Alpha Romeo Owner's Club

6 Hour Relay Race

Eastern Creek Raceway 7th and 8th November 1998

Frog Photo's
Courtesy of Joanne Billiards, Frank Wicks - Proud 4CV owner and Warren Hawkless - Club Photographer

This event is probably the premier event in Australia for classic cars and club cars in that there is no classes for the cars and any car team can win on the day. You need not be with the fastest teams or have the cars with the most grunt. The event is a relay race where each car form the 49 teams entered carries a sash on the left front mudguard and this sash is swapped from one car to the next in the team at a "pit stop". each team has a handicap based on the times that the teams and drivers select for the minimum that they will do a lap of the 3.9Km circuit. The fastest team is determined from the times, and each team is allocated the handicap laps so that if we rotated at our allotted times, we would all cross the finish line on the same handicap lap. It is a speed event with a bit of regularity thrown in as well. Our club had two teams consisting of Paul Selems in a Cortina, Bruce Pearce in a Mitsubishi Gallant, and Steve tribe in a Nissan Sunny. The second team was Bob Jowett and Neville Simmons in Datsun 1600's, Phil Armour in a Mini and me in the "Frog".


Drivers L to R Steve, Bruce, Paul, Bob Jowett, Phil and Bob Billiards (Neville not present)

Car preparation and track time was lacking in both teams, with only two of the 7 cars being fully prepared on the Thursday evening before the race. The Renault required a bit of paint where I had repaired the front flares that were hitting the tyres when the fuel tank was full (49 litres), and after looking at the front discs (rotors) I decided that a new set would be appropriate. I was being sponsored for fuel and the signs had to be put on the car as well as the new numbers which only arrived on Friday evening from my sponsor. I had a new engine prepared but only picked it up on Thursday and thought that the current engine would last the race, even though at my last outing it seemed a bit off from previous events.

Friday was to be a practice day and most of the team did get in some track time. I had still not finished the car until after lunch on Friday, and it was raining at this stage so I stayed at home. There was a bit of drama on the Friday as Neville spun off and sideswiped the wall doing quite some body damage to the Datto. Bruce blew a diff and Steve had problems with universal joints in the propeller shaft. Other than these minor hiccups, the day was worthwhile.

Saturday morning dawned with no rain in sight and a predicted 28C temperature. Early morning at the track and with over 230 cars to be scrutineered, my turn was around 10:30 am. By this time some of the others were on the track to do their 6 laps for qualifying and determining their times. When arriving at the scrutineers bay, I heard "I'll do the Renault" and I was waved down for the inspection. Once again another person had bought one brand new and it cost him 750 pounds ($1500). The Senior Scrutineer also had bought one and therefore there was a lot of reminiscing about these funny little cars. It was pointed out that the tail lights were not original, and of course the engine did have a bit more horsepower. I am not sure what was checked on the car, but there were 238 cars to be looked at on both days.

Scrutineering passed and now for qualification and a bit of practice. I had never been on a track with another 47 cars, so it was going to be a bit different with me doing 160/170kph at the end of the straight, and the sports sedans doing around 230/240kph. One went past me and I thought that I should get out and start pushing. My first run was only three laps as I had put the second throttle return spring on and it was a bit tight and I was only getting half throttle. This was soon fixed and I was out on the track for another attempt. This time I did another two laps getting my time down to 127 seconds, then around the back of the course, I blew a radiator hose. I had a spare fan belt and spark plugs, but no radiator hoses with me. After a half hour wait for the Pace car and a tow truck, I was back in the pits and replaced the broken hose, all ready to get back on the track with still another 4 laps to complete for qualifying. This last time I was about half way down the straight at 5000RPM and the cabin was getting smoke into it. Since there was not a car close in front of me I had a sneaking suspicion that it may have been me. With a rear engine I thought that the problem may have been rather terminal. I asked over the radio if there was smoke out of the exhaust, and there was, but I had to go for another two laps, so I slowed and hoped that the little Frog would not expire. The engine was cooked and the prospect of fitting the new engine looked like a late night.

