Kicking Off the 2020 Heritage Touring Cars Season at the Phillip Island Classic

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Kicking Off the 2020 Heritage Touring Cars Season at the Phillip Island Classic

Photos by, and thanks to Aaron Mordue

After a long summer break, the Legends of Bathurst fired up over the weekend of the 6th to the 8th of March to contest round one of the 2020 Heritage Touring Cars season at the magnificent Phillip Island Classic.

A field of nearly forty Group C & A touring cars took to the track, including five that made their debut with Heritage Touring Cars series at the season opener. The ‘Classic is a big one, and saw the cars on track six times, with qualifying held on Friday morning and five races contested over the course of the weekend.

Competition kicked off with the Sierras of Bryan Sala and Tony Karanfilovski running away with qualifying. Victorian Bryan Sala set a blistering 1:43.18 to earn pole position for race one, while Karanfilovski was just two tenths slower on 1:43.75. Our BMW drivers locked up the next few rows, with the M3s of Duncan MacKellar, Bill Cutler, Greg Murphy, David Towe and Edward Sansil showing just how quick these cars are, even on an open layout like Phillip Island’s.

A split oil cooler for Karanfilovski in race one left Sala free to play up the front, knocking half a second off his qualifying time to set a fastest lap of 1:42.6 on the way to a race win. The BMWs also moved up the order, MacKellar securing second and Greg Murphy getting past Bill Cutler in a charge to the podium.

Western Australian Paul Stubber led the Group C field home in his ex-John Harvey Holden Dealer Team Torana A9X, jumping two spots to finish in 9th overall. Following him was a great scrap between Garry Kirwan, Jeff Trembath, Mark Taylor and Charlie O’Brien, who shared the same second of track space as they crossed the line. Trembath would steer the Advance Australia VC Commodore to second Group C, with Jim Richards third in the ex-JPS twin cam 635CSi.

2020 Phillip Island Classic

Behind them, Ed Singleton, Phil Verwoert, Dean How and Michael Logiudice put on a great show with an interesting mix of cars, the Commodore VH of Singleton and Lucky 13 VK Commodore of Logiudice bookending Phil’s RX7 and Dean’s storied Group 2 635CSi.

Bryan Sala continued to drive down his times at the front in race two, but Duncan MacKellar put in a monster drive in the M3 to finish just half a second behind, with the pair well clear of the rest of the field. Bill Cutler was able to earn his place on the podium back from Greg Murphy in the BMW Motorsport M3, while Chris Stillwell put the 1988 Caltex Sierra RS500 into the top five after a split fuel rail saw him miss qualifying.

Paul Stubber secured ninth place overall and first place group C finish with a sprint to the line against Greg Keam’s 1984 Capri Components Ford Mustang and Garry Kirwan’s Jagparts VL Commodore. Jim Richards moved up to second Group C, with Milton Seferis claiming third in the Janson Commodore VH. Ian Ross, David Harris and Andrew Cannon put on a good show a little further back, with Harris sneaking the BMW 325i between the big capacity Falcon and Torana.

2020 Phillip Island Classic

Chris Stillwell continued his charge through the field in race three, taking it all the way to the top and finishing just a half second ahead of Duncan MacKellar, who continued his incredibly consistent performance. Greg Murphy and Bill Cutler continued their back and forth, with Murphy getting the upper hand this time out for third place.

Milton Seferis took the Group C win in race three, climbing to 8th overall. Having only gotten a few qualifying laps in and starting from the rear of the field, Rick Allen spent the first two races climbing steadily, and broke into the top ten with a ninth place finish in race three. Garry Kirwan and Greg Keam muscled past Paul Stubber, who finished 12th overall and second group C just under a second ahead of Jim Richards.

2020 Phillip Island Classic

Just behind Richards, Charlie O’Brien and Mark Taylor organised a photo finish, only to be shown up by Ed Singleton, Dean How and Jeff Trembath who put on a three way Commodore, 635CSi and Commodore sprint to the line. Terry Lawlor had been having a good dice with Ed during his debut with the ex-Bob Morris Channel 7 Breville Racing 1980 Falcon XD until a broken push rod ended his weekend early. A little further back, Justin Matthews and Andrew Cannon had a great dice in the Ford Escort and Holden Torana.

Sunday morning and the final day of competition saw a longer six-lap race lead to one of the tightest finishes of the weekend. Chris Stillwell was able to defend his Saturday afternoon race win for his second of the weekend. Tony Karanfilovski climbed to second having spent the first three races of the weekend working back through the highly-competitive field. Greg Murphy was finally able to bump Duncan MacKellar off the podium to finish third, with the top four drivers separated by barely a second and a half.

2020 Phillip Island Classic

Paul Stubber got back into the groove, jumping back to eighth overall and first Group C, relegating Milton Seferis to second once more. Jim Richards completed the Group C top three.

With Rick Allen’s Ex-Tony Longhurst/Johnny Cecotto Benson & Hedges BMW E30 M3 in tenth overall, all six M3 drivers slotted neatly into the top ten.

Dean How outran Mark Taylor in the ex-Paul Trevethan/Andrew McDowell VL in another great scrap, finishing just behind Bryan Sala who was working the Sierra back up through the field. Phil Verwoert and Michael Roddy did the same, entertaining the crowds all the way to the finish line. David Paterson and Russell Keam also had a closely-matched scrap, showing that you don’t need 5L of cubic displacement for great motorsport.

We headed out one final time on Sunday afternoon for a 22-minute eleven-lap epic that produced a climactic finale decided by an epic one-lap dash after a safety car. After knocking on a race win all weekend, Duncan MacKellar finally took his place at the top of the podium, leaving Chris Stillwell just three tenths behind. Chatting with Chris after the race he told the story; “I got Murph by turn one, and then followed the widest quick BMW ever made home. It was great fun, and Duncan drove brilliantly to a well deserved win.”

Greg Murphy was back on the podium in third, with the hard-charging Sala working his way up to fourth. Bill Cutler and David Towe took their dice right to the finish line as well.

With Graeme Cameron just a second further down the road, Paul Stubber held on to eighth place in a very competitive pack to wrap up a consistent weekend at the head of Group C. Milton Seferis finished second Group C and  Jeff Trembath was able to sneak his VC commodore past Jim Richards for third Group C.

In the mid field, Michael Roddy, Dean How and Phil Verwort had a great race, as did JCraig Foster and Justin Matthews.

We saw two lap records fall at the meeting, with Duncan MacKellar knocking two seconds off his own record for 2-3 litre Group A cars and Craig Foster breaking Justin Matthew’s decade-old record for under 2-litre Group A cars.

Heritage Touring Cars Crew 2020

The Phillip Island Classic was, as always, a magnificent feat of organisation and hospitality and a thrill for the entire Heritage Touring Cars field. Thanks to all involved for a magic weekend of classic motorsport.

Thanks as well for all of the drivers, crews, families and friends who support Heritage Touring Cars and of course everyone who comes out to events to see the cars in action and say ‘Hi!’

The Legends of Bathurst will return at the HRCC’s Autumn Historic Warwick at Morgan Park, May 9-10.

Photos by, and thanks to Aaron Mordue