TIM Slade’s outright lap record run in a Brabham BT62 at Phillip Island has thrown a spotlight on a too often forgotten fact; Formula Holdens were awesome machines.
That it took 22 years to topple the previous benchmark of 1:24.2214s set by Simon Wills and his Birrana Racing Reynard 94D in February 2000 is proof of that statement.
And it required a Supercars star in hypercar built to no particular regulations – entered in a race meeting with the sole purpose of taking the record – to do so, stopping the clocks at 1:24.0607s.
The 2000 season was arguably the peak of the Formula Holden category, which was also briefly known as Formula Brabham and Formula 4000 during its run as Australia’s top formula from 1989 to 2004.
And the fast, flowing Phillip Island was where the high-downforce cars – many ex-Formula 3000 chassis fitted with 3.8-litre V6 Holden engines – were at their very best.
The seaside Victorian venue held the season-opener in 2000 and Wills set the record on the last lap of Race 2, which he won after a duel with Ralt Australia’s Matt Halliday.
“I was really happy about the lap record. I really wanted to try and get that, it was the goal for the weekend,” said Wills at the time, as he kicked off his charge to a second straight title.
“It made it so hairy out there with the wind. I had a bit of a problem, the car was running too low and I had a big moment down at Turn 1, phwoar, did I get sideways?!
“I really thought I was a goner then, but I managed to collect it back up and repass Matthew. It was a fantastic race.”
Little did Wills know at the time just how long his record would stand.
Prior to Sunday, Formula 3 champion Tim Macrow had come closest, clocking 1:24.5146s aboard his Dallara F307-Mercedes in 2013 shortly after the 4.45km venue was resurfaced.
For comparison, the Phillip Island lap record for the current Australian Drivers Championship formula – the V8 powered S5000 – sits at 1:25.6797s, as set by Joey Mawson last year.
As for Supercars? Scott McLaughlin clocked 1:30.9920s aboard his DJR Team Penske Mustang in 2019, just prior to the first of its downforce cuts. The category has not returned since.
While Wills’ marker has now finally been surpassed, the 2000 Australian Drivers Championship season still lays claim to three outright lap records, and two are very unlikely to be broken!
Wills and Tim Leahey remain the record holders at the defunct Canberra Street Circuit and Oran Park Raceway respectively, while the former’s 2000 effort stands at the still active Queensland Raceway.
Formula Holdens also retain the outright lap record at Hidden Valley (Wills, 2001), Mallala Motorsport Park (Paul Stokell, 1994) and Lakeside (Stokell, 1994).