A description of the Nationals Vintage A Teamrace held at Albury/Wodonga on the NSW/Victorian state border, commencing December 2002.
What a beautiful day... plenty of sunshine, blue sky, light breezes and well mowed green grass. Perfect for Classic B Team Racing. In the now famous words of Contest Director Fiona Wilson, "They went round and round, up and down and made lots of noise" Thanks Fiona for a great job!
1. Peter Roberts and Harry Bailey with their Backtrack.
2. Dave Currie with his Norvel 25 powered Dalesman.
3. Mark McDermott and John Taylor with the Rocket they used for the race.
4. Double Dice used by Mark Ellins and Graeme Wilson to snatch second place.
5. Bob Fry with his Eta powered Crescendo.
6. One of Australia's most successful racers with back to back wins at successive Nationals: John Hallowell's Flying Purple People Eater.
There were a wide variety of models. Some stars from the 60's like the Galaxie, Crescendo Double Dice and Dalesman and a gaggle of own designs, all conforming to the rules of 1965. The engines at the field included OS FP 25's, LA 25's, a Thunder Tiger 25, an ETA 29 replica and an American motor Norvel 25 with a ceramic liner. Surprisingly, no Enya 29's were seen. Where was Peter Hatherell? He usually does well with his Enya.
Nine teams entered and eight made the starting line. An indication of the even field was that all eight teams recorded an official time of under 4 minutes. Mark McDermott and Richard Justic set the pace in practice, circulating solo at 116mph, or 15.5 seconds for 7 laps. That's almost exactly what the best ETA 29's managed in the early sixties. Their all white 'Rocket' was fitted with an OS 25FP with Robin Heirn's standard M.R.S. modifications. This particular motor has excellent compression. It proved its performance in the first heat with a new heat record of 3.06.94. Mark was understandably wearing a smile a mile wide. In fact it resembled a Hammond organ. Yes, he was pleased, as were his support crew of Peter Morandini and John Taylor.
Graeme Wilson and Mark Ellins were certainly quicker than last year with the red 'Double Dice'. Their PB heat time of 3.19.66 was going to make it difficult for other teams to make the top three. Their vast experience and well oiled, smooth teamwork gave these two a distinct advantage. They really know the ropes.
Jim and Colin Ray were full of expectation. It's time they won another big Classic B race. It would certainly please Glenis... Their LA 25 was running fast with good laps and the Cosmics just needed a touch of luck to be on the money. However, the Gremlins once again were taking a ride on the Firebrand's orange wings. Little things went wrong and scuttled the dream of a Nats win.
Last years winners John Hallowell and Keith Baddock had been trying hard to get their gear working well enough to successfully defend their title. Despite testing three other models during the year with LA 25's, they decided to again go with the 25FP and 'Flying Purple People Eater'. The new 'Swooper' was close to the pace and recorded the smart heat time of 3.14.44, despite a landing bounce that probably cost a chance of equalling the heat record. Never mind, there's a long year ahead.
Harry Bailey and Peter Roberts had the new Backtrack howling away and looking good in practice. Unfortunately, the FP 25 was not going quite as well as it should and it was asking a lot for it to stand up and be counted in this fast company at the Nationals. A laying of hands by motor guru Robin Heirn is required to get this donk back to being fit for the fray. By Easter, the 'Backtrack' should be dangerous.
Bob Fry and Alasdair Taylor practiced with the ETA / Crescendo combination and then settled on their reserve, a borrowed 'Antares' with a new LA 25. The racer was showing good speed but these models each seem to need a different starting technique. So slower than normal re-starts put paid to their chances.
The surprise packet of the event was without doubt the 'Dalesman' and Norvel 25 of Dave Currie and Andy Kerr. Actually, I think Andy was surprised that Dave didn't go a bit heavier on the wing tip weight... In standard trim using a small 5mm venturi, this setup showed great potential. The plain bearing Norvel .25 claims to have the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class and, due to its ceramic technology, use up to 25% less fuel than ABC type engines. Now that could be useful for Team Race!
The Norvel runs an aluminium piston in a ceramic coated aluminium cylinder (Revlite technology) Horsepower is rated at 0.85 at 15,500 rpm. Compare that to the LA 25's rating of .6 at 15,000. (Incidentally, a 40 year old OS Max 111 29 also credited with .6) The Norvel's weight with muffler is 8.03 oz. I have seen these motors advertised new on the net for as little as US $59.95. I hope Dave persists with his development and I am sure a few more of these motors will surface in Classic B sooner rather than later. For the record, any modern motor used in Classic B team race MUST be produced by the manufacturer as a plain bearing engine. This means you can't go buy a $900 eight port Rossi .21, fit a plain bearing sleeve instead of the ball race and start racing in the Classic circle.
The brothers Hunting were fast tracking development of their Thunder Tiger racer. They have swapped piston and liners around and changed heads and venturis. Bad news is that the cracking pace they are after has so far been elusive. After making the final last year, it was to be time keeping duties for the Dream Team.
Showdown time. When all the bull stops and it's down to business. The slick stops of Graeme and Mark's D.D. were up against the raw speed of the 'Rocket' and the 'F.P.P.E'. All mechanics gave their teams a flying start and the pilots were rotating in a tight circle. The 'Flying Purple People Eater' passed the 'Rocket' during the first tank and from then on there was nothing between the two. It was going to be decided on the speed of the pitstops and the laps.
The 'Rocket' was going to be marginal with laps as it was running a venturi almost 25% larger than the P.P.E. Wilson / Ellins had lightning stops but could not match the airspeed of the other two. The worst fears for Richard and Mark materialised as the 'Rocket' stopped short on range and glided into the pits. Mark looked about as happy as a pig in a pork pie factory... It was 'goodnight nurse' and their lights went out. Graeme and Mark Ellins grabbed the opportunity and shot past into second place. The F.P.P.E. had long finished, capping off Keith and Robin Baddock's smart work in the pits. It was back to back wins at the Nationals for this team.
Results of Classic B at the 2002/3 Albury Nationals:
1. Hallowell / Baddock 3.14.44 3.17.44 6.19.93 2. Wilson / Ellins 3.24.25 3.19.66 6.34.55 3. Justic / McDermott 3.06.94* 3.14.16 6.37.43 4. Ray / Ray 3.24.69 3.33.78 5. Bailey / Roberts 3.26.22 3.26.44 6. Fry / Taylor 3.55.69 3.33.66 7. Hunting / Hunting 4.22.69 3.54.82 8. Kerr / Currie 3.56.01 DNF