Fish Tales from Phillip Island by Tom Benson

Don’t believe all of those stories about drought and pestilence coming out of Victoria,



I haven’t seen that much water pouring out of the sky in a long time, as I sat on the dummy grid waiting to go out onto the track for Race 1 I am sure I saw  Salmon swimming upstream trying to spawn. When the rain was falling going down the straight I was waiting for the Herring to start falling from the heavens.


Well what a weekend of racing the Phillip Is Historic meeting was, we didn’t get off to much of a start I must admit, The BMH arrived minus its Tail (TALE) and its back suspension supports so lots of fish tales to talk about.


I was glad I didn’t get the phone message via Charlie from the truckie about damage to the car beforehand because we blissfully went on our way and only as we were going out to the circuit Brigitte and I got the news about the damage to the car, this necessitated a trip to Mitre 10 for the pop rivets, glue, paint, wood, tape and screws to put it all back together. $100 or so dollars later and off to the circuit we went to unload the car and get started. As it turned out and with much help from Terry Reynolds, Lindsay Monk, Bob Pinkerton and the rest of the helpers from WA the Comic Book was all fixed and looking spick and span. If you were 50 or so meters away that is. But I don’t complain it was working and working well, so off we went to the Pub in the knowledge that 100MPH tape was what was holding the body together. Those guys did a great job, I know because it held together all weekend come rain hail and shine.


Warm up on Friday went very well for us, it was warm for starters, steady 20 degrees no wind to speak of so out we ventured. 47 cars on the warm-up was pretty crowded for a while but once they fanned out we managed a time of 1:13 sec which was 5 sec faster than our best time ever at the circuit. (All gear Ratio) We ran the 3.55 diff and it made a huge difference, especially at the end of the main straight with the little Grey motor singing along at 6000 RPM, I nearly pulled the ear plugs out. It sounded that good! It was, I am still talking about it. So with that all done and a happy Tom we waited (as you do at PI) and then out we went for Qualifying. That’s not so good. Got the fist lap nearly done and when coming through turn 12, yes just past the pit entry the engine snuffed it. Stone motherless dead! Nothing, not so much as a cough from the engine. So I had the indignity of coasting the whole length of the main straight. Just got past the start line and it fired back up and went for another 100 meters and stone dead again, time to park it behind the barrier, which I did and then waited a couple of minutes and hopped back in fired it up and away it went so I finished that lap and out came the chequered flag, that was qualifying, only one problem I was outside the 130% rule with a 3 min plus qualifying time, so that meant another trip to the Clerk of the course to explain why, now you see why I know every Clerk of the Course in the land! Anyway after offering the warm up time of 1:13 and the obligatory scones and cream (with Jam this time) I was excused, albeit I was put to the very back of the 50 car field after being told I must be crazy putting that car around the circuit in that time.


Meanwhile back in the pits frantic to find out what was wrong, we tried everything, King Kostera suggested points and yes they were far too close for comfort and looked terrible, so they got sorted, Ed said it was a SU chamber holding open, so off they came and they got tidied up and yes one of them had some grit in it. I thought condenser so on went a new one. Everything else looked ok. So it was going to be untested for the first event next day.


It bucketed down before the event and we waited (as you do at PI) about 3 hours for race 1. I had no choice, either have a go or doddle around down the back for eternity; I chose the former, only one problem, RAIN and Lots of it all over the track, very slippery. I tell you one thing though, I learned lots in that race, I don’t get to overtake too many people at Barbagello, it’s mainly a diet of Red MG Bs for me but I had a wonderful smorgasbord to choose from. At one point I even managed to get by a certain GMC powered  Special with yellow wheels, that was coming onto the main straight, now being the gentleman that I am I waved him by down the straight. Doesn’t pay to pass CAMS State Panel members does it!! I absolutely nailed the British driver in his V8 powered special. That was good. Had a good look at the scenery at the Hayshed too, the price you pay for gassing it up a little too much too early but I did keep it on the Island thankfully and only lost 3 places which I had back by the next couple of corners. So the net result Started 44th officially and made it to 28th.


Rained all the rest of the day so racing was on hold and no way were we getting another event in on Saturday, so a long wait till the next run on Sunday, wasn’t that bad the tail was holding on good the engine running sweet and no worries in the world.


Sunday started out looking good but it wasn’t long before I got out of bed and found it was damp and cold and blowing about 60knots. The poor Group N guys had there tent blow away overnight and were left out in the weather to slosh around in the mud. I was glad that I was show boating with the elite up in pit lane. That was when the trouble started, this fellow by the name of Glen Seton who was in the pit next to us scribbled on the BMH’s tail with a black Texta, His dad Bo was there too so I went and told him and then he scribbled on the car as well so, then the King scribbled on it too. So now I will have cut the tail off the car where they scribbled on it. It should make a good souvenir on the wall. (It’s no good for anything else now) It was quite entertaining watching the steady stream of souvenir hunters walking into the neighbouring pit for autographs, gees those guys must have some patience. 5000 people all came through the pit and they all owned a V6 Capri or a Sierra Cosworth. I think they made about 500 hundred of them didn’t they? Interesting seeing just how relaxed and professional they are to. Amazing the detail they go to. Nothing left to chance. The second race was sort of dry and I managed to overtake a few and kept up  Charlie and John Rowe for a while which was great  at one stage we were line astern going through the Hayshed, eventually they got away from me but I managed to hold station..


Race three was very tricky, it was very wet at the start but over the six laps with high winds the track dried out very fast to the point that on the last lap it was quite dry and the tyres started to come on a little even though I had them up to 28 pound I was better off than some who had started with low pressure, I have some footage of one of the Holden Specials squirming and wriggling all over the track, I will up load it some time to You Tube for all to see. It was quite nerve racking to be behind it, never quite knowing when he was going to loose it! And the wind well I know how Aub Badger felt the day he cut the TAIL off the Comic Book. Jee’s that was exciting when you are doing near enough to 120 MPH and you leave the shelter of the Armco wall on pit straight. Woo Baby!!! I thought I was about to sprout wings as well as a tail. Position 21 outright and third in class was the result. I was happy, Brigitte was happy, BMH was happy so all in all a great weekend.


There were lots of other interesting things that happened like pace cars and cars into the wall and a car on its roof, too much to tell here but I am sure some time I will get it out over a Bundy or three. So the day was over and we went back to Melbourne the next day and went to the workshop where Brock’s First racer was kept for 25 or more years but that’s another story too. Let’s say another TALE to tell.