A 21 car field for Round 2 of MG Racing at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit was dampened with the withdrawal of David Vernall in the days prior to the event leaving 20 cars to take to the track. Rhys Howell was a late change from the MG SV-R to an MG B Roadster for the weekend and headlined entrants included Phil Chester, Vince Gucciardo, Robin Bailey and Ben Muller in GT V8’s, Andrew Howell in his Judd powered ZR and the return of Michael Herlihy in his MG B to the racetrack.
Qualifying begun with Phil Chester setting a 1:44.1 on his second lap to take pole position, Vince Gucciardo put in a 1:45.7 to go second before the session was red flagged after Paul Vernall came to a rest on the exit of Turn 1. When the session resumed Bailey and Andrew Howell both put in personal bests with a 1:46.8 and 1:49.2 respectively and Ben Muller set a 1:50.8 to be 5th. Best Invited British was Ed Ferguson in 6th from Simon Elliott’s Lotus in 7th while Gary Bulmer was the first of the classic MG B’s in 10th while father and son combination of Sean Herlihy and Michael Herlihy lined up 16th and 17th respectively.
Race 1 Saturday afternoon turned into a race of survival.
Chester got the jump from Gucciardo and Bailey on the opening lap with Muller, Elliott and Andrew Howell into turn 1 while Vernall moved up to 7th on the opening lap as Rhys Howell stalled on the start line and took off dead last although quickly putting his foot down. Gary Bulmer broke his overdrive and didn’t event complete the opening lap.
On lap two Bailey moved into second place while Howell got by Simon Elliott for 5th place, Rhys Howell moved into 10th overall. Sean Herlihy had a great start and was holding down 13th place ahead of Greg White, Michael Herlihy and Peter Rose with Darren Souter rounding the battle out. Paul Vernall moved into 5th place behind Andrew Howell ahead of Ben Muller and Simon Elliott until he came to a half coming out of Siberia on lap 4. At the same time the rain started to come down and the conditions become something where it was about survival more than anything else, Gucciardo got by Bailey for second only for the following lap to drop into 3rd. Barry Pritchett moved from 12th to 10th in the trying conditions as Rhys Howell was now up into 8th while Keith Ondarchie had a bit spin at lukey heights and elected to pit. The conditions challenging even the best as Sean Herlihy spun at MG corner and Phil Chester spun on the entry to Lukey Heights, Rhys Howell turned into a fish and pushed his way forward into 7th olace ahead of Simon Elliott’s Lotus. Robin Bailey coming through to take the win from Gucciardo by .15 of a second with Phil Chester recovering to 3rd from Andrew Howell, Ben Muller and Ed Ferguson in 6th. The top 10 rounded out with Rhys Howell, Simon Elliott, David Anderson and Barry Pritchett.
Sunday came for the second race and the sun shined, Paul Vernall a withdrawal leaving 19 cars to start, Keith Ondarchie from the rear of the field and Phil Chester to blaze forward from the second row. The race kicked off and Ben Muller moved into 4th place ahead of Howell, as the field went through hayshed Muller came off bringing out the red flag. Due to the time delay for recovery the race was not started and deemed a non event.
The afternoon race of 8 laps saw a great start by Gucciardo from Chester and Bailey. Andrew Howell moved into 4th from Elliott and Rhys Howell into 6th. Chester applied the pressure to Gucciardo before taking the lead on lap 3. The battle of the race was between Rose, both Herlihy’s, White and Souter who were at times three wide! Once again proving the back half of the field has some of the best racing around, you don’t need big engines or modern cars to get a result. The three big V8’s even had to wait until the front straight to cleanly pass! On lap 5 Rhys Howell pulled off as the only casualty in the race as Chester took the win from Gucciardo, Bailey, Howell and Elliott at the top.
The championship battle is on with Phil Chester holding a 6 point lead from Robin Bailey after two rounds and Vince Gucciardo is just 16 points off the lead. Greg White is the ‘best of the rest’ in 5th and first non V8 MG.
|1st||Philip Chester||MG B GT V8||145|
|2nd||Robin Bailey||MG B GT V8||139|
|3rd||Vince Gucciardo||MG C GT V8||123|
|4th||Ben Muller||MG B GT V8||99|
|5th||Greg White||MG B Roadster||95|
|6th||Richard Milligan||MG B Roadster||81|
|7th||Rhys Howell||MG SV-R||77|
|8th||Richard Vollebregt||MG B Roadster||69|
|9th||Tony Vollebregt||MG ZR||68|
|10th||Andrew Howell||MG ZR Judd||65|