Adelaide’s Victoria Park once again reverberated to the sound of multiple Formula One cars at the recent Adelaide Motorsport Festival Victoria Park Sprint, held on a shortened version of the famous street circuit in the parklands fringing the CBD in mid April.
With Adelaidians still a little bitter over the brutal theft of our popular Grand Prix by the Victorian Government in 1995, the Adelaide Motorsport Festival provided an opportunity to relive those glory days and dream of the remote possibility that the top tier of motorsport may return to our streets one day.
But more on the Formula One cars later, because solely focusing on them would be selling the Adelaide Motorsport Festival short. Whilst our favorite open wheelers stole the limelight, there was a strong support program of classes jam packed with all manner of interesting and exotic machinery.
The Victoria Park Sprint formed the second day of the two-day festival and consisted of a timed sprint around the section of permanent circuit in Victoria Park. After negotiating the famous Senna Chicane, competitors turned hard right for a sprint up Wakefield Street before another hard right hairpin sent them back onto the permanent track and into Victoria Park once more. Whilst the cars were not out-and-out racing, very spirited driving was permitted and indeed encouraged.
This was almost the best aspect of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival as it created a relaxed atmosphere where people could wander about, inspect the cars and talk to the drivers and crew. It didn’t matter if it was a bottom tier Alfa or a World Championship winning Formula One racer; the access to the cars was the same for all.
There was a several-hundred strong car show, where club members were invited to bring out their pride and joy for some off-track appreciation. The quality of the show was very high, and it would have been possible to loose an entire morning here alone.
But as good as a static show is, it’s no match for an on-track one. The Historic Racing class harked back to the golden era of motor racing in this country with a wide variety of cars, ranging from the 1925 Amilcar Grand Sport SC of Angus Mitchell through to the vaunted 1969 Matich SR4 of Nigel Tait, pictured. The Matich was built for the 1968 Can-Am series but never made it, instead racing in the 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship where from 19 starts it achieved an unbelievable 19 pole positions, 15 race wins and 8 lap records. It is still powered by an original Repco-Brabham quad-cam V8 and sees regular spirited demonstration, however the engine must be treated gently as it is the only one in existence; the replacement of any damaged parts due to an over-rev or other error is not an option.
Other interesting cars in this class included the first ever Lotus Formula One car (the only remaining 1958 Lotus 12), a 1948 Lago-Talbot Type 26C and ‘Black Bess’ (pictured), the 1938 Ford/Mercury V8 Special that won the 1950 Australian Grand Prix at Nuriootpa with Doug Whiteford behind the wheel.
Mixed up in all this mayhem was a car bearing Any Given Reason stickers, the Alfa Romeo Sprint of my father Mike Coles. He wasn’t the slowest car of the field by far, but still had his work cut out to avoid being lapped by the GT-HO Falcon of Rob Vanderkamp. Being lapped meant he only got three laps instead of four, so Dad drove the wheels off the little Alfa to make sure he got his four laps. His beaming smile at the end of it said it all.
The Porsche Through the Ages class featured a wide spectrum of the Stuttgart marque, ranging from the exotic 718 RSK of Rene Felkl, the 901 of Stewart Kay through a variety of 911’s, a 944, a 928 and up to the modern power of the 997 GT3.
The Racing & Sports class was one of the fastest on course, comprised of cars including the pictured Radical SR8 LM driven by Daniel Munro, several Clubman’s, Formula 2 & 3’s, a Formula Ford and the locally built Ultra LMR of Andrew Weber.
The Sports Coupe class was a Japanese walkover, with a sole Porsche 944 fighting a brace of modified Mazda’s, Nissan’s and Toyota’s. One car of interest in this class was the pictured FD RX7 of Michael Linke, an Adelaide old boy who now lives in Singapore. Anyone who’s been to Singapore will know of the high cost of cars there, so Michael has built and is campaigning the RX7 in Australia because it is still cheaper to do that than to own a car in Singapore. The RX7 is the star of a series of feature articles in Singaporean car magazine Torque about Michael’s racing and rally exploits over here, including an upcoming article on the Adelaide Motorsport Festival.
