A TYRE-tearing shootout between popular V8 muscle cars from Australia's racing heyday is looming as a highlight of the 17th historic Leyburn Sprints on the Queensland Darling Downs next weekend.
A 1971 Ford Falcon XY GT, 1968 Holden HT Monaro, 1967 Ford Mustang and a "ring-in" 1971 Ford Capri Perana will race against the clock qualifying-style on Leyburn's 1.1 kilometre temporary around-the-houses course for the honour of fastest Pre-1972 Touring Car of more than 5.1 litres' capacity.
Around 190 historic, classic and modern cars representing 10 decades of motorsport will take to the track from 8am on Saturday and Sunday, in an annual celebration of the running of the 1949 Australian Grand Prix on a nearby wartime airstrip.
The V8 tourers will be a highlight, recalling the late 1960s and early 1970s when manufacturer-fuelled battles for the Bathurst 1000 every October spawned the development of special Falcon GT, Holden Monaro, Valiant Charger and Holden Torana versions.
Cars from that era are now among enthusiasts' most coveted collectables and draw attention whenever they appear at historic events such as the Leyburn Sprints.
The Falcon GT of defending Leyburn class champion Jamie Chant, similar to the 1971 Bathurst-winning model but even more powerful with an 800-plus horsepower engine from the American NASCAR racing series, is a regular crowd favourite as it lays black stripes of rubber off the starting line.
Its pedigree includes being guest-driven at past Leyburn Sprints by V8 Supercar personalities Dick Johnson, Mark Winterbottom, Tim Slade, Shane van Gisbergen, Alex Davison, James Moffat and Steve Johnson.
But the Toowoomba workshop operator Chant will face a strong challenge this weekend from Leyburn "rookie" Graham Alexander, who will bring his Holden Monaro from Geelong, Victoria.
The 500 HP Monaro is a regular in the national Touring Car Masters racing series for older cars, where its rivals include the Mustang of John Bowe and AMC Javelin of Jim Richards.
And although the 70-year-old Alexander is a Leyburn newcomer, he's one of Australia's most experienced racers, having won Bathurst and Sandown enduros for production sedans and finished as high as fifth in the torturous East African Safari rally.
Adding to the contest will be the Mustang of Queenslander Bevan Reed and Capri Perana V8 of Victorian drivers Phil and Pam Walters. The Perana was built only in South Africa, where it enjoyed racing success similar to the Falcon GT's, but several examples have been bought later by Australian enthusiasts.
Chant is looking forward to the contest.
"The Falcon is always in the top three, so it will be good to have some fresh competition," he said.
Thousands of spectators are expected to turn out for the Sprints, one of Australia's longest-running historic motorsport events.
Organised by a community committee, it benefits numerous local organisations and projects and, this year, also Ovarian Cancer Australia and RACQ Careflight Rescue.
Competition starts at 8am on Saturday and Sunday. Other attractions include a Shannons Show 'n' Shine display on Sunday and a variety of market stalls and food outlets. Adult entry is $15 per day or $25 for the weekend. Children under 14 are admitted free.
Tickets are available at the gate during the event. Gates open 6.30 am.
- Adult: $15 per day or $25 for Weekend Pass
- Children: Free under 14 (School ID required)
Competition starts at 8am to 5pm Saturday, 8am to roughly 3pm Sunday.