Video: Retrospeed Wilby Park Sprints

The Retrospeed Wilby Park Sprints is Australia's biggest little event for pre-'78 muscle and sports cars that stop, turn and go

Photographers: Luke Hunter

The 2024 edition of Retrospeed Wilby Park Sprints is coming up 22-24 March. You can find all the event info, supplementary regs and entry form here. But for now, check out our coverage of last year’s event below:

The peaceful paddocks around Wilby Park Raceway in northern Victoria were brought to life on Saturday 15 April for the fifth instalment of the Retrospeed Wilby Park Sprints. The sprints are open to street and race cars made before 1978 with a period look, the aim being to create a fun, casual event with a cool retro vibe.

Those kipping in the trackside camping area awoke on Saturday morning to the sound of side-exit exhausts delivering raucous, ill-tempered, cold-start race motor notes. Within a few hours, and after a few sighting laps, spectators were able to experience the full vocal range of those same engines screaming down the country track’s main straight.

The event uses a time trial format; a warm-up lap leads into a timed single flying-lap sprint around the track. The entrant field is divided into groups, which then run one car at a time, meaning there’s a short queue if you want to get a few times down in quick succession.

It’s basically the opposite of endurance racing, so the event is great for street cars that aren’t thermally stable doing long sessions.

And having no other cars crowding the track means drivers anxious about bending their precious metal have very little to worry about. 

At this year’s event, first-time entrant John Szwede used his tarmac rally experience, 600hp of brute stroked-LS force, and wide Michelin TB race rubber to set a new track record of 36.14 seconds and take first place in his Lone O’Ranger LX SS hatchback. Last year’s champion Oscar Ortiz skilfully steered his silver Celica to hang on to second place, while Ian Turner came third in his RS2000 Escort race car.

Wooden spoon went to a rear-engined 1961 Renault Dauphine, while everything from sub-1000cc Minis to V8 muscle cars like Falcons and Corvettes filled out the remainder of the diverse 26-car field.

The event wrapped up on Saturday night with a casual award ceremony, a trackside dinner, and a bunch of bullshit being discussed around the fire, before participants retired to their Hatch Hutches, tents, swags or local accommodation to begin planning their upgrades for next year.

1. Event winner John Szwede bought this LX SS Torana during COVID and converted it from a tidy cruiser to a Targa rally weapon, adding a half ’cage, Houndstooth Recaro fixed-back seats with harnesses, and a hydraulic handbrake – not to mention working the LS to make over 600hp, breathing through eight throttles.

2. Michael Gray’s freshly rebuilt, 253-powered LH Torana made its debut at this year’s sprints after being written off in a shocking accident in torrential rain on the way to Summernats 31. Michael single-handedly brought it back to life over the past year. It now sports some comfort and undercarriage improvements like a period Recaro driver’s seat, air con, 9in diff upgrade, and larger stoppers all ’round.

3. Repeat Retrospeed competitors Ray and Dale co-entered their 911 Carrera. They’ve been mates for 60 years and have enjoyed motorsport events together for a lot of that time. The Porsche has been driven to and raced at almost every permanent track in Australia, along with hillclimbs and rally stages in most states.

4. Yours truly was able to shoulder the LH Torana of rival and previous winner Shannon Heraud out of fourth place by exchanging my trusty 911 for my Ultra Blue LX hatch, with a difference of just 0.15sec between us. Knowing Shannon’s reputation of upping the ante with last-minute powerplant upgrades before each year’s event, I won’t be resting on my laurels for next year!

5. Mark Blekic of Early Bird Falcon Parts entered this smoking-hot XT Falcon. It runs a 302 Windsor with quad IDA Webers, Top Loader ’box and 9in diff, with Group NC-spec everything, sans rollcage.

6. Oscar Ortiz took out last year’s event in his Toyota Celica and performed strongly again this year to score second place.

7. Burnout legend Shannon Heraud is a three-time winner at Wilby in his 253-powered Torana.