1962 Armstrong 500
|1962 Armstrong 500|
The 1962 Armstrong 500 was an endurance race for Australian built production cars. The race was held at the Phillip Island circuit in Victoria, Australia on 21 October 1962 over 167 laps of the 3.0 mile circuit, a total of 501 miles. Cars competed in four classes based on the retail price of each model. Officially, only class placings were awarded but the No 21 Ford Falcon driven by Harry Firth and Bob Jane was recognised as "First across the line". This was the third and last Armstrong 500 to be held at Phillip Island prior to the race being moved to the Mount Panorama Circuit at Bathurst in New South Wales where it later became known as the Bathurst 1000.
For the 1962 race the division of classes was changed from engine capacity, used in the previous two Armstrong 500's, to the purchase price (in Australian pounds, the currency of the era) of the vehicle on the Australian market, the intention being to allow the public to make comparisons according to their potential financial circumstances rather than approximating cars of equivalent vehicle performance. An upper limit of £2000 was established to prevent the race from becoming dominated by sports exotica. In terms of actual cars entered the changes saw the Renault Gordinis move up from Class D to Class C, while the Volkswagens dropped from C to D. Volkswagen would break through for their first class victory this year.
In a pointer towards the future the race results outright order was dominated by the new XL series Ford Falcon were three of the first four cars home, led by the factory supported car of defending race champions Harry Firth and Bob Jane. On the same lap as Firth/Jane was the Class A winning Studebaker of Fred Sutherland and Bill Graetz, who won the class by four laps, defeating the factory supported Ford Zephyr being driven by Geoff Russell and David Anderson, denying them of a third consecutive class victory. The performance of the big Studebaker was noteworthy in that while Larks continued to be entered into the race until 1968 this was as close as they would get to an outright victory.
In Class C one of the Renault Gordini's won despite being the victims of the new class structure with Rex Emmett, John Connolly and Brian Sampson racing to a four lap victory. Sampson in particular would become a fixture of the race in the next two decades, which after demolishing the 1974 field only to blow their engine, would finally win the race outright in 1975 as Peter Brock's co-driver.
There are some reports that the Class C winning Renault Gordini driven by Emmett, Connolly and Sampson was disqualified after the race along with the second placed Morris 850 in Class D driven by Allen and Hooker. However their original placing are still shown in the list of official results. This is likely due to the scrutineers taking days to finalise their results followed by protests by the entrants at their exclusions. The completed results were widely published before the disqualifications were finally enforced thus many subsequent publications show an incorrect finishing order including Bill Tuckey's "Australia's Greatest Motor Race". This would make the Morris Major driven by Edney and Fayer the correct winner of Class C.
Jim McKeown, an emerging star in small bore touring cars, and George Reynolds took their Volkswagen to the Class D victory, beating the leading Mini by a lap. Reynolds too had an outright victory in store in just two years time in 1964.
The toil placed on the cold mix bitumen surface by the race, with the largest entry the race had seen, overwhelmed the Phillip Island racetrack. Dangerous potholes formed all around the circuit, leaving a hefty repair bill, and an ominous threat to the future growth of the race. Staying at Phillip Island, as attractive as other factors presented, was plainly impossible and the search began by the promotors for a new home for the increasingly popular endurance production car race. Earlier the same year the Bathurst Six Hour Classic had been held at the Mount Panorama Circuit near Bathurst (won by a Daimler not eligible to run in the Armstrong), and that circuit immediately entered speculation.
- Fastest Lap - #3 Algie/Hibbard - 2:42
- Race Time - 8:15:16.0
- Graham Howard, Lex Davison - Larger Than Life, 2004, page 175
- Jack Eiffeltower was a pseudonym used by Jack Nougher
- Australian Motor Sports, December 1962
- Tuckey, Bill (1981). "1962: The end of the island:". Australia's Greatest Motor Race The Complete History. Sydney: Lansdowne Press. pp. 82–89.
- Australia's Greatest Motor Race, The First 30 Years, © 1989
- The Age, Monday, 22 October 1962
- Wheels, January 1963
- Greenhalgh, David; Thomas B. Floyd; Bill Tuckey (2000). "1962 The end of the island". Australia's Greatest Motor Race 1960–1999 The first 40 years. Hornsby: Chevron Publishing Group Pty Limited. pp. 108–113 & 452. ISBN 1-875221-12-3.