Tristan Catford was one of the quicker cars in this class in his Galant VR4, the speed a combination of both the state of tune of the car and Tristan’s skill and commitment behind the wheel. It may still be fitted with small brakes, but Tristan was punting it hard enough to have them glowing bright orange in broad daylight.
One of the most hotly contended classes was the Sports Touring Car class, a group featuring highly modified but relatively stock looking production sports cars. There were several 4AG and 20V powered Corolla’s and Sprinters, all of whom were regularly three, two and one wheeling it through the Senna Chicane, sometimes carrying opposite lock too.
In the true spirit of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, Peter Axford brought out his immaculate and extremely rare 1970 Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato 1300 for a run. The Junior Z is mechanically identical to the Alfa 105 series GT Junior’s, but is a limited production vehicle fitted with a hand crafted body by Zagato.
One of the hardest aspects of the day was trying to decide if you should stay trackside and watch the action, or take the dangerous step and head into the pits. There was so much going on there that it was possible to loose hours without even realising it.
A dangerous distraction could be found in the form of the trade stalls, selling all manner of tempting goods. The stalls selling vintage posters, model cars and racing parts were an obvious trap, so I carefully avoided them in an attempt to save my wallet. The problems came in the form of the stalls who lured you in with intricate displays, such as the team from Heywood Clothing. I made my way to their stand (‘the long lunch’) to inspect their MkII Jaguar and Triumph Cafe Racer, posed with vintage picnic ware.
The Adelaide Motorsport Festival also catered for the demands of those looking to purchase something a little more realistic, and held a small-scale vehicle and memorabilia auction. Several vehicles were on offer but my favorite was this Martini liveried Lancia Delta Integrale.
Auctioneer and regular competitor Sean Bennett took the stage, running the bidding to a crowd of people. By far the most popular item was the original artwork for the event poster, a unique item that is sure to become a future treasure. Renowned motorsport artist Peter Hersey, famous for creating all of the Goodwood Festival of Speed posters, was commissioned to paint the work featuring the Beatrice-Lola, a D-Type Jaguar and a racing motorbike. I was hoping it would be passed in and I dreamed of negotiating it into my living room at a bargain price, but the cluster of frenzied bidders put paid to that unrealistic idea.
One of the rarest cars in the Supercar Sprint was the Subaru Impreza 22B of Chris Meulengraaf. One of just 424 built in 1998 to commemorate Subaru’s third straight World Rally title, the 22B is a car of subtlety – to the untrained eye it doesn’t look worlds apart from a regular STi coupe, but its changes are numerous. Still to this day, the 22B is as close as you can get to a factory built, road legal WRC car.
… with an unexpected, left-of-field entry in Jon Williams’ 1969 Triumph 2000 Mk1. It makes a lot of sense though, given it has completed more genuine tarmac rally miles than almost any other car in that class. It was the nicest sounding car of that group, too.
Whilst they were not out there at competitive speeds, there was a strong contingent of two-wheeled friends putting on a spirited demonstration run behind the Pace Car. The field ranged from the classic cafe racer Norton’s and Triumph’s we all love…
… to slightly older but no less exciting machinery. This lovely old single-cylinder certainly didn’t look the fastest from the outside, but I’d bet it would still feel as if you’re hitting a million miles an hour riding this thing and I’d certainly wager it would be just as much fun as a modern sports bike.
The V8 Performance class contained a lot of unexpected but logical entries too, with the Ford GT of Kevin Weeks, the Ferrari 360 Challenge of Keith Wong, the Porsche 928 of Jed Richards and the Mercedes-Benz 500SLC of Michael Poll-Jonker duking it out with the more traditional Holden and Ford varieties. I never thought I’d admit this but arguably the most interesting car in this class, from a historical viewpoint at least, was the 2002 Stone Brothers Racing AU Falcon V8 Supercar of Chris Smerdon. Smerdon is a past V8 Supercar driver himself, and his AU wore the full livery of David Besnard’s entry for 2002. It even featured the stickers of long forgotten sponsors – anyone remember Smint? What ever happen to those little breath fresheners?
