Wrapping Up the Heritage Touring Cars Season Opener at The Bend Motorsport Park


Wrapping Up the Heritage Touring Cars Season Opener at The Bend Motorsport Park

The 2018 Heritage Touring Car Series kicked off in style over the 13th to the 15th of April, when we joined the Shannons Nationals series to christen Australia’s newest motorsports facility – The Bend Motorsport Park.

The strong Heritage Touring Cars entry would encounter everything from near-perfect racing conditions to internal combustion-clogging dust storms over three days of tough competition, and with the circuit an unknown, round one was an opportunity to shake up the status quo.

Duncan Mackellar was quick to find speed both on the new circuit and in his new car, steering the 1990 Italian Superturismo Championship-winning Schnitzer BMW M3 to the fastest time in practice by some margin. Terry Lawlor was similarly speedy in the Shell Dick Johnson Sierra RS500 and Ed Singleton was particularly impressive, finishing the session third fastest in ‘Elvis’, the Group C STP VH Commodore.

Supercars Championship driver Jack Le Brocq joined us for qualifying, hopping into a car that’s the same age as he is and putting on a demonstration of just how fast such a machine can be in the hands of a professional. In an all-Sierra top three, Le Brocq qualified first, Tony Karanfilovski second in his first Heritage Touring Cars run in the ex-Glenn Seton Peter Jackson Sierra, and Terry Lawlor was third.

The three fastest Group C drivers completed the overall top ten, with Ed Singleton leading the older cars and ‘Elvis’ clearly enjoying stretching its legs around The Bend. Tony Sawford was hot on his heels in the ex-Allan Grice Craven Mild A9X and Dean How completed the top 10 in the magic JPS BMW 635CSi.

We got stuck into racing on Saturday morning and enjoyed some great competition. Jack Le Brocq continued his run at the front and, with his two closest playmates sadly leaving competition after qualifying, finished race one with a little breathing room. Adrian Allisey moved the ex-Leeson/Willmington Holden ‘Walkinshaw’ VL up into second place. Bill Cutler and David Towe were hot on his heels and finished the race separated by less than two tenths.

Ed Singleton carried his practice and qualifying pace through to the race events and was once again the first Group C driver home, climbing to fifth overall by the end of the session. Tony Sawford held on to his second-place Group C spot, now up to 7th overall just ahead of Lindsay Woollard, who finished third Group C in the ex-Alan Browne/Tony Edmondson Re-Car VC Commodore.

Woollard was the first member of a magic mid-field dice that included himself, Adrian Brady, Michael Logiudice and Justin Matthews. The four drivers crossed the finish line separated by barely a second, with Justin Nilsson completing the pack comfortably in their tow.

Meanwhile, the closest battle of the race took place a little further back and saw Bill Magoffin duking it out with Rodney Hatfield. Magoffin snuck the nose of his 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV home six hundredths ahead of the ex-Dustings & McRae Holden Torana L34 of Hatfield.

Le Brocq did not join competition for race two, leaving a Ford Sierra-sized gap in the front of the field that Mark Eddy was more than happy to capitalise on. He bounced back from a DNF in the first run to win the race. David Towe climbed two spots from his fourth place finish in race one to take the second step on the podium, relegating Adrian Allisey to third in the process.

In Group C competition Phillip Verwoert had a brilliant run in the Berklee Mazda RX7, finishing fifth overall just behind Bill Cutler. The Group A 635 CSi of Adrian Brady, twin Toranas of Tony Sawford and Michael Logiudice and Commodore VC of Lindsay Woollard put on a great show as they scrapped for 6th through to 9th, ultimately crossing the line in that order.

George Nittis and Justin Matthews enjoyed a fun fight over the last spot in the top 10, with Nittis and the Murray Carter XE Falcon eventually emerging victorious.

Race three saw us following GT3 Cup Challenge out on Sunday morning. Jack Le Brocq was back in the Sierra and continued to stretch the legend’s legs, finding even more pace in the car. He led the field home ahead of a brilliant dice between Allisey and Cutler.

Having dropped back to 15th in race two, Ed Singleton quickly climbed back into fifth place and was the first Group C car to cross the finish line. Tony Sawford followed in the A9X with John Mina completing the Group C top three aboard an ex-Jim Keogh John Sands Falcon XD.

Matched closely in lap times, if not cubic capacity, David Paterson and Rodney Hatfield were responsible for some of the tightest racing on Sunday morning. Paterson was able to sneak the little Corolla Sprinter ahead of the ex-Dustings & McRae Holden Torana L34 when it counted.

Group C went out for a feature race at lunchtime on Sunday, and the closely-matched field produced a classic Ford VS Holden line-up. While Nittis and Sawford scrapped neck-and-neck over second, John Mina was able to stretch out a small gap and claim a well-earned race win. Nittis led Sawford home, with Sawford claiming fastest lap.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Woollard and Shaun Tunny put on a great show to finish barely a tenth apart at the end of the five-lap race. Woollard claimed fifth, with Tunny bringing the ex-Bob Forbes/Kevin Bartlett A9X home sixth. Bill Magoffin and Neville Butler were also within tenths of each other for most of the race running near-identical lap times. Magoffin finished tenth, with Butler eleventh in his Escort Mk. 2.

Group A were back in the mix for race five, our final race of the event. Jack Le Brocq was again unassailable in the Sierra and was joined on the podium by Gibson Motorsport Skyline GTS-R pilot Mark Eddy and Adrian Allisey, who narrowly edged out Bill Cutler.

After playing at the pointy end all weekend, Tony Sawford was able to break through for a Group C class win and fifth overall in the last race of the event. John Mina was hot on his heels and Daniel Cotterill not far behind in the ex-Scotty Taylor/Keven Kennedy VH Commodore.

As is often the case, we saw some of the best racing deep into the field. Jamie McDonald, Neville Butler, Justin Matthews and David Paterson finished within sixth tenths of each other in a magic dice. McDonald in a Group A VK Commodore led the two Group C 2000cc Ford Escort Mk2s and Paterson’s ex-Bob Holden Motors Sprinter across the line.

Tony Sawford now leads the Group C series, with Justin Matthews hot on his heels and Bill Magoffin completing the top three. Bill Cutler sits in P1 in the Group A competition, followed by Adrian Allissey in second and Mark Eddy in third.

This being the first round on the new circuit, lap records were knocked down as quickly as they could be set up throughout the weekend. In Group C, Justin Matthews completed the weekend with the 1601-2000cc record, Justin Nilsson claimed the 2001-3000cc record and Ed Singleton led the big cars with the over 3001cc record. David Paterson set the under 1600cc record in Group A, with Bill Cutler setting the 1601-3000cc benchmark and Jack Le Brocq the over 3000 mark.

Thanks to Shannons Nationals for hosting this first round of the 2018 Heritage Touring Cars Series. It was an honour to unleash our storied historic Australian Group C & A touring cars on Australia’s newest motorsport facility.

Round 2 of the 2018 Heritage Touring Cars series will see us at Sydney Motorsport Park for Muscle Car Masters over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, June 9 -10.

Stay tuned to www.heritagetouringcars.com.au for more from the Legends of Bathurst!

Lead image thanks to Rhys Vandersyde of Insyde Media