Five-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards set the pace in the 30th annual scope classic meeting piloting the (1996) ex-Kelvin Burt BTCC Volvo S40 Super Tourer owned by Lindsay O’Donnell, going just over a second-and-a-half quicker than the 1:30.652 set by Phil Mauger’s Nissan Primera ST in second. And it was just over three seconds faster than the 1:32.037 fourth quickest qualifier Stu Rogers set in his twin-turbo Group A Nissan Skyline BN-R32 4WD ‘Godzilla’ replica.
The weekend saw a 26 strong grid of various Supertourer, group A and local NZ touring cars go wheel to wheel, Richards didn’t mind admitting he had his work cut out trying to keep ahead of several of the other car/driver combinations.
“The mix of cars in the class over here is one of the reasons – some of those older Group A cars are still really fast in a straight line – but I think another (reason),’ said Richards, “is that the standard of driving has got better as the guys here do more driving and get more familiar with their cars.”
Richards came under immediate attack from Stu Rogers and then eventual winner Michael Lyons, who in the first race was subbing in for car owner Phil Mauger. Rogers established an early lead before Richards manned to re-take the lead until the third and fourth laps saw Rogers re-take first, until running wide onto grass allowed Lyons who had earlier passed Richards get past Rogers and take the win, with Richards in second and Rogers in third.
In fourth place was local driver Bruce Miles (BMW E36 320i ST) four-time Bathurst winner and now TV pundit Greg Murphy (driving local car owner Peter Sturgeon’s ex Brancatelli Gp A BMW E30 M3), and Arron Black in the similar era BMW E30 M3 owned by fellow Dunedinite Warren Good.
Scott O’Donnell, made up an impressive 17 places as he made his way uo from the back of the grid (after issues in qualifying) to finish in seventh place in his Prodrive-built Ford Mondeo ST.
Just behind O’Donnell came Graeme Cameron in his ex-DTM BMW E30 M3 followed by one of the four other guest drivers, Kiwi touring car great, Paul Radisich (in his 1994 Touring Car World Cup-winning Ford Mondeo ST also owed by Scott O’Donnell), and a close-finishing Nigel Arkell in his ex-North American Super Touring Car Championship Honda Accord Super Tourer in 10th place. Like O’Donnell, Arkell also started the race from the back of the grid and in his case made up 15 places.
Best of the NZ touring cars was Kevin Pateman driving the Ford Telstar in 13th place, Jim Richards was being the wheel of the Peter Sturgeon-owned Gp C-spec BMW 635 CSi that he ran in period finishing 14th.
The second race was lead by Richards, Murphy and Rogers until the final lap when Rogers put in a daring move and took the lead down the straight giving Rogers the win.
Murphy keeps Richards at bay and take second place with Bruce Miles 4th, Arron Black 5th, Graeme Cameron 6th and Murray Cleland (BMW E36 320i ST) 7th.
Sunday was met with considerable warmer weather with 30 degree + temperatures
Race 2 winner Rogers Skyline unfourtantly suffered a blown head gasket was sidelined and Phil Mauger in a Primera was a DNF, This time is was Scott O’Donnell who took the fight to Steven Richards in the first Archibald’s series race of the day.
But Richards proved to be too fast and caught O’Donnell in the third lap and help the lead narrowing winning by a margin of 0.254 Giving Richards his first win of the weekend and three different winners in each race so far.
Greg Murphy crossed the finish line in 3rd place, just a second behind, with Bruce Miles enjoying another typically strong run to 4th place ahead of Graeme Cameron then a gap back to Arron Black in his similar era and spec BMW E30 M3, and the Super Tourers of Nigel Arkell and Murray Sinclair, then one of the favourites ex-Kevin Waldock Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth of Brett Stevens.
The Final race on Sunday saw the field ran four-wide off the rolling start with the distinctive yellow Sierra a blur as Stevens steamed up the inside from P6 on the grid to P1 as the field accelerated away from the first turn and headed off to Turn 2.
Richards was able to close the gap under braking for the Euromarque Hairpin and through the infield complex, and was back in the lead by the second lap. But Stevens was not finished, and spent another heady lap in the lead before finally succumbing to the superior braking and handling of the Richard’s Volvo S40 but hanging on all the same to finish a weekend best 2nd, a final blast up the start/finish straight reducing the margin to Richards to just over half a second.
Scott O’Donnell held third until retiring after his Mondeo’s engine temp was getting a little high, elevated Bruce Miles in his orange Jagermeister-liveried, ex Prince Leopold van Bayern BMW E36 320i Super Tourer to 3rd.
Greg Murphy also elected to initially slow down and eventually pit when his Peter Sturgeon-owned Gp A BMW E30 M3 started to run a little too hot for comfort, handing 4th place on a plate to series’ regular Arron Black and a fast-closing Murray Sinclair in his ex-Eric van der Poel Nissan Primera Super Tourer.
“That, in a word,” said Greg Murphy, “was entertaining.”
The 2020 Archibald’s Historic Touring Car Series now concludes with a final round at the George Begg Classic Speedfest at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park over the Feb 15-16 weekend.
Photo credits: Fast Company/Euan Cameron