2014 Winton Historics

38th Historic Winton

May  24-25, 2014

Report by Darrren Knight. Pics courtesy Phil Wisewould.

Race One late on Saturday afternoon turned out to be a non-event – literally – after two red flags early in the piece curtailed the action.

Grid positions for the Race Two 8-lapper on Sunday were attributed to the best of qualifying and/or lap times during the handful of race laps completed on Saturday. Bill Trengrove would start at the back in his Mustang having bent a valve in his EH during qualifying. His first race back in the Holden for nearly 14 years would have to wait for another meeting.

Jason Armstrong (Mini) fared better than fellow South Australian Stuart Barnes (Mustang) off the front row by making a quick getaway while short track rookie Daryl Hansen (Mustang) squeezed under Barnes to grab second. The usual Winton Mini attack was in full swing with Henry Draper, Justin Elvin and Rob Ford among others all locked in a huge battle with the Lotus Cortina of Scott Fleming.

Debutant Colin Larsen looped his XY into the infield after exiting turn one, the sodden grass sending the big Falc back onto the edge of the track just as the Mini of the unlucky Doug Burton came round with damage resulting to both cars.

Rob Burns was showing great speed in only the second outing for his Alfa, the former Charger racer having a big dice with Draper who had his Mini at almost 90 degrees to the track through the esses at one stage.

Armstrong and Hansen traded the lead several times until the Mustang proved too strong in the end with Fleming third in the John Gilfillan-owned Corty. Burns was fourth then Elvin, Barnes, Draper, Ford, Ian Pringle (Mini) and Chris Cotton (Mini) in tenth, making it six Minis in the top ten. Hello Bathurst `66! Fastest lap: Armstrong 1:09.4073 (lap three).

In the setting Autumnal sun Hansen hooked up nicely to lead early in Race Three though Armstrong again gave the big Ford all sorts of hassle, particularly through the tight corners around the gum tree at the far end of the circuit. With his BMW now sporting a bold orange stripe down the middle, giving the 2002 a Gulf Racing look, Chris Ralph harassed Pringle as Geoff Davis (Mazda) came under attack from Matt Baragwanath in Paul Trevethan’s Lotus Cortina.

Former Winton race winner Michael Hibbert was spectacularly sideways exiting the esses as he pushed the Magenta Charger into the top ten as the Grey Six powered Holdens of Phil Barrow (FJ) and Eddie Dobbs (FE) ran in very close company mid-pack.

With a lap to go Barnes and Cotton collided near the end of the back straight with heavy damage to both cars, putting both out on the spot. On a by-now very greasy track Hansen had the odd sideways moment but drove a calm and calculating race to beat the ever present Armstrong with Burns joining him on the podium in the tidy GTV. Fleming was fourth in front of Ford then Draper, Hibbert, Brent Trengrove (Mustang), Elvin and Pringle rounding out the top ten. Fastest lap: Armstrong 1:09.7226 (lap four).

Darren Knight           

Editorial Observations (Chris Ralph)

Apart from being on the same date, Winton Historic and the Monaco GP share the distinction of being somewhat anachronistic. Both are meetings that have heritage and draw the crowds, a place to be seen and catch up with old friends. A race meeting that’s there, because it’s always been there.  

But the racing? Hmmm. With a full grid of cars starting in a two-one-two grid format on an uphill slope on a short straight that turns downhill before the first corner, the potential for entanglement is very high. The track is often very greasy and oily, given the average age of the other classes – and the chains of the old bikes. Because it’s such a tight track there’s a need to tiger, and panel damage is often noted at this meeting. 

When I had the big rollover at this meeting in 2010 (my fault alone) I felt that in this regard, the organisation was pretty good. After the two-red-flags-in-one-5-lap-race experience on the Saturday afternoon I began to wonder.  

The race was three laps down when Phil Barrow’s car was stranded in-field on the exit of the sweeper. Phil got out of the car, so the race had to be red flagged. It was already 60% over, so could have been called then and there. On the re-start line up there was a line for slow cars and a line for the fast ones while the marshalls ran thither and yon figuring out who was ahead of whom, while many engines teetered on the brink of boiling.

Eventually we were sent on another warm up lap and re-gridded on the new basis. Hot cars, hot, unsettled drivers and the two-one-two grid format all came together to create a first corner incident where four drivers forgot their manners and neglected to say ‘after you, mate’.

Another red flag, again we were lining up hot and bothered at the start line, when it was almost dark. If the race wasn’t called after the first red flag, surely it would be after the second, many thought. Eventually as temperatures rose in man and machine, we were given the news that the race had been declared a non-event.

No results were recorded, the event did not officially take place. The next morning the grid sheet was cobbled up from the best of qualifying or the times from the race that had never taken place, which none of the competitors had seen.

This led to some odd placements of cars and begs the question, if it was a non-event, how can the times be a valid basis for a grid sheet? Had the race been shut down after the first red flag when 60% of the race had taken place, a valid grid for R2 would have been available and points would have been scored for the competitors (and no panel damage would have taken place). If that wasn’t possible, there was a perfectly good set of qualifying times to use.

Of course, it’s easy to be wise in hindsight, but I can’t escape the feeling that if a CAMS team had been at the helm, the decisions may have been different.

This opinion piece does not necessarily reflect the official view of the HTCAV.