The annual Tander Trophy meeting was held on Sunday, 10th August on a fine and sunny day. With originally 24 cars entered it was sad to see some pull out at the last minute. Jamie McKinnell was a noticeable absentee, having blown his motor the day before at tuning,Ed Resera a "no-show," presumably with engine issues and Mark Jewell a late withdrawal.
We still had 20 cars for the day including the six Excels, with 8 Over 2 litre, 1 Under 2 litre, and 4 Under 1600cc.
Brad Wheeler fronted in his new Honda Civic and Sean Ferrall presented his Diahatsu Carade with it's garish day glow orange finish.
Mark Ellis left his race bag home and because the meeting was ahead of schedule, failed to meet the pre race requirements and failed to qualify. Mark Jewell didn't leave the shed due to last minute issues and Jai Philp, who returned with a bad oil leak,also failed to qualify.Qualifying also saw the return of Gavin Reynolds in the Western Concrete white Honda Civic, but he also failed to leave the shed with an issue.
John Callegari returned for the meeting with fingers crossed that the intermittent electrical wiring problem which had dogged his campaign for the best part of 9 months had been fixed following the Darwin disappointment until a full engine failure there enabled the issue to be traced and rectified.
Dion Panizza led the way in the Over 2 litre class and posted the fastest time with a 64.2, closely followed by Callegari and Jason Wilson, with Panizza 0.8 seconds in front of Callegari, who was in turn 0.24 in front of Wilson. The Over 2 litre leaders were close all day, making for some tight and exciting racing. Geoff Duckworth dominated the Under 1600cc class with a commanding 69.23 to clearly lead both Tim Riley (71.16) and Simon Morrison(71.42.)
Only the new car of Sean Ferrall's went out to qualify in Under 2 litre, where he unleashed the little Charade with its 993cc of turbo'd fury. For the record, it posted a time of 70.55.
The Excels were led by Cameron Nash who showed his dominance of the Excel field by the narrowest of marginsand posted a qualifying time of 75.41, with the Championship leader, Alex Rullo only 5/100th of a second behind. Nick Mitic rounded out the qualifying top three with a time of 76.23.
Gavin Reynolds and Mark Ellis made it to the grid after failing to qualify and a great drive from Reynolds saw him work his way through from the rear of the field to make up nine places.
In the Under 2 litre class, this meant that Reynolds clearly led the way and ended up coasting to victory in the class when the Sean Ferrall car died after lap six, having cooked the distributor cap and putting an end to his day.
Renowned for its close racing, the Under 1600cc class showed a different set of figures. Where they were seperated by fractions of a second all season, the margins were quite substantial with Geoff Duckworth a mile in front and a clear winner by 7.6 seconds from Tim Riley and Simon Morrison a further 7 seconds behind. Whether there were issues in running is unknow, but the margins where abnormal for these guys.
The Over 2 litre class was a close run affair for the majority of the 10 laps with Dion Panizza leading the race from John Callegari and Jason Wilson with the three never seperated by more than 50 metres until some slower traffic at opportune times for Panizza, and not for the rest saw him scoot away by a second or two around lap 7. Wilson ran off coming out of the esses and into the sweeper while pressuring Callegari with two laps to go and with the pressure off from behind, Callegari coasted to the line 2.9 seconds behind Panizza who got the gun, with Wilson 11 seconds back. Mark Ellis finished his day with trailing arm issues putting him out. Frank Panizza was racing well until he remembered it was a 10 lap race, rather than 8, and run out of fuel with a lap to go but managed to nurse it home for finish, albeit 80 seconds off the pace.
Alex Rullo was a mile in front of the Excels and cruised to the line 7 seconds in front of Nick Mitic with the consistent Cameron Nash back in 3rd place. He was a second behind. A good drive from Thomas Schou saw him finish only 0.3 seconds off the podium.
This saw the first of the reverse grid races and with a bit of attrition only 18 fronted.
By virtue of running out of fuel (but finishing), Frank Panizza got the jump on the field in the reverse grid and scooted away, taking Reuben Romkes, who started up the front, along for the ride leaving the rest to untangle themselves following an incident at turn one which disrupted a number of early charges. John Callegari led Dion Panizza in the chase after the other two who had bolted.
