Words: Darren Knight
Photos: Phil Wisewould
After being parked for the past two years, it was no surprise that this year’s Winton Festival of Speed received 300 entries across all classes. The Historic Touring Cars headlined the show with the 50km JUST CARS Cup; a traditional enduro on the rural Victorian venue’s long circuit.
The JUST CARS Cup always throws up action and surprises, and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint.
Qualifying – Saturday morning
In damp and greasy conditions for qualifying, a total of 26 Group N cars would slip and slide their way around the circuit for four laps. Amongst the entry list, there was a welcome sight for Mopar fans in the form of three Chargers - for the first time in a while - to mix it with eight Mustangs and single Monaro and Camaro entries at the ‘big cube’ end of the field.
Regular long-track visitor Jason Humble led a five-strong Mazda charge and duly stuck his rapid RX-2 on pole, ahead of the similar car of former Supercar steerer and Sports Sedan Champion Darren Hossack, proving that, even on the long track, Winton’s layout suits the smaller, more nimble cars.
Jamie Tilley, of the famous – and fast – Tilley racing family, would qualify his 289 Mustang coupe in third, alongside Glenn Miles’s Charger, while Les Walmsley impressed in the lone Cortina for this event, slotting into fifth alongside Brett Ferris (Torana GTR).
Current HTCAV Champion Peter Meuleman (Mustang) qualified seventh, with Dom Leo (Mustang), Tony Hubbard (Camaro) and Rob Burns (Charger) completing the top ten.
Further back, the amazing Phil Barrow put the family FJ Holden in the midfield ahead of more fancied machinery, including a small herd of pony cars.
Race One – Saturday afternoon
Under drier conditions (at least on the track), Hossack jumped Humble off the line and led into turn one while James McNiven fell off through the esses and rotated his Mazda RX-2 on the very wet grass before re-joining.
A gearbox input shaft breakage for Barrow’s FJ brought out the Safety Car, which benefitted Humble, who snatched the lead from Hossack upon the resumption of racing.
James McNiven again took to the grass beyond the esses as son Peter found his own RX-2 stranded on the edge of the sweeper with an issue, necessitating another Safety Car.
When green flag conditions resumed, Winton first timer Tilley took little time finding his groove and moved his immaculate Mustang into third, where he remained to the chequered flag as Humble took the win in front of Hossack.
Historic Touring veteran Hubbard was fourth, while Miles just held out Ben Wilkinson (Mustang) for fifth; the latter carving his way through the field from 15th on the grid.
Race Two – The JUST CARS Cup early Sunday afternoon
This was the big one. As has become tradition at this meeting, the Historic Touring Cars would contest a comparative marathon as spectators flocked to the fences – 17 laps and 50 kms around a tough track to take home the JUST CARS Cup and class trophies.
Poleman Humble jumped away well to lead Tilley into the esses as Hossack lost a few spots off the line with too much wheelspin. Behind them, the Mustangs of Dom Leo and Andrew Lane swapped places as Hossack nipped under Wilkinson’s pony car to climb back up to fourth.
Burns was running strong initially, rounding up the Charger of Miles before retiring the famous number 70 Hemi Orange machine.
Hubbard had his hands full keeping the nimble Mazda of Hossack at bay, with this great battle for third lasting several laps until Hubbard waved Hossack through. The Mazda pilot had posted the race’s fastest lap in his pursuit of Hubbard, but it all came to naught when the car became stuck in gear not long after.
Reflecting Wilkinson's Race 1 drive, Adriano Di Mauro in the Rob Burns-owned Alfa GTV sliced his way from the back of the field to 11th with molto brio to earn him the Makulu Driver of the Meeting award before overheating problems slowed him.
Fellow rear-of-grid starter Peter McNiven’s similarly great drive encountered no such problems and would eventually bear fruit, landing him inside the top five.
Keeping the Charger flag flying, Ben Dahlstrom battled Leo as Lane began to put serious pressure on Hubbard for third place.
At the front, Humble had his eyes glued to the mirror as Tilley harassed the Mazda all around the 3.0km long-track layout. The Mustang launched over the curbs as Jamie tried to find a way past, finally sneaking through under brakes at the esses but then running a little wide on exit to allow Humble to close back up again.
Suddenly, the two front runners found Di Mauro’s limping Alfa in their path. Humble seized on the opportunity to snatch back the lead with two laps to go. Despite a valiant fightback within sight of the flag, Tilley would have to settle for second behind Humble by a mere 0.5 seconds.
In an equally gripping battle for third, Hubbard just held off a fast-finishing Lane.
Peter McNiven was an excellent fifth, followed by the `69 fastback Mustang of Queenslander Ian Mewett. Wilkinson was next across the line, with the two Chargers of Dahlstrom and Miles in hot pursuit, while Leo rounded out the top ten.
Humble had come so close to a JUST CARS Cup win in previous years and finally got his hands on the trophy in this year’s determined attempt. Second-placed Tilley was first pre-65 car and first Group Nb car home, with Rob van Stokrom (BMW) winning the Under 2 Litre category. Miles’s Charger scored the Best Presented award.
It would be fair to say that, as they drove home in the pouring rain, all the historic tourers at this year’s Winton Festival of Speed agreed it was a fabulous weekend of motorsport, with the annual enduro once again a highlight of the racing year.
Next up for the JUST CARS racers is Historic Sandown in early November. Bring it on!