Wrapping Up 2023 Round 2: Autumn Historic Warwick


Wrapping Up 2023 Round 2: Autumn Historic Warwick

After an incident packed round 1 at the Phillip Island Classic in March, it was very pleasing to see such a strong entry for round 2 at the HRCC’s Autumn Historic Warwick over May 12 – 14, 2023. 25 cars were entered for the event, which is just one short of our all-time record. Of course, nearly all of the Queensland-based competitors were there, and as usual we had strong support from our NSW friends and kudos to Nev Butler who made a solo trek all the way from Melbourne with his 2-litre Escort. 

Sadly, Mark Taylor’s ex- Paul Trevethan VL Commodore was a late scratching when his engine builder received seven matching pistons from their overseas supplier – one short of the required number for a 5-litre Holden V8. 

Friday practice was run over four sessions in cool and dry conditions.  Everyone was sad to see David Towe sidelined after spinning a bearing in his immaculate JPS BMW M3. The car that Jim Richards & Tony Longhurst had shared at the 1987 World Championship Bathurst 1000 was now out for the weekend; a major disappointment after travelling 13 hours from west of Sydney.

Saturday’s programme started with a 20-minute qualifying session in cold and dry weather. Most competitors were on their second flying lap when the red flag came out. Kyle Alford came to a halt near Turn 7 in the ex-Bob Morris Channel 7 XD Falcon, with the fuel system blocked, after the foam had disintegrated in the tank. The team worked hard for the rest of the day to clean it out and get the car running again.

The session was restarted with just over ten minutes to go, but Ian Helsdon was unable to leave pitlane after a battery failure in the ex-Malcolm Rea Corolla Sprinter. Fortunately, a replacement was sourced in town and the car ran perfectly for the rest of the weekend.

Chris Bowden was unable to set a lap time after the alternator cable failed in his Tokico Mazda RX-7, the car that Tony Mulvihill shared with Brian Nightingale in the 1984 Bathurst 1000.  Darryl Leslight didn’t get much further, after suffering one of several tyre punctures over the course of the weekend in his George Sheppard built Isuzu Gemini, a car that Gary Scott and Phil Brock both drove at Bathurst in the early ‘80s.  

The battle for pole position was intense, Brian Henderson was victorious with 1:22.7 in his Nissan Bluebird, replicating the feat George Fury achieved in similar conditions during the Hardies Heroes shoot-out for pole at Bathurst in 1984. Tony Alford was just two-tenths slower, in his Gibson Motorsport Nissan Skyline, the car that Mark Skaife drove in the 1988 ATCC.  Tony Karanfilovksi was third fastest and less than a second off the pace in his ex-Glenn Seton Peter Jackson Sierra. 

Steve Axisa did very well to be fourth outright and first of the naturally aspirated cars in his recently acquired VH Commodore, a car that was shared by Scotty Tylor and Kevin Kennedy for several Bathurst 1000 races in the 1980s. 

Glenn Gerstel’s ex-Fred Geissler VH Commodore rounded out the top 5, ahead of Craig Neilson in the Xerox Shop Mitsubishi Starion, one of the first Group A cars in Australia, originally run by Brian Sampson and later by Scotty Taylor.  Ed Singleton was seventh on the grid in his STP Roadways Commodore.  Norm Mogg was eighth fastest with his Holden Racing Team VL Commodore, the car that Neal Crompton shared with Win Percy in the 1989 Bathurst 1000. Adam Workman was ninth fastest in the second of the Nissan Bluebirds. Frank Binding rounded out the top 10 in his Army Reserve XD Falcon.

Craig Foster just missed out on a top 10 Grid spot with his usual giant-killing performance in his 1600cc Toyota Team Australia Corolla, the car that was shared by John Smith & Drew Price in the World Championship Bathurst 1000 of 1987, was again fastest under 2-litre car.  Experienced Trans Am racer Anthony Tenkate was 12th fastest, making his debut in the Heritage Touring Car series at the wheel of his newly acquired ex-Warren Cullen VH Commodore. 

Next was Gunnedah’s Greg Keam, in his Bob Holden Motors Escort, fastest under 2-litre Group C car and in fact the last under 2-litre Group C car to race in the Bathurst 1000. Second in class was the ever improving Peter Woods in the Chickadee Chicken Celica, ahead of Russel Keam in the Bob Holden Motors Escort RS2000.

