Vintage racing (and more) in Australia...another perspective from Shirley
The mystique of Phillip Island was with us for almost 5 months, before we left for Australia. The anticipation of participating in the world class premiere Aussie vintage racing event was intertwined in our daily life, everything relating to "when we go to Australia.....". Don had agreed to do an exchange of cars with an Australian "bloke" named Peter Mohaschi. Don would drive his red MG Midget, and in return Peter would come to the USA and drive one of our Mini's. In addition, Don wanted to visit with a number of his Australian vendors, who he only knew through buying/selling Mini Mania merchandise.
At last, the time came for us to leave, and we were off for our month of adventure!
After a 12 hour flight, we acclimated ourselves to the southern hemisphere, time/date change, and the Aussie accent with a 2 day sightseeing stay in Sydney. Then a leisurely boat trip from Sydney harbor up the river to Paramatta. Here we were greeted by Graham Russell who showed us his racing mini, his workshop, and a great day hiking in the rain forest at Katoomba. Lucky we were...it was beautiful weather with no rain!
Finally, it was time to meet Peter, drive to his house in Bowral (put 3 marbles in your mouth and say "Barrel), and get started with the race business. To our delight, the first view of the red Midget (aka Ruby) revealed Dons name and an American flag on the driver door! This was just the first of many thoughtful gestures on Peters and his wife Rozs part to make us feel welcome in Australia (aka "Oz").
We spent the next few days visiting vendors and getting Ruby and Edith (Peters MG ) ready to race. Then off we went to the town of Goulburn (pronounced Gulbin) to a local club race track called Wakefield Park. Finally...Don gets to race! But Ruby has some surprises for Don. He reports that front wheel drive Minis and rear wheel drive MGs handle a bit differently, as evidenced by a couple 360's in the first races. That gets the adrenalin flowing! Not sure what the Aussies thought about the Yank's driving, but Don managed to get used to the squirrely back end and finished 10th out of a field of 30+.
And then a diversion from cars and racing... We left for a 5 day trip to see the Great Barrier Reef. On the map, it looked like it would take about an hour plane ride north of Sydney to get to Cairns (pronounced Cans). Wrong! 3 1/2 hous. Crikey, but Oz is a big place! We knew when we got off the plane we were in the tropics...hot and steamy. The shuttle driver met us and we were off for the hour drive along the coast to Port Douglas. By the way, we havent seen any kangaroos as of yet.
We arried at our beautiful little hotel and was greeted by the friendly proprietors who helped us decide what to see. We certainly have found that everyone we came in contact with in Australia was very friendly. Took an hour on a catamaran to get to the reef and then spent a full day snorkeling, riding in the semi-submersible, talking to other tourists, and enjoying the scenery above and below the Coral Sea. Our good luck weather held and it didnt rain until we were ready to head back to port.
Spent another day on a tour up north to where the roads end, into the tropical Daintree rainforest. Everything green, lush and damp from......guess what....the constant rain. Lucky us, though; we had beautiful weather and didnt get wet. That night however, the monsoons hit and it rained literally BUCKETS of water. The sound was deafening and it went on for a long time. We still ate outside though, under the awnings. What a wonderful visit to the Tropic of Capricorn. ( still no kangaroos.)
Back to Bowral, loaded the cars and headed south to Phillip Island, outside Melbourne (pronounced Melbin). We took the leisurely 600 km, 2 day drive along the winding coastal roads with scenic little towns along the way, Ruby following closely behind on her trailer.
Arrived at Phillip Island (PI) in time for Don to spend some time on the track Thursday before the other 586 entrants arrived.
A long 4.5 km track with some tight, fast turns. We were able to walk it and do some speculating on the best lines. Note to self.......you miss Turn #2 and you are in the Pacific Ocean! We were told the weather was unpredictable because of the proximetry to Antarctica. They were right...we saw all 4 seasons in one day!
Friday was practice and qualifying runs, and Saturday the real racing began. Don statred #19 out of 54 in Group S. On the last race on Sunday, he had moved up to 11th place finish, which he was very satisfied with. He had met his goals to have fun, race some new tracks, make new friends, and come home in one piece. Ruby did well too, although her tranny is now a bit noisy and every sq cm of brakes and tyres were consumed!
Since no kangaroos were ever seen in the wild, we went to the wild animal park to see and feed them, which was mutually satisfying for all.
Back to Bowral with smiles on our faces. Said goodbye to our new mates Peter and Roz, and boarded the big bird back to Nevada City, USA. Should probably rest up, but not quite yet....
....we leave 18 hours after we get home for the HMSA event in Monterey.
Off to the races!