The car that won the first two Sandown classics is alive and well. We’ll tell you where on page 17. There’s also new Aussie slot cars; Brock’s Monza goes on the auction block; a Serbian Monaro; and Bathurst Cobra hiss-teria.
Question: When was the first all touring car endurance race held in Australia? Hint: The operative words are touring car. Answer: November 29,1964, when the first of two Sandown International 6 Hour races was held. The second took place on November 21, 1965.
No, we haven’t overlooked the Armstrong 500s held at Phillip Island and Bathurst, but they were production car marathons for cars in showroom spec.
In contrast, the Sandown International 6 Hour was held for FIA Group 1 touring cars, where homologation required a minimum build of 500 production cars. Two (modified) Group 2 cars, the Lotus Cortina of unknown Canadian Allan Moffat and the seven-litre Ford Galaxie of Sir Gawaine Baillie were allowed to compete in the 1964 affair, though not eligible for outright honours.
Group 1 included a brace of factory Mini Coopers and their European rally aces, Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Makinen. Other international competitors here in 1964 included future Formula 1 World Champion Jackie Stewart in a Lotus Cortina and Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward in a supercharged Studebaker Lark.
The presence of a nondescript white Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Super, entered by importer and former racer, Alec Mildren, didn’t attract much attention. The boxy ‘whitegoods appliance’ had a 112bhp (84kW) twin-cam 1600cc all-alloy engine fed by twin 45mm Webers, a five-speed gearbox and, importantly, four-wheel disc brakes. Drivers were factory Italian works ace Roberto Bussinello and Mildren stalwart Ralph Sachs.
The 1964 race was a real tortoise and hare affair. The big Galaxie, co-driven by Lex Davison, and Moffat’s Lotus Cortina streeted the field at the start, but both succumbed to brake problems. The Galaxie famously demolishing a fence as it careered off at Peters Corner.
Brakes have always been a Sandown bogey. But the Alfa’s four-wheel discs, its unburstable engine and surprisingly aerodynamic body allowed the Ti Super to lap consistently all day. It completed 220 laps to win the 6 Hour by an impressive margin of seven laps over the Peter Manton/Brian Foley Mini.
For 1965, Mildren doubled his effort by entering his winning duo in the new Giulia GTA coupe; and Frank Gardner and new signing Kevin Bartlett in ‘old faithful’. The GTA had a more powerful twinplug engine and lightweight alloy panels and was the race favourite against the Lotus Cortinas and Mini Coopers.
In the race, Bussinello/Sachs managed to see off the Allan Moffat/Jim Palmer Lotus Cortina only to succumb to engine failure before half distance. This left Gardner and Bartlett in the Ti Super out front and lapping consistently. There was a late race scare when the front-right tyre needed to be replaced (the only tyre changed during the race), but the Alfa still managed to finish four laps in front of the Hong Kong Lotus Cortina of Albert Poon/ Steve Holland, covering 231 laps.
This would be the last Sandown International 6 Hour race. In 1968 a production car race, the Datsun 3-Hour, was held at the metropolitan Melbourne circuit. Within five years the race had morphed into a 250-mile touring car encounter.
This first decade set the tone for a half century of stop-start, mostly September events, with last year’s Wilson Security Sandown 500 the 45th running of the Sandown tin-top classic.
To summarise, the very same chassis won Sandown’s first two touring classics. It’s worth putting the spotlight on this little car given, firstly, that the 50th anniversary of its back-to back victory was clocked up with little fanfare late last year. Plus, with the Sandown track likely to give way
to a residential development in the near future, it’s important we celebrate the colourful history of a significant, if unlikely, Sandown touring car classic winner.
Beyond the two 6 Hours, the Ti Super only did a few races in Mildren’s hands before being sold. The Alfa wasn’t competitive in Improved Production. Its forte was long distance events.
Tasmanian Peter Cazarro raced the Alfa for two years before it was badly damaged in a rollover. It then disappeared until Melbourne enthusiast John Emery, father of current Nissan boss, Richard, chanced upon the car in 1977. Apparently there had been plans to turn it into a speedway car with a Chevy V8!
With the assistance of restorers Cliff Bills and David Smith, the Giulia Ti Super was returned to its former glory in 1980 becoming eligible for the emerging Appendix J (Group Nb) historic category. Emery used the Alfa sparingly, including a return to Sandown in 1989 for the 25th anniversary of its landmark first win.
The historic Alfa was sold in 2003 to a British collector, Richard Springett, based in Tokyo, Japan, where it has lived for much of the last 13 years. The well-travelled little car is currently in storage in the UK having had its original engine overhauled by the owner’s ‘go to’ mechanic.
Richard sent us a shot of the car on the back of his period transporter – a 1960s-vintage Alfa Romeo light truck – when it was being delivered to a Tokyo dock ahead of its shipment to the Old Dart. The Giulia Ti Super has less than 20,000 kilometres on the clock.
Although it would be nice to think that one day this significant car – Alfa Romeo’s long tradition of class-winning touring cars started here – will return to Australia, at least this winner of the first two Sandown classics survives, unlike the winning Cortina from the 1963 Armstrong 500 at Bathurst. Special thanks to Alfa Romeo historian Barry Edmunds for his assistance with this story.