Subjecting the Elite to Motor Sport in a Furnace at the HSRCA Summer Festival

Ashton in the Elite

Team Repair & Restoration just returned from three days of historic motorsport with the HSRCA at the Summer Festival held at Sydney Motorsport Park over the 27th to 29th of November. Read on to enjoy our tales of glory and a few photos of such.

Given only four weeks separated the delayed Spring Festival from the Summer Festival, one might have been forgiven for thinking the turnout may have been reduced. Not a bit of it. There were fantastic fields for all the groups, at least in qualifying on Saturday morning.

Said morning dawned bight and slightly breezy, with a forecast in the high 30s for western Sydney. And it certainly turned out that way, plus a few degrees.

The morning was taken up with the qualifying events, and by the time the races started, we were running about an hour behind schedule. So, the first race for L, M, O and invited P wasn’t until 11.30, by which time the heat was starting to become oppressive.

Having said that, the first race was a hoot! Somehow I had managed to place a half decent time (we were running the Gardiner circuit and I had managed a 1:58.19). I found myself immediately behind one of the Group M open wheelers on the grid. Who promptly stalled on the start.

Luckily, I managed to squeak down the inside, but lost four or five places in the ensuing dash for turn one. Even recovering a couple of those in the braking zone for turn 2 still had me well behind Warwick McBean and Barry Bates in the Lolus and Thompson Special respectively. We had a great time swapping places over the next few laps, including a couple of occasions where I needed to hold my line round the outside of one or more of them through one corner in order to have the inside line on the second. This was the case into both 4-5 and through 8 to 9, but on both occasions their longer legs down the main straight had the march on me, and I was back behind them by turn 2 next time round, only to start the fun all over again.

By the time lunch came around, the numbers were starting to diminish, partly through driver exhaustion, partly through the stress the high temperatures were putting on the cars; several cars reported blown head gaskets, and parts of the Group S field reported cruising in order to prevent the temperature gauge climbing over the frightening 100 mark.

As I got in the car to drive home, the car temperature gauge read 45 degrees. Overnight the temperature didn’t drop much below 25, which meant that on Sunday morning when we all turned up there was a deafening silence while the organisers and stewards agreed on a revised format and running order, partly driven by a lack of available flag marshals as a result of the heat on Saturday.

I should take this opportunity, as always, to register the huge debt of gratitude we all owe to the marshals, who turn up in all weathers, smile broadly, wave happily and keep us all safe and (generally) pointing the right way – thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Ashton at the HSRCA Summer Festival

As a result of the lack of marshals to cover the circuit, the decision was made to run on the Druitt circuit (or North circuit), the 2.8km long shorter track. This meant practice sessions for all the groups took place first thing, and once again, by the time racing started, the heat was starting to take its toll.

Brian Caldersmith Pops In to Visit the Elite

It was particularly gratifying to see Brian Caldersmith pop in to say hello and pat the car fondly.

In order to keep cool, we had worked out that wetting t-shirts and wearing a wet towel round the back of the neck helped keep everything manageable, and the Elite fared well in the ten lap trophy race, finishing a long way behind the very quick open wheelers, but at least finishing, which was more than quite a few cars managed, sadly. The racing was less close on the Druitt circuit, as it really is more suited to horsepower than handling, but great fun was had, nonetheless.

Syd Reinhardt in the GSM Dart

Given the attrition on the field and the lack of participants by early afternoon, we took the decision to pull the pin while the two cars in Team Repair and Restoration (Syd Reinhardt’s Dart and my Elite) were both in one piece and running so well. So we all went home with big smiles, but no sheep stations. Again.

Ah well, now we have to start the planning for next year! And here’s hoping that 2021 is slightly less disrupted.

If you’d like to see a few more photos from the weekend and catch up with everything else going on, Seth has a gallery on the HSRCA site here.

Pip pip,
Ashton

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