What makes this particular car especially salient is that in the 1985 Adelaide Grand Prix, Alan Jones was the first to head out for free practice. That means that this exact car was the first ever Formula One car to lap the Adelaide Street Circuit. And with a return to turbo power for the 2014 season, it’s interesting to look back at what a turbo car was like in 1985. Just 1.5 litres from the Hart 415T four cylinder, but depending on boost anywhere from 700-1000hp. It was designed by Neil Oatley and John Baldwin, with aerodynamics the responsibility of Ross Brawn.
Another of Jones’ cars at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival was the very 1980 Williams FW07B in which he won his World Championship in. A few years ago this car did a few demonstration laps at the Clipsal 500, and Any Given Reason took a closer look at it then.
John Bowe set the fastest time of the day in the ex Hans-Joachim Stuck Jr Jagermeister 1974 March 741. With Fresh Cosworth DFV power for the ’74 season, Stuck drove this car to a fifth place at Kylami, a fourth in Spain and a seventh at the Nurburgring Nordschleiffe.
Peter Brennan ran his Warsteiner-Arrows A1B-06, the final example of just the second design from the newly formed Milton-Keynes team in 1978. This particular car, chassis number 6, was raced by Ricardo Patrese with the popular Cosworth DFV powerplant in the 1979 South African, USA, Spanish, Belgian and Monaco Grands Prix. Its highest placed finish was fifth in Belgium.
Ride on board for a lap of the Victoria Park circuit aboard the Arrows.
Any Given Reason has been fortunate enough to attend some of the world’s top historic events in the last six months including both the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival, which makes comparison easy. The Adelaide Motorsport Festival is of course not on the same level as the Goodwood events, nothing is, but it has the same aura. I don’t know what exactly that is and what makes it feel that way, but the organisers are on the right track. It’s a bit like a good GT40 replica – it’s not the real thing and it never will be, but it’s still a damn good sports car in its own right.
And then you consider that the Adelaide Motorsport Festival is a first time event, run by a group of volunteers from the Sporting Car Club. There are certainly improvements for next year and I know these will be taken on-board, but for a first time event it was one hell of an effort. A lot of people doubted that they could pull the Victoria Park Sprint off, however they did it spectacularly. The buzz around the pits was electric; everyone from John Bowe down is looking forward to next year.
As I was shooting these photos at the Senna Chicane it got me thinking about my old Fiat X1/9 sitting in the shed at home, almost finished its restoration. There’s no way I can sit on the sidelines next year, and I made a secret pledge to have it running and entered in 2015. If enough people are thinking like that, and I suspect they are, then the Adelaide Motorsport Festival is set to become one of highlights of the Australian historic racing calendar.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
The official event DVD will soon be available for purchase through video partners New Era Media.
A hillclimb up the famous Windy Point Road was held on the Saturday as part of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, and I entered that driving our Alfa Romeo Sprint. The hillcimb was sadly cut short due to a couple of unfortunate incidents, and as a result I wasn’t able to collect enough material for a full report. I was part of the lucky half of the field that did get a full run, and for what it’s worth it rates as one of the coolest things I’ve done. Tearing up Windy Point Road at full noise overlooking the city, and then rounding the lookout full of spectators was an incredible experience. A lot of people complained about the bumps, but our car was set up perfectly for them and I was confident of setting a competitive time.
Photographer and friend of Any Given Reason Chris was unfortunately injured when he was struck by an out of control car in a very unexpected circumstance. My thoughts and best wishes, and I’m sure the same from every person reading this, are with you Chris for a speedy recovery. We can’t wait to see you back out there with us!