10 November 2018
An enthusiastic group of BMWDCM members attended on the Saturday qualifying and events sessions of this year’s VHRR Sandown Historics race meeting. We had access to the area known locally as Red Hill which gave us an excellent viewing position. Red Hill is adjacent to the Penrite Bridge which the race cars pass under when coming out of Dandenong Road Corner into the esses ahead of the main straight. From this vantage point you can see most of the track, and due to its elevated position, there are not many obstructions either.
Prior to arriving at the Sandown Circuit, we had assembled at a nearby hotel car park. We shared this meeting point with several other car clubs who had some magnificent machinery of their own – plenty of 60’s & 70’s Toranas (including some in replica war paint from the period), Mustangs old and new, some early 60’s Holden sedans and ute and 2 very exotic Prince Gloria sedans. Quite a sight, and we hadn’t even got to the track yet! Once we were credentialled and sorted by our intrepid leader, Lawrence Glynn, the BMWDCM convoy headed off to the circuit.
We shared Red Hill with yet more historic and significant club cars, including early Toyota Celicas, a Studebaker Golden Hawk, a couple of Oldsmobiles, early Ford Cortinas and yet more Toranas & Holdens. You could spend a day just drooling over the machines in this car park, never mind those on the track. This is a really pleasing aspect of these events, with each car club happy to show off their cars and socialise with anyone who is interested.
The early track events on the Saturday were practice and qualifying laps for each of the 21 classes for cars entered for the event. That sounds like a lot of racing and a lot of cars – and it is. There were 346 entries for this 2-day event, and although not all of them made it onto the track, most did. Some races included 2 or more classes, in particular the Group A and C Touring Cars 80’s and the earlier Big Bangers. But every class and race had its standout cars that many of us could remember the bygone era of our youth when motor racing was very, very big in Victoria (anyone remember the live ‘Brian’s Speed Shop’ ads when local motor racing was televised live on ATV0 ?). Sedans, Sports saloons and open types, MGs, Triumphs, open wheelers including Formulas V & Ford and the awesome Formula 5000 cars. Even some ‘Specials’ engineered and built by their privateer owners in the 50’s & 60’s. Pretty much any kind of racing car ever raced in Australia was represented on the day.
The other great feature of these events is that the pits are open to everyone on track. No special permits or extra payments needed here – just go for a walk. The atmosphere is fantastic with race drivers and crews happy to invite us punters into their garages to look over their cars and equipment. They are just as enthusiastic and proud of their cars as what we are, and many are people like us with an interest in cars and racing. No big budgets on show, no factory teams just toilers & privateers having a blast on the track.
These people should also be congratulated on how well these historic racers are presented and cared for. Some cars were championship winners in their day and still carrying their original signage and liveries (from an era when smoking was fashionable and tobacco advertising was amusing). Walking around the pits was a very nostalgic experience for me as when I was a child we lived in nearby Springvale and I was a frequent visitor (sometimes un-invited) to the Sandown track and to the old pits near the dam. We found openings in the fence when our pocket money had run out, and we would sneak into the pits from the trailer park that used to be behind the old pits. At least on Saturday I was a legitimate visitor so didn’t have to look over my shoulder too much!
The on-track entertainment was first class, with plenty of noise, great driving and just a few mishaps. There is something almost magical hearing V8s and the high revving turbos screaming around, and nothing beats a Formula 5000. Thanks to Alfredo Costanzo & his mates for developing this class in the 70’s and still running them around today. They make the ground shake as they pass by at speed. It’s amazing what you get out of the humble GMH 308 V8 when its attached only to a couple of rails, a seat and a wheel on each corner.
A great day of nostalgia, head to head hard racing and awesome machines and people. I can thoroughly recommend this event to everyone for next year. The Sandown Circuit itself has a significant place in our history. It is believed that Sandown hosted the very first official car race in Australia in 1904. The area was initially established in 1888 as a horse racing track named Oakleigh Park. It changed name in 1892 to Sandown Park in honour of a similarly named equine track in England. Sandown was shut down in 1931 due to lack of government funding. It was re-opened in 1961 for motor racing, largely on the current circuit layout although the pits have since moved to the current location (at a cost of $600,000 in 1982 as part of the failed alterations for international endurance sports car events! – Ed) and the Dandenong Road esses have been re-aligned as well.
To round out a great day, we surprisingly also collected an award for Best Car Club Display on Red Hill. Really this was recognition for Lawrence’s tireless work to get us organised and well presented in the first place, and for his very savvy placement of our site, bunting and tent. Well done, Lawrence.
Jim Tucker | Member #26
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne