GMS at the 2016 Phillip Island Classic
Over 540 entries were received for the 27th running of the annual Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport.
The largest and best-known historic racing event in Australia offered its usual eclectic mix of key local and international machinery.
As has become tradition, Gibson Motorsport was out in force with two of its historic touring cars on display, as well as participating in the hotly-contested Group A and C touring car events on-track throughout the weekend.
Among the more popular events on the calendar, the Historic Group A and C field offers a diverse range of machinery, from Group C 1970s L34 Toranas through to the most advanced touring car of all time, the Gibson Motorsport-built Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R of Tony Alford.
Campaigned by GIO Motorsport in-period and managed by the current GMS squad under the eye of former Nissan Motorsport Europe team manager Alan Heaphy, the turbocharged 2.6-litre six-cylinder powered GT-R also boasts all-wheel drive.
Alford used Friday’s qualifying session to dial himself and the car into the fearsome 4.4km seaside circuit, qualifying fourth outright out of a bumper 39-strong grid.
Ahead of the GT-R on the grid were three gentleman well-known to the Gibson Motorsport stable: Carey McMahon and Terry Lawlor in Sierra Cosworths, and multiple Bathurst and Australian Touring Car Champion Jim Richards aboard a Group C-prepared BMW 635CSi, as part of the German marque’s centenary celebrations.
Friday afternoon saw a quick four-lap burst of racing, which Alford was able to pip McMahon to the post to take victory by a solitary second, with Richards in third position.
For Saturday morning’s six-lapper McMahon turned the tables, taking the chequered flag a mere half-second ahead of Alford’s GIO GT-R after a tremendous battle.
A scheduled seven-lap event for Saturday afternoon was shortened to five laps, and Carey McMahon was a non-starter in his left-hand drive ex- Benson and Hedges Sierra.
Although Richards was able to thrust his Group C BMW into the lead as lap one concluded it was Alford who won again, Lawlor’s Sierra dropping the BMW to third by the finish.
Sunday comprised a four-lap morning race and five-lap finale.
McMahon, starting from the rear, stormed through to finish sixth, though it was the familiar Alford taking line honours, this time by a second from Richards with the Group C Commodore of Milton Seferis in third position.
The finale saw veteran Bryan Sala bring his Sierra to the boil to lead lap two after overtaking a fast-starting McMahon before both dropped out.
Always in the mix, Alford was able to take yet another victory in the GMS-built and prepared Skyline with the competitive 1992 Commodore of Adrian Allisey beating Jim Richards to second position.
“It was an impressive performance by Tony, all weekend,” explained GMS team boss Alan Heaphy.
“We had no serious issues with the car and Tony eased into the event with little risk, but strong speed.”
Other Nissan touring car product to hit the track in Group A/C racing action included the ex-Murray Carter Skyline DR30 Group A now owned by Graeme Taylor and the giant-killing front-wheel drive 1.5-litre Exa Turbo Group C racer driven by Justin Nilsson.
Off-track Gibson Motorsport displayed the fearsome Nissan Bluebird from the last year of Group C (1984), as well as an early Group A-era Skyline DR30 run by Gibson in-period.
Check out our gallery of all the 2016 happenings at the Phillip Island Classic.
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