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Clouds of ThunderCineCars spreads around the globe. David MacLennan reports from down under. It’s the first ever Sydney Classic Speed Festival you guys!

In the week leading up to the Sydney Classic Speed Festival, the forecast had ranged from bad to worse, with storms predicted on the day. Luckily, my own forecast of wet clothes and dreary looking photos came to nothing, as the rain stayed away for the duration. Sydney Motorsport Park (previously known as Eastern Creek Raceway) plays host to this celebration of historic racing, which is billed to be the first of its type in Sydney. A distinct lack of crowds may be a sign that the event is still in its infancy, but the spectators that do attend are treated to a more intimate and accessible experience with amazing cars scattered about the place and drivers more than willing to chat and answer their questions.

Clouds of ThunderThe headlining category is the mighty Formula 5000 open wheelers from the 1960’s and 70’s. These cars are similar to the Formula One cars of the time, but with larger 5000cc V8 engines and equally large wings and tyres. They were also much faster. The sound we hear from their un-silenced exhausts is truly incredible. The eighteen car field includes plenty of notable manufacturers, including March, Lola, Elfin and even McLaren. Mike Glynn, who drives an immaculately turned out 1977 Elfin MR8-BC, notes that his car has been previously driven by several notable drivers. Not only in Australia but internationally. Indeed, one of those drivers was James Hunt, whose name is still emblazoned on the car. This is Mike’s first big outing in the car which he has owned for ten years, and it is a privilege to witness it being driven again in anger.

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Clouds of ThunderThroughout the two day long festival there are eight categories in total, including Group S (Production based) & Group N (pre 1972). Mustangs and Corvettes are the cars to beat here, and they do sound glorious. Mark 1 Escorts and Cortina’s, as well as the odd Alfa Giulia and even a rear engined Corvair, give the larger American cars a run for there money and add some interesting diversity to the category. Group C & A Touring cars from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s hold a special place in my heart, as I fondly recall watching them race the Bathurst 6 hour race with my father as a youngster. Seeing the mighty Sierra Cosworth’s, E30 M3’s and VL Walkinshaw Commodores in action again, if only for a brief period, is like coming home. Special mention must go to Adrian Allisey and his VL Walkinshaw, which looks exactly as raced back in 1992.

Clouds of ThunderJust as the dampness of the track plays its part in ensuring the drivers taking a slower and more measured approach, the general atmosphere of the festival is quite laid back and easy going. Spectators are happy to wander about the beautiful machinery on display, perhaps triggering memories of when they have seen the cars race competitively in their younger, more carefree days. The frenzied nature of modern racing brings its own adrenaline rush, but the fascination of a festival such as this is, that it can take you back to a time when outright speed wasn’t as all-consuming as it is today. This isn’t to say that a Formula 5000 car is slow, far from it. But they are slow enough that you can see them, hear them and even smell them as they come thundering past you. No wonder the drivers of the day used to be so enamoured and scared of them at the same time. For me this first ever Sydney Classic Speed Festival is here to stay!
David MacLennan

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