2006 Tasman Revival

Despite the best efforts of the weather, which alternated from sub-Saharan style heat on the Friday to Melbournian wind and rain for the next two days, industrial disputes and intransigent dock workers, the Tasman Revival meeting at Eastern Creek was an excellent first step in establishing an historic racing festival that may one day be spoken of in the same breath as England’s Goodwood Revival & the Laguna Seca meeting in the USA.

Let’s get the disappointments out of the way first, the few that there were. The weather over the weekend was chronic enough to keep all but the keenest anoraks away with a blisteringly hot first day. One entrant had a thermometer in the paddock which was reading 48 degrees in the shade. Mind you, plenty of that was coming back off the tarmac. Your current interlocutor made the mistake of sitting on a white concrete wall trackside during a break in the action. I believe that I may have left some skin behind. Come Saturday however, it struggled to break into the 20s and a brisk wind coupled with a thunderstorm made all photographers question their sanity. At least Sunday wasn’t wet. Just cold.

Ah well, not even the HSRCA can do much about the weather. This, coupled with a fairly limited advertising campaign meant that the crowds were quite small all weekend although this made for a rather relaxed atmosphere in the paddock, where one could move about without the aid of a broadsword.

The major disappointment of the weekend was that, due to the IR laws protest meetings on Thursday two containers of cars that had been brought all the way from the UK were either late or too late. The smaller crate containing a pair of Lotus’ arrived just in time for the Sunday final Tasman race but the larger one containing four cars, including the lovely ex-Rob Walker Racing Lotus 49 and the stunning Kieft GP, was still on the docks as the event ended. It is a great pity that Australian fans may never get to see these superb cars nor hear the astonishing sound of the Kieft’s Coventry Climax “Godiva” V8. In my (not so) humble opinion, that sound is only bettered by the 1.5 litre V16 Supercharged BRM. Those of you who ever heard the BRM in real life or on the “Into the Red” CD will know what I’m on about.

Now to the good stuff. And this may take a while. Although the theme of the event was covering the era of the Tasman Series (1964-69) the HSRCA had arranged for the inclusion of some stunning out of period entries. From New Zealand came the 1973 ex Denny Hulme McLaren M23, from the US was the 1972 Tyrrell 004 of Jackie Stewart, a Talbot Lago T26C and “Old Yeller 2”, which is worth a complete storey in its own right. It was built in the early 50s to combat the influx of the expensive European sports cars and took on, and often beat, the best from Ferrari and Maserati. Driven, not just by its owner Max Balchowsky, but also by the likes of Carroll Shelby and Dan Gurney, the car was a collection of parts purchased from local scrap yards. It may have looked like a mangy “Junk yard dog” but under the battered, faded yellow bodywork it was beautifully engineered. Many historic racing cars are now in much better condition than they ever were in period but thankfully the current owner, Californian Ernie Nagamatsu, understands the history of this car and has not made it look any better than its mangy beginnings. With a grin that lights up his entire face he describes the battered bodywork as being designed to make the car go faster. “You know, like the dimples on a golf ball.” With its booming Buick V8 and white-wall tyres it (and Ernie) quickly became a crowd favourite just as they have at Goodwood.

The local entries were pretty spectacular too. Michele Alboreto’s fire-spitting Turbocharged F1 Ferrari 156/85 from 1985, the sublime JPS Lotus 79 that took Mario Andretti to the ’78 World Championship, Jochen Rindt’s Gold Leaf sponsored Lotus 49, the Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT23 Alfa Romeo V8 and a rarely seen trio of Matich sports cars.

The feature race, the Tasman Cup Revival Race was won by John Smith in the Gold Leaf Lotus 49 after a stirring battle with Spencer Martin in the Brabham Alfa. Martin was the only driver who had actually raced in the Tasman Series that took part in the race, although there were plenty on hand to watch. The likes of 1969 champ, Chris Amon, Kevin Bartlett, Graham McRae, Roly Levis, Clive Millis and Alfredo Costanzo all showed up to watch their former mounts get put through their paces. In the end Smith just pipped Martin by 0.238 of a second after Martin, who had taken the lead at turn 9, led onto the straight.

The other races were run in a slightly more leisurely fashion with good wins to Des Wall in the ex-Geoghegen Mustang and Keith Berryman in the Matich SR3.

With a packed programme of 53 races and over 400 entries this weekend was an enthusiasts delight and one can only hope that the HSRCA can turn it into an annual event. If they do, I’m sure that it will rapidly become the premier historic Motorsport event in the Southern hemisphere bringing in even larger international entries.

Sam Snape