Formula Junior @ Calder Park – 1st March 2008
After a three-week break, the Formula Junior Golden Jubilee regrouped at Bob Jane's Calder Park Raceway near Melbourne's new airport. We were missing Jonathan Williamson (climbing Mount Everest ...Yes, really!!), UK tour organiser, Bob Birrell, following the sad death of his mother, and Peter Anstiss, still on business in Singapore, while a few of the New Zealand juniors had remained at home. However, the good news was the addition of period FJ racer, and AFJA secretary, Kelvin Prior, with his Lynx-Borgward 1100 FJ to be driven by Derek Smith, Michael Shearer in his T59, magnificently restored by father Kevin, the Jolus FJ-1 of Geoff Fry, and the debut of Norm Falkiner 's Stanguellini CS 00156, immaculately restored by Jim Hardman, releasing Kim Shearn's 18 for Kim himself, having his first single-seater race for about 25 years.
But that was not to be all, for the cold and wet Calder that greeted us on Friday for morning pre-practice was enlivened by the arrival of Don and Jeanette Thalon, towing the Corvette that is due to run in the Grand Prix support race (with Ned Spieker's 23, as well), but inside the van was Don's surprise...having sold the T56 to Colin May in South Island, he had acquired Murray Bryden's MRC Lotus, a period 22 Type copy, with Renmax front bodywork, and after two weeks of all nighters, here she was, ready to go!
By midday the skies were looking brighter, and the track drying out, which was a very good thing, as the main straight doubles as a major Drag Racing strip, and where the circuit joins, the combination of changed track surface and a layer of rubber and oil laid by the dragsters must be lethal in the pouring rain, as one faces the concrete barrier on the track edge at this point... Only a few ventured to find out!... The rest headed for the pit top where the AJFA and NZFJR ladies provided another of their excellent spreads.
There was plenty of time in the afternoon for track familiarisation, giving Duncan a chance to find his feet in NOTA 038, vacated by Jac Nellemann after NZ, after some stirling effort by Peter Larner to loosen the belts [ It was not JUST the lunch ! ] and no dramas were apparent, except, once again in the Gemini camp, where, ever helpful Vern Williamson, and Sir John were seen, as before, removing the Mk IIIA's motor.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, with what appeared to be a leisurely start, but late changes in the practice timetable found some drivers only just making it onto the circuit to record a time at all, and Peter Benbrook in the ( Emeryson Experimental ) front wheel drive Elfin Mk 1 not even managing that: luckily a few extra minutes were gleaned when the Jolus ground to a halt, and the red flag came out while it was removed. Sadly, John Chisholm's Gemini was not going to be a runner today, so it was Peter Strauss a second ahead of AFJA President, David Reid ( T59), Ned Spieker, and the two other BT2s of Graham Brown and John Rapley, with Don Thallon, first time out in the MRC Lotus, a superb 6th.
It was a quick turnaround to top up the petrol before Race 1, with only Peter Boel's Lola Mk 5A missing, still replacing a broken tappet, while the two West Australian cars were impeded from track entry for having no engine covers. Neil McCrudden was quick to reply that his 22 was logbooked without, and as the lady marshall knew no better, he escaped, but Lance Carwardine ( McEntee FJ) was not so flight afoot , and he was turned back to the paddock, to add to his woes, having already missed official practice for a quick visit to the doctor's surgery.
With speed very much of importance, the varied Brabham's of Peter Strauss (BT6), Ned Spieker (BT2/6) and Graham Brown (BT2) were the pick of the field, with Ned harrowing Peter throughout. David Reid spun away his chances, leaving Roger Ealand with a bent radius rod on his 18. Excellent performances, in 4th for Bill Hemming (Elfin), 6th for the MRC, and 9th for Kim Shearn followed, David Reid recovered to 7th, and Clive Wilson (Lola Mk 2) again had a convincing front engined win. Duncan thoroughly enjoyed the NOTA, clocking in 16th of the 22 finishers.
Racing then took a break as all officials and teams partook of an excellent Hog Roast provided by the circuit, before racing resumed with the second of the two races that were to count for the Tasman FJ Series. Duncan's race was to be short lived, as the clutch went straight to the floor after only one lap, although, in the event, it was only a cyrclip that had come out. Ned led this time from Strauss and Rapley, after Strauss missed a gear, but the familiar order of Strauss, Spieker and Brown was in place by lap 2, after a somewhat breathtaking pass by Peter on the outside, after the straight end and it stayed that way to the flag. Roger Ealand had straightened that radius arm with the aid of David Fenton's hire car, and some rope, and a lap in the 1m10s showed that all was now well, although dropping finally from 5th to 7th spot, after a good battle with Bill Hemming and Thallon. John Holmes joined this field, after long delays at the airport, in his Lotus 18.
The third race of the day was to be a 10 lapper, but not for" points", so several of the leaders held their cars back for Phillip Island, leaving David Reid's T 59 a comfortable winner, and, for a change, under no pressure to spin! There was a close train for the next places, with Kim Shearn in an excellent second spot on his 18 debut day, and a delighted Vern Williamson in the T3 Ausper in third, ahead of Peter Boel (Lola 5A) , making up for all his past troubles. Michael Shearer was making a good comeback in his T59-BMC after starting from the back, due to the distributor wire coming loose in the second race, until the selector broke in the ERSA box, on examination, an old crack having finally given way, while Don Thallon did better after a similar indiscretion, storming back up to 5th. Out at the back however, Duncan had handed the NOTA over to John Chisholm to have a run, and having never sat in it before, and despite finding it not a little tight, John worked his way steadily from the back to an excellent 6th spot at the flag, with Holmes in 8th place this time.