The Ford and Holden V8 Supercars that had us on the edge of our armchairs from 1993-2002 will be back on track at the 2014 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport from March 6-9.
A field of 30 cars is expected to grid up for several rolling-start demonstrations at the meeting, reviving memories of one of the greatest eras of Australian Touring Car racing.
Wearing their authentic, original race livery, the Phillip Island grid will see several Bathurst 1000 and Touring Car round champions back behind the wheel.
The cars include the Wynn’s Racing VT Commodore driven to victory at Bathurst in 1999 by Steven Richards and Greg Murphy and into third place in 2000 and the ex-Dick Johnson Racing AUII Shell-Helix Falcon that finished second at Bathurst in 2000 crewed by Paul Radisich and Jason Bright.
Famous Holdens formerly raced by Peter Brock, Larry Perkins, Jim Richards, and Wayne Gardner in the era and Falcons once seen in the hands of Dick Johnson, John Bowe and Glenn Seton and Alan Jones, are expected to take part in the Phillip Island demonstration.
A few will be in the hands of their original race drivers, with some big names due to be announced closer to the event according to Australian 5.0 Litre Touring Car Association founder, Troy Kelly.
Kelly was preparing one of the former Peter Jackson Falcons for the 2012 Muscle Car Masters when he realised there were a number of cars from the first decade of V8 Supercar racing currently languishing in garages and sheds with little racing available to them.
“There were probably 200-plus V8 Supercars built for racing in that era, as many of the teams ran three cars, including their own team cars plus another for a privateer,” he said.
“We decided to go with cars from 1993 to 2002, which gives us a good, broad range of cars across an era where there weren’t many key changes to the rules.
“V8 Supercars these days are custom built race cars whereas these were still production based cars. There was a lot of fabricated stuff but they were a lot more basic.”
Kelly soon found a number of these former racecars were already in the hands of fellow enthusiasts, many under restoration.
Former V8 Supercar Team owner Mike Imrie raced a series of VT, VS and VX Commodores and in a moment of nostalgia purchased the ex-James Brock Delta Europcar Commodore around five years ago. He has since acquired the ex-Gibson Motorsport Wynn’s Commodore of Steven Richards/Greg Murphy which is now configured as their 1999 Bathurst winner.
He plans to run both cars at the Phillip Island Classic, with the announcement of a ‘name’ second driver imminent.
Trakmaster Off-road Caravans manufacturer Craig Miles was similarly drawn to this era of V8 Supercars after racing a Group N VH Valiant Charger in Historic racing for some years.
“V8 Supercars was exciting, close racing back then, “ he recalled. “To own and drive one of the top touring cars of little more than a decade ago was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.”
His ex-Dick Johnson Racing team #18 car was the third of five AU Falcons built by DJR and made its debut in the 2000 Shell Championship round at Sandown, winning straight out of the box with Paul Radisich at the wheel.
After a back-to-back win at Surfers Paradise, Radisich partnered Jason Bright in the car in the FAI 1000 at Bathurst, finishing a close second to winners Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna.
The car then assumed the famous #17 for the 2001 season when Steve Johnson took over the car from his father Dick. The car later served as a team spare car before going on to further glory in the Development category, with driver Own Kelly claiming seven race wins in the 2004 Konica/Minolta series, the most of any car that year.
“It’s arguably the most successful AU Falcon ever raced,” said Craig Miles, who purchased the car fresh from a complete DJR rebuild.
Like Mike Imrie, he is looking forward to the day – they hope soon – when the Australian 5.0 Litre Touring Cars are accepted by CAMS as an Historic Motorsport category, rather than just a demonstration event.
However he assures those attending this year’s Phillip Island Classic that the 5.0 Litre Touring Car demos will be far from a ‘parade’.
“Let’s just say we’re planning to put on a good show,” he said. “No one will be queuing for a hamburger while we’re on!”
The 25th annual Phillip Island Classic from March 6-9 is being staged by the Victorian Historic Racing Register and is again supported by Shannons, CoolDrive, Penrite and Bosch, with new sponsors Zagame and Trico.