Shaun Tunny made a welcome return to Morgan Park in the A9X Torana that Bob Forbes shared with HRCC patron Kevin Bartlett at Bathurst in the late ‘70s. Ninth row of the grid was shared by David Paterson in his Bob Holden Motors Corolla Sprinter and Victorian Nev Butler in his 2-litre Escort. Final qualifier was new driver Scott Robinson, in his first race meeting, at the wheel of his JPS BMW 325i, recently purchased from the estate of his late friend David Harris, a popular competitor, dearly missed by the HTC fraternity.  

The first of four races for the weekend was run on Saturday afternoon, over 10 laps of the 3.0km circuit. Brian Henderson set the fastest lap and won by four seconds, from pole position, his turbo charged Nissan Bluebird enjoying the cool, dry air.

Tony Alford retained second place in his Skyline, the Nissan turbo pair finished an amazing 22 seconds clear of their pursuers! Final spot on the podium was claimed by Ed Singleton in his V8 Commodore, just one second clear of Steve Axisa, in his similar mount. Glenn Gerstel’s Group C Commodore rounded out the top 5 placings, ahead of Norm Mogg in his Group A Commodore.  

Craig Neilson’s Starion was next and then it was a long way back to Craig Foster’s ex-works Corolla, dominating its class as usual and the only little car to finish on the lead lap; beating home Shaun Tunny’s ninth placed Torana. Kyle Alford recovered from a rear of grid start, to round out the top 10 in his V8 Falcon.

Russell Keam finished in 12th place and was the last car to be lapped, narrowly winning a tight battle with Greg Keam and Peter Woods for victory in the Group C under 2-litre class.

Adam Workman retired with a lap to go when his Bluebird started misfiring and Tony Karanfilovski was out for the weekend with an engine failure in his Sierra.

The last race on Saturday was a six lap handicap race for the Lloyd Bax Trophy. Ian Helsdon won the start in the Corolla Sprinter to lead scratch man Darryl Leslight’s Gemini up the hill and under the bridge for the first time, closely followed by Nev Butler’s Escort and Scott Robinson’s BMW. 35 seconds later, David Paterson’s Corolla Sprinter led the second group away from the line, all of them in four-cylinder cars. Kyle Alford stalled at the start and was left behind by the other cars in the third group, but was able to restart the car and continue.

According to the grid sheet, the fastest cars were supposed to give the scratch men a 65 second head start, but incredibly, they were still sitting on the grid when the slower cars arrived to complete their first lap! Evasive manoeuvres by the stunned and bewildered drivers ensured that no contact was made and a potentially horrific incident was very narrowly avoided. This put Nev Butler in the lead, ahead of Ian Helsdon.  

Late in the race, Helsdon was booted off the podium by Craig Foster and Greg Keam, both of whom stormed through from the second group. Anthony Tenkate rounded out the top 5 finishers after leading the third group away from the start.

Sunday morning was very cool and dry with a 10-lap race for the John French & Glenn Seton trophies. After a very close battle for the lead, Steve Axisa took victory by just a quarter of a second!  

It was smiles all around and many people were glad to see the quiet Sydneysider record his first race win and his name will be engraved on the John French perpetual trophy for Group C! Tony Alford was second across the line and won the Glenn Seton trophy for Group A, an incredible 20 seconds in front of third placed Ed Singleton. Glenn Gerstel’s Commodore finished fourth, well clear of Norm Mogg, making it four V8 Commodores in the top 5.

Greg Keam was first of the 2-litre cars, 17 seconds clear of Craig Foster in the 1600cc Corolla.

Our final race of the weekend was another 10 lapper, run on Sunday afternoon. Dark clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped significantly before the start of the race, causing many anxious glances toward the threatening skies.  

Brian Henderson was very fortunate that the grid was determined by the results of race 1, not the previous event, enabling him to lead away from pole, before setting another fastest lap, on his way to a lonely victory. Tony Alford was the bridesmaid again, finishing 17 seconds behind Henderson and three seconds clear of Steve Axisa, who enjoyed a close race long battle with Ed Singleton. Glenn Gerstel’s Commodore rounded out the top 5, another ten seconds behind.

Craig Foster was back on top of the small car fraternity, finishing tenth outright and narrowly beating Greg Keam and Peter Woods, who was the last car to finish on the lead lap.

All involved were most relieved when the rain started to fall, AFTER the racing had finished.

The next round of the 2023 Heritage Touring Car Series will be a non-championship invitational event at the HSRCA Sydney Classic, at Eastern Creek in June. 

Following that, the HRCC have invited the Heritage Touring Cars to return to Qld Raceway, for the first time in many years, as part of the Shannons Historic Qld event in July.

Visit heritagetouringcars.com.au and the Heritage Touring Cars Facebook page for further updates and information.

David Paterson