With typical Mercedes reliability - apart from an unexpected puncture just after the start - a 220SE salon co-driven by Bob Jane
and Harry Firth
raced away to an outright victory and won its class in the 1961 Armstrong 500 at Phillip Island. Second outright, and also a class winner, was a Studebaker Lark co-driven by David McKay and Brian Foley, while 1960 winners Frank Coad and John Boxburgh, brought a Vauxhall Velox
into outright third place. Fourth was another Lark driven by Melbourne policemen Clyde Martyr, F. Sutherland and Bill Graetz. Geoff Bussell and Dave. Anderson co-drove a Peugeot 403
to a class win while John Connolly, Brian Sampson and Jim Gullan shared the wheel of the Renault Gordini
which won the up to 1000cc class.
A disappointing field of only 26 cars - 11 less than the total entry - started and five cars failed to finish. Gusty winds and clouds of dust made conditions thoroughly unpleasant, but the circuit stood up to the long battering fairly well. Official estimates of the crowd ranged from 10.000 to 25,000 people. McKay led the field away at the start, with Coad second and the other Studebaker entry third. Jane
was fourth on the first lap. but had to come in on his next lap to change the punctured wheel. This cost him two laps, as the rules forbade mechanics to work on any of the cars in the first 100 miles. The Reynolds/ Gibson Triumph Herald
was disaualified under this regulation after the car's mechanics cleaned a petrol pump The order remained Studebaker-Vauxhall-Studebaker for some time, but Jane was driving aggressively and catching the leaders.
After a third of the race was through, the Mercedes hit the front and soon afterwards Jane handed the car over to Firth, who carried on steadily, consolidating the lead over the McKay-Foley car. Roxburgh spun the Vauxhall on lap 38 and damaged a front wheel and part of the suspension
, but the pit crew got the car going again in eight minutes. Meanwhile, the K. Harper/S. Fisher Falcon was having a great dice with the I. Strachan/John Lanyon Holden, the two cars passing and repassing in a see-saw duel which ended when the Holden went out temporarily with wheel bearing trouble.
The 1001 to 1600cc Class
In the 1001 to 1600 cc class, the Russell/Anderson Peugeot 403
was well ahead of its nearest competitors, the Ron Lilley/Bill Coe 403
and the L. March/R. Brown/M. Lempriere Simca Montlhery. The Gordinis were completely dominating the up to 1000cc class, running away from the team of four Ford 105E Anglias
and the Triumph Heralds
. Just after 3.30 pm - eight hours 31 seconds after setting out - Bob Jane
brought the winning light-green Mercedes over the finishing line after averaging just over 60mph for the 500 miles. The win meant nothing in actual prizemoney, but a lot in prestige. However, his class win meant that he and Firth
shared in a considerable portion of the total prizemoney of (Aus) 8085 pounds.
Some lap charts showed the McKay-Foley 4.2-litre Lark as being a lap behind while others gauged the difference as 40 seconds. Anyway, the car was an indisputed second and winner of the over 2601 cc class. The Velox was second in this class and the other Lark third, the one remaining car in the class, a Ford Customline
, having retired after losing a wheel. The Falcon was second to the Mercedes in the 1601 to 2600cc class and the Holden third, these being the only three cars in this class to start the race.
The reliable Gordinis looked like making it a 1-2 effort in the smallest class until the Lex Park/Stan Martyn/Rex Broadhead car boiled 10 minutes before the finish and had to limp home. This let G. Poulton and J. Vanaria's Herald into second place, the Anglias surprisingly not having a show. Russell and Anderson had had an axcel!ent, trouble-free run in their Peugeot to win their class from Lilley and Poe and the quick Simca. So, that was the Armstrong 500 - quite uneventful after the 1960 race, but nevertheless worth seeing and we hope there are some out there that remember the event.