The other problems within the team were that day were a half shaft gave up on Neville's datto and Phils Mini was overheating when pushed to higher speeds. The Datto was an easy fix, but the overheating in the Mini was going to be a problem all weekend.

Sunday and the weather was not looking all that good with rain drizzle and not much light on the horizon. This looked good for me as I thought it would mean slower times and I could run in the engine. The track was officially declared wet and therefore slicks were not on. This was going to be to our advantage as all except the Mini were running Yokahama RS. Our morning meeting we looked at the south west and with a little bit of local knowledge, we decided it would be dry by midday so we only added 3 seconds to our nominated times thinking that a few seconds slower was better than breaking time. We readjusted times to 122 and 127 seconds for the two faster cars and Phil and I would also keep over the 127.

The race started at 10am with Bruce and Bob J starting for both teams. The first laps were uneventful as you might imagine the traffic into the first corner with 48 cars on the grid. Bruce set a blinding pace and about a half an hour into the race he was about tenth with Bob getting well up in the field. Around 1 hour into the race and I was fiddling with the Frog when there was a lot of smoke at the front of the Garage. My thoughts were that someone had a major engine failure and on investigation it was Bruce. He had selected second gear instead of fourth at the beginning of the straight and the old Astron decided that 12,000 RPM was not the speed it wanted to travel at and left the top of a piston in the combustion chamber.

My first problem after we started the engine was that a push rod popped out and was bent. Tim raced home for the spare ones and the problem was resolved. Out I went and the engine was smooth and seemed to have plenty of power, but was still being run in. Changes were made at 4500RPM and not over 5500RPM down the straight giving times of 135 seconds, but another problem. I could see puffs of smoke when I went around left hand corners. There was an oil leak, but I made the decision to keep going until I got the hint of a pressure loss and then unfortunately after 35 minutes, it happened at the rear of the track and I had to get yet another tow in.

This time it appeared to be a loose sump so after tightening and an oil top up, it was out on the track again for the last 25 minutes. The weather was becoming inclement again and it looked as if it might pour again. It started to sprinkle and the track remained dry for around three laps even though the wipers were on. The rain became heavier and the times slower with the power machines going in a straight line, but slow around the corners, or spinning. In the last 5 laps I had four cars spin in front of me with an MG going fast up the inside then spinning right in front nearly taking both of us out at turn two. In the last couple of laps, the rain was so heavy that turn one, at the end of the straight, was just a wall of spray with the only thing visible on the front cars being their tail lights. The weather had closed in and Tim who was manning the radio a few laps before the finish he asked me to turn on the headlights so that he could see the car down the straight.

The race was great fun and a real learning experience for us all. I learned that endurance racing requires preparation and if you have any doubts about any of the cars components, then replace whatever is suspect. Phil replaced the Mini with a Suzuki GTI after the race. You can get away with second best for a short Supersprint, but the added strain over a longer period takes it's tole on the car. I was really happy with the new tyres and the difference it made to the car. Instead of skating through the corners, it just dug in and felt really stable. It did let go at one stage, but was much more controllable than the standard radials, and put the power down a bit better on the tight inside wheel lifting corners. I thought that it may have been a bit stressful driving with a group of cars with such power and speed differential, but all of the drivers were most courteous and we all realised that it was not a sprint and that extra second was not that important in the overall times. I think that I spent 50% of my time looking in the rear view mirrors just in case I turned in on a faster car, as the "Frog" rear window is like looking through a keyhole.

The results are that "old team" came 16th on the track and 13th after handicap and we came 37th on the track and 16th after handicap. The event winners were the Morris Cooper S team after handicap. We all look forward to next years event and I will be starting preparation in January and getting out for some practices well before the race day.

Here are some of the Frog photographs.
Somewhere down the end of the straight. Oops, just a bit too much throttle, but the rubber held on. Into the straight just as it started to rain again. Note the water starting to come across the track.
Over the hill into turn 4. The white thing is not a lump of concrete, but the 100M. marker blown over by the wind. The afternoon peak hour traffic the finnish as the rain "bucketed" down. Paul Selems, in the Cortina, finished for our other team.


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Last Updated on Monday, 27th January 1999.