Words: Darren Knight
Photos: Phil Wisewould
A must-do event for many in the historic touring community, Historic Winton isn’t just about touring cars, with the annual event featuring an absolute cornucopia of competition cars across multiple categories, as well as racing motorcycles and sidecars.
And with the paddock at Winton Motor Raceway featuring heritage vehicle displays, there’s often just as much classic metal off the track as there is on it!
Clear skies and crisp autumn air made for a pleasant weekend for spectators and competitors alike at the rural Victorian circuit. Morning fog forced some minor changes to the programme, but the rain obligingly held off until after the weekend’s competition had concluded.
Mini on pole
Quaintly still called ‘Practice’ - a hangover from this meeting’s early days – qualifying for this year’s 45th Historic Winton saw the ex-Jason Armstrong Mini, now in the hands of fellow South Australian Jonathan French, take pole with a 1.09.02 lap time around Winton’s ‘short circuit’.
Andrew Girvan, the meeting’s sole Group Nc entrant in a field of more than 20 Nb cars, flew the flag for the Victorians and was the only other car in the “nines,” with a 1.09.36 in his LJ Torana GTR XU-1.
Third, fourth and fifth on the grid would be the Minis of Richard Hill, former NSW TCM racer Adam Bressington (in the ex-Nick Stillwell car) and Historic Touring Cars’ fastest lady, Linda Devlin.
Alongside Devlin on Row 3 was NSW’s Jerry Lenstra, whose Cortina was one of seven in this meeting, including GT and Lotus variants.
Race 1 - late Saturday, 10 laps
From P2, Girvan leapt into the lead in front of a spirited four-way Mini battle between French, Bressington, Hill and Devlin.
At last year’s Historic Winton, Devlin had an unbelievable, weekend-long stoush with the Cortina of Nick Cascone. This year, her initial fist fight was with Peter van Summeren’s ill-handling Lotus Cortina (a longer and closer dice with Les Walmsley’s Cortina GT followed on Sunday). Cortinas are the bane of her life!
A similarly high-powered and entertaining dice erupted between the Cortinas of Peter George, Don Knight and Les Walmsley, with WA-based Mini racer Syd Jenkins being the small dog in this fight. Walmsley threw everything at Knight but could not find a way past as the one and only Tino Leo (Cortina) found himself in a similar position right behind the stunning Mark II Jaguar of John Shuttle.
After his recently acquired Cortina gave him plenty of grief at Phillip Island earlier this year, Lenstra was having a much better run at Winton, inside the top ten and chasing the Minis around the short circuit.
Ben Dahlstrom (S Series Valiant) slid off at turn one before re-joining, then retired near the end after veteran Scotty Taylor (Mini) tagged the Val`s front corner at the esses.
Out front, Girvan was never headed in his immaculate Torana, leading home a Mini quartet of French, Bressington, Hill and Devlin in the blinding setting sun. Behind this group, van Summeren was the first Cortina home.
Race 2 – midday Sunday, 6 laps
Girvan scooted away again to lead as Leo took to the grass to get around a slow-starting Stu Bailey in the ex-Fast Johnny Luxmoore Cortina.
Having bested Walmsley in Race 1, Knight ran wide at turn one allowing Walmsley through, who then gapped his pursuers thanks to a shorter diff ratio, which made the little Ford quicker out of Winton`s slow corners.
After decades based in WA, the ex-Rob Semple XM Falcon Hardtop was now in the hands of XK Falcon racer David Forbes and looking an absolute picture. A spring change after Race 1 improved the 200ci six-cylinder Ford somewhat, but Early Bird nut Forbes has plenty more in store to get this new mount to his liking.
Phil Barrow (FJ Holden) blew a gearbox after finding himself in his usual massive battle with several cars (people seem to gravitate to the old Holden both on track and off), while Girvan took another win under sunny skies.
The top six was the same as Race 1, followed by Walmsley in seventh, then William Walker (Mini), who had charged up from the back of the grid after a DNF in the opener.
Race 3 – late Sunday, 10 laps
Barrow was back with a replacement `box for the final, as second-generation Torana racer Girvan again made a fast getaway when the flag dropped.
Amongst the Minis, Bressington got the jump on French this time and slotted into second place, but the South Australian hounded Bresso until finally squeezing past. Behind them, Jenkins was having an almighty BMC vs GMH scrap with Barrow and would eventually cross the line only 0.5 secs ahead of the ‘FJ Supercar’.
The Lotus Cortinas of George and van Summeren both retired from the final Group N race of the meeting, as did Dahlstrom, who had endured a frustrating weekend in the automatic Valiant.
Shuttle’s all-black 3.8-litre Jag and the yellow example of Victoria’s Greg Menzies held up the Union Jack with ‘Grace, Pace and Space’ (an old Jag slogan), with the rapid Shuttle fending off the Cortinas of Bailey and Lenstra, as well as the Mini of Tasmania’s Scotty Taylor, to finish twelfth overall.
Girvan was flying high, though, making it a clean sweep. French claimed second in the finale, followed by Bressington, Hill, Walker and Devlin, who had emerged victorious over the hard-pedalling Walmsley. Completing the top ten were Knight, Jenkins and Barrow.
French’s pole and three-race domination of Group Nb - on his Winton debut no less - earned him the coveted Makulu Vehicle Storage Driver of the Meeting award.
Beat the rain home!
There was little time for post-race niceties as black clouds hastened the scramble to pack and load the hot race cars for the journey home on the Hume.
All had agreed that this 45th edition was one of the classic ‘good time’ Historic Wintons, up there with the best in long memories and setting a standard for the younger crop of racers, making them determined to repeat the exercise next year.
Next up for the JUST CARS racers is a support event for the Supercars at Tailem Bend in late July, then it’s back to Winton - on the long track this time - for the Winton Festival of Speed on 6-7 August.
If you’d like to come to Winton, but need to keep warm, the HTCAV has booked a room with a great view of the action… come along!