A Run through Victoria
AMC magazine has been a regular attendee of the original Aussie Muscle Car Run, in South Australia. Here we hitch a ride on the inaugural Victorian event.
If you’re a regular reader of this magazine you will have seen our stories over the last four years on the Leukaemia Foundation of South Australia’s fabulous initiative – the Aussie Muscle Car Run. Four of these annual weeklong touring fundraisers have been held so far in the event’s home state, each starting and ending in Adelaide.
The Aussie Muscle Car Run concept is best described as Getaway meets a car club run on steroids. This, folks, is no quick doddle in the countryside.
The philosophy is simple: classic cars from our country’s vast heritage of homegrown highperformance stretching their legs while raising much needed funds for the treatment and care of patients with blood cancers. The 2500-3000km long-haul journeys encompass motorsport tests, visits to motoring attractions and soaking up the scenery.
The SA-based Runs have been such a hit that the concept has expanded interstate with other branches of the Leukaemia Foundation now organising their own versions. The first state to nod their head knowingly and say, ‘great idea, let’s hold our own’, was Western Australia, in late 2015, with its Run along the West Coast.
The latest was Victoria – our focus here. Billed as “Taking the Beasts Back Home”, this first Victorian edition burbled some 1929km over seven days on the finest blacktop with exclusive invites to iconic Australian motoring locations. The Melbourne-to-Melbourne Run had overnight stays in San Remo, Dinner Plain in the Victorian alps, Benalla, Ballarat, Portland and Geelong.
Standout attractions included visits to both Holden’s and Ford’s proving grounds – rare chances to see and experience Australian automotive history where many of the models on the Run were developed. Also included in the itinerary were motorsport speed events at Winton Motor Raceway, Heathcote drag strip (quarter mile) and South Coast Raceway (1/8 mile) in Portland to let the beasts raise their heartbeats mechanically.
Sounds like a dream, right? I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in the slipstream of this great initiative and joined the Run at the end of Day Two at Dinner Plain.
By that stage entrants had blasted off the event’s starting grid at Caribbean Gardens in Melbourne’s south-east and made their first stop at the Lang Lang proving grounds – about halfway between the Victorian capital’s outskirts and Phillip Island. It’s not every day that Holden opens its gates to allow car enthusiasts to do a parade lap on the famous oval, but it was a fitting reward for the Leukaemia Foundation’s committed fundraisers.
The field began Day Two from San Remo for the 430km trip via the Maffra Car Shed Museum to Dinner Plain.
After a suitably atmospheric alpine night, Day Three started with the job of scratching ice off the screen before tucking behind in convoy for the quick 100-odd kays over Mt Hotham to Myrtleford and morning tea. Doing my previous night’s trip in reverse, I was struck by how different the road appeared in the daylight without the fog and sideways rain that I had arrived in! The crisp mountain air carried the song of differing engine configurations as they descended the snaking bitumen to the valley floor. The various engine notes bounced between the gums like an audio version of hide and seek, before drifting away. This was an attack on the senses, with crews all commenting later of their excitement of having the naturally stunning landscape and mechanical soundscape collide. Next we head to Michellini Wines in Myrtleford, then Wodonga via Beechworth and a show and shine for the general public. The sun was shining as the locals wandered through our crews’ pride and joy, asked questions and had a general reminisce about the personal connections of a specific car. But Winton awaited and crews got back on the road for the straightforward 108km to the track. Upon arrival teams hurriedly removed all contents and excess weight before preparing safety gear, ahead of the delivery of the obligatory driver safety briefing, track information and session instructions.
Despite the bragging rights attainable for fastest lap, this was, as with all motorsport tests, a regularity challenge format. So consistency across driver/co-driver lap times was key. Nonetheless, everyone still wants to be quickest, although that seems more about car pride than ego. Groups of five took to the resurfaced Winton layout with an outlap, a couple of flyers and a cool down before re-forming on the dummy grid for the next blast. After a couple of rotations, the speed increased as everyone found their confidence, got on the loud pedal a bit earlier and waded deeper into the braking zones, all the while trying to show the kerbs the required amount of respect.
Results saw The River Howlers father and son combo in their XT Falcon GT awarded regularity winners, with Team Fork and the mighty Mach 1 Mustang claiming fastest lap honours. It wasn’t all without incident though, with some minor spins/ grass-cutting but thankfully no panel damage. There were a couple of knock-on effects as cars were driven harder. There was a loss of fifth gear, a blown supercharger seal and some rear brake shoes needing replacement.
Reaching Benalla and our accommodation in the late afternoon meant our driving was done for the day. Some used this time to rectify problems, with a local workshop being utilised to resolve the gearbox issue of one team. A short walk to Benalla Bowling Club for their Schnitzel and Pot special was followed by a trivia quiz.