It’s the first day of summer, and Corio Bay is sparkling as early morning market-goers meander along Geelong’s rejuvenated esplanade. Excessively stylish boats gently rise and fall in rhythm with the tide, a loan fisherman sharing pier space with a flock of sea gulls looking for a cut of his catch.
This seascape of glistening solitude is suddenly, rudely interrupted with the reverberation of a race motor. But it’s not a stock-block V8 or an Italian V12 — it’s a two-stroke Saab. With a rotary-like pulse the three-cylinder Savannah Brown 96 burps and blats its way along the esplanade, drawing sniggers and the inevitable lawnmower comparisons. “A lawnmower that won multiple Monte Carlo rallies,” I stop short of saying out loud.
We’re pacing the makeshift pits of the rejuvenated Geelong Revival. First held in 1956, the 370 metre course, which arcs to the right as it contours Corio Bay, ‘The Geelong Speed Trials’ was a regular haunt for motorsport enthusiasts before financial issues derailed the event in 2002.
Reborn as the Geelong Revival in 2012 with Formula One World Champion Alan Jones — whose motorsport career commenced at the Speed Trials in 1964 — as guest of honour, the swelling crowd in attendance at the 2013 edition is evidence that the organising committee is onto a good thing.
The eye candy begins the moment you park, with car clubs out in force in the shimmering sun. The flavour is largely Australian and American muscle, spiced with occasional temptations from Europe. A Barbados Green Holden Torana L34 mingles with a super-rare 427 Yenko Chevrolet Nova, with early 3.8-litre Jaguar E-Types and even a Fiat Dino Coupe 2.4 vying for attention.
So far, so delectable, but what’s really compelling is that the crowd is as diverse as the gleaming colours of the club displays. Children marvel at Ferraris as fathers try to steer them towards more attainable machinery; ladies dress up in true Goodwood Revival fashion as they take in the nearby market stalls. Above the ‘strip’, grassy hillside provides perfect picnic fodder while kids splash in the seaside outdoor pool, an old-school Ferris wheel providing additional entertainment. The scene’s new-found vibrancy is a credit to the city of Geelong.
Grabbing a hot dog and coke (I recommend waiting for a snag in bread instead), our focus turns to the on-track action. It’s immediately frenetic as 100 cars and 50 bikes take turns biting chunks out of the tarmac. Some showboat, dropping 100 metre burnouts, but others are clearly focused on coordinating shift-point with steering angle as they stream along the course.
Among the V8Supercars and open-wheelers, one time stands out:Wheels mag’s James Stanford manages to launch a brand new Porsche 991 Turbo S to the fastest time on Saturday — an astounding 9.7sec. And this was sans launch control!
The competitive mix is strikingly similar to that you’d find at any one of our country’s great historic circuit events. Vintage home-builts introduce a new generation to the scent of Castrol R, increasingly valuable Lotus Cortinas snarl through Weber carburettors, Mustangs shake, rattle and (body) roll. As ever, the historic Group C, Group A and 5 litre Touring Cars hold most resonance for the masses, Terry Wyhoon’s ex-Peter Brock/Jason Plato HRT Commodore a fitting tribute to the late Aussie legend.
For purists, the ground-shaking 1966 McLaren M1B Can-Am car of Laurie Bennett offers a unique insight into 1960s sports car racing. This all-alloy blue beast is one of four hand built by McLaren and has been raced extensively overseas, powered by a Chevy small-block. It’s a personal highlight.
As the afternoon light sneaks in, attention turns to the stage for ‘fashions on the field’. It’s another string to the bow, and simply adds to the atmosphere. But my mind is firmly on the circuit, and what I’d want to run down the strip myself. Would it be a crowd-pleaser, with a jumpy, lumpy V8? A two-stroke rally legend? Or a sophisticated drop-top, to better experience the atmosphere? A Maserati GranCabrio would offer the best of both. Excuse me; I have a phone call to make.