds? One slip could have changed the result, but on a dark and rainy Sunday afternoon at Phillip Island in late November, it was settled – the littlie beat the biggie.
Of course, Pete’s Mustang was always way ahead of the Walmsley Cortina on the track, but the HTCAV point system is class based to make it fair for everyone. Pete scored more overall points to take the President’s Cup – but it’s a driver’s five best that counts…
Third in the Champs was Brent Trengrove in the ’72 Camaro. Finally taming the Chev beast, Brent came out on top in the largest class of all, the big banger Nc cars, while in the overall, he just beat home a chasing field that included Don Knight (Cortina) and Andrew Williams (Torana), both of whom were less than 10 points adrift.
It’s a measure of how close the 2023 HTCAV Championship was that just 68 points covered the overall top ten.
Les Walmsley’s victory takes the amount of HTCAV Championship wins by Cortinas to 12 in 38 years – almost a third of the total. Interestingly, all bar two of those titles have been won by pushrod cars over the faster Lotus Cortinas.
Eighty members contested the 2023 Championships - 52 in Nc and 28 in Nb. The largest single category was Group Nc Over 5 Litres, with 23 representatives. The second largest was 13 - the burgeoning Group NbE ‘Cortina Revival’ class that delivered the fattest field of Dagenham Dashers since the late ’80s.
The HTCAV Championships have never been easy to win, but a popular class and a fast, reliable car is a good start.
In what was a hard-fought year, congratulations go to all competitors, big and small scorers alike.
JUST CARS HTCAV TOP TEN 2023
- Les Walmsley Ford Cortina GT 185 points
- Pete Meuleman Ford Mustang 289 183
- Brent Trengrove Chev Camaro 138
- Don Knight Ford Cortina GT 133
- Andrew Williams Holden Torana 130
- Gordon Cox Ford Cortina GT MkII 126
- Richard Hill Morris Cooper S 126
- Darren Collins Ford Mustang 302 122
- Geoff Munday Chev Camaro 119
- Adrian Moyle Chev Camaro 117