The Phillip Island Classic Offers More Than One Way To Track A Vintage Car
Photography by Ross Perry
It’s the race you have when you aren’t having a race. What do I mean, you might be asking? For those not familiar with them, I am talking about regularity events, especially those with many cars together on the circuit at once. It’s a unique form of competition that rewards consistency and strategy over speed alone because it’s not about the outright lowest time: the drivers are not actively trying to finish ahead of everyone they’re sharing the track with.
The way it works is that drivers first practice the course, record and review their times, and then nominate a target time to try to go for each lap during the next part. With the target established, they go back out on the track together, and whoever gets closest to their nominated time most often takes home the silverware.
In Australia, such competitions – represented here by photos from the two regularity groups at last weekend’s Phillip Island Classic – are a staple at all the big historic meetings, interspersed between the full-on races.
Despite initially appearing like a dull and distant second to true racing, regularity has a lot to offer in terms of strategy, and it’s important to remember that at least a few of the cars at each regularity event might not be on the track otherwise.
Perhaps you have a car that is too nice, or valuable, or historically important to grid up and race, or maybe you just plain don’t feel confident doing so; thus is the appeal of a gentle run on from the pits followed by 15 minutes of laps amongst a spread out field. Or you may use regularity as a gateway to more serious historic motorsport, learning the tracks and the car’s performance, and upgrading to racing when you feel you and your machine are ready (or to learn a car’s characteristics while someone else runs it in the race class). Additionally, the lower grade race license and less stringent scrutineering requirements make it more affordable to enter and less demanding on your car.
Then of course there is the competitive challenge. Winning a regularity event is not as easy as it at first sounds: lap timers are banned for one, and categories are often mixed in terms of car performance capabilities. So how much time should you allow for lap traffic? Do you drive flat out, or do you try to drive at your best 80% pace and avoid the red mist temptation to chase and pass other cars? In fact there is quite a bit of strategy and discipline required to succeed in a regularity competition.
As a spectator, the attraction is first and foremost in absorbing the variety of cars on show. For example, across the two groups running at the Phillip Island Classic, the competitors ranged from multiple Renault Alpines to a just post-war Lago Talbot T26C, not to mention many Porsches of the 911 and 356 varieties, a surprising 917 appearance, and even one of the GT40 prototypes, which was double-entered in both racing and regularity to get as much time on the track as possible during its fleeting visit to Australia from the UK.
And finally, the spectacle which gives these events the motto “The race you have when you aren’t having a race” – spotting two friends in similar cars chasing each other, swapping positions and seeing who can out-brake or out-accelerate whom makes for a very entertaining addition to the traditional vintage race event.