Romkes finally over took Frank Panizza and pulled away until he overcooked it into turn 7 on the penultimate lap and by this time Callegari and Dion were on Frank's tail. It became a sprint to the finish with the cars together into the last turn.
Two Excels played a part in the final result with Dion, who, by his own admission,had been really untidy into the last turn but found when he recovered he was on the inside with a clear run to the line while Callegari, also untidy, was blocked by two little Excels also fighting it out. Consequently Frank held in by 0.3 seconds and Dion hit the front for the first time in the race with 20 metres to go to edge out Callegari by 0.2 seconds.
Jason Wilson found that he had chewed through his right rear brake line as he approached Kon's at around 180kph and had no choice but to bail out, ending his race.
Even though Gavin Reynolds was going around solo in his class, he still drove a masterly race and finished 4th overall behind the three V8s, only ten seconds behind.
Geoff Duckworth again showed that had got it right by clearing out from his main opposition namely Tim Riley and Simon Morrison. It would be fair to say that Riley and probably Morrison were inconvenienced by the turn 1 incident which may have accounted for the split because they were again separated by the narrowest of margins with Morrison failing by 0.23 seconds to catch Riley, while Duckworth was 6 seconds ahead.
Alex Rullo continued his dominance over Nick Mitic in the Excels and led the way again, with a great drive from Thomas Schou propelling him into third place ahead of Cameron Nash. The racing between Rullo and Mitic remained tight with Rullo prevailing by 0.2 seconds, with Schou 5 seconds further back and 0.3 seconds in front of Nash.
This race topped off a disappointing day for Gavin Reynolds as his Honda failed to finish following a frustrating day for him.
With the unique system applied to the meeting, this race was another reverse grid, calculated on points scored for the meeting to date.
Once again Geoff Duckworth led the other Under 1600cc contenders a merry dance. Having said that, the race was 15 laps and the margin separating Duckworth, Tim Riley and Simon Morrison was only 5 .8 seconds over the almost 17 minute race. It still, however, showed the dominance on the day of Duckworth, with his driving skills and car speed utilized to the foremost to make it three out of three and firmly secure the Under 2 litre Tander Trophy.
The DNF for Reynolds cost him dearly as with a tie in points (Duckworth U 1600cc and Reynolds Under 2Litre having won 2 out of 2) the trophy winner would have been the first past the post in the last race, and that would clearly have been Reynolds in the bigger and faster car, all else being equal....but it was not to be and all credit to Duckworth for a series of almost faultless drives.
The question in Over 2 litres was would Dion Panizza succumb to car issues that have dogged him in the past, which would allow John Callegari, his closest rival, to snare the trophy. Jason Wilson, by the quirk of the rules and despite a DNF race 2, started on pole, leaving the main players 6 rows back and Wilson wasted no time in streaking away as the others made their way through the field and gave chase. Once again Dion Panizza and Callegari led the charge and they soon put paid to Reuben Romkes and Frank Panizza who both fought on doggedly. Both of the chasing cars were clearly faster than Wilson and they eventually ran him down in the dying laps with Dion, with a good run in traffic, getting past on the final lap to win by 1.5 seconds from Wilson with Callegari 0.2 seconds further back.
Young Alex Rullo made it clean sweep from his main rival Nick Mitic, taking out the 3rd race of the day, but once again by only 0.6 seconds, showing there's not much between these two on a good day. Cameron Nash swapped places with Thomas Schou for 3rd place and was 10.4 seconds behind Mitic and 10 seconds in front of Schou.
It was a great result for Dion Panizza who is gaining a lot of consistency with his car and for Callegari who has obviously ironed out the gremlin. Dion was a clear winner on the day and a deserved winner of the Tander Trophy for the Over 2 litre class. Frank Panizza, by virtue of three race finishes, including 1 win, came home 3rd in the Overs and Tim Riley led Simon Morrison for the minor places on the podium in Unders.
One points scoring meeting to go...and it's not far away.