Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Peter Knights, Phil Wisewould & Geoff Vernon
One of the world’s oldest Historic race meetings burst back into life for the first time in two years at Winton. The weather was magnificent, the crowd enthused and the racing tight at the top. Even the dunnies looked good with perhaps their first coats of paint. Ever.
Historic Winton had fallen off the HTCAV’s championship list in recent years when the promoters decreed only older and smaller cars need apply. That rule was relaxed this year, but not in time to attract a big HTC contingent. But the racing nonetheless was mighty.
Former Club champ Nick Cascone rolled out his rapid yellow Cortina after a near four-year layoff and promptly stuck it on pole. Linda Devlin (Mini) lost a front wheel late in qualifying thanks to a broken CV joint but Cooper S maestro Barry Devlin and crew would have her back on the front row for the opening race in the familiar light blue Henry Draper brick.
Race One – girl chases boy
Cascone hooked up nicely and hugged the inside line into turn one to prevent Mini racer Linda Devlin sneaking up the inside. Michael George (Lotus Cortina) stalled but eventually got going in his return meeting after copping a hefty whack in the rear during the first JUST CARS Round at the Phillip Island Classic in March.
Long-time EH Holden punter Richard Fairlam slotted into third behind Devlin whilst a huge battle for fourth erupted between Jerry Lenstra (Cortina), David Belford (Volvo), Don Knight (Cortina) and David Crabtree having his first Winton run in the ex-Lawrie Nelson Capri.
Lenstra retired with his Cortina still needing some engine sorting while Devlin gradually ate into the slender lead Cascone had built earlier. She was all over the rear bumper of the Cortina during the final lap but try as she might could not find a way past as Cascone covered every possible passing opportunity. In the fading light the crowd were treated to some fantastic driving by both front runners with Cascone barely a car length (and a Mini length at that!) in front of Devlin as the flag fell.
Fairlam was unchallenged in third while Crabtree edged out Knight and Belford to claim fourth. George was next followed by Syd Jenkins (Mini), Tony Pekovic (EH), Quentin White (Mini) and Vince Parisi (Simca Vedette) who would go on to bag a well-deserved Best Presented.
Race Two – girl chases boy. Again.
Lenstra did not return nor Fairlam who had blown a head gasket in the closing stages of race one. In the bright morning light Cascone made a break for it as Devlin struggled slightly off the line as did Knight, the Cortina wheel-spinning off the start due to coolant and oil on the race track from a previous race. Belford hounded Crabtree in an entertaining dice while in the battle between George and Knight, the two Pommy Fords swapped places at will.
Jenkins found a way past White as Cascone again held out the ever-present Devlin to win with Crabtree a hard fought third narrowly in front of Belford who was dealing with a slipping LSD. A trip to differential guru, the inimitable Ken Zinner was definitely on the horizon. George just edged out Knight in the run to the flag.
Race Three – boy chases girl.
Cascone leapt out to an early lead with Crabtree leading Devlin at the completion of the opening lap before Devlin snuck through and set about chasing Cascone once again. With three laps to go Cascone was now hampered by a leaking rear axle seal and Devlin pounced with the ol` switch back manoeuvre at turn one to grab the lead. Rather than potentially chucking the Ford off the road Quick Nick settled for a solid second behind Devlin who took a popular win. Crabtree was third from Belford then Knight and George.
Even though numbers were down the Nick and Linda show had everyone – crews, families and spectators alike – on their toes. It’s fair to assume that while returning home most would think historic touring cars should ‘return home’ with a bigger grid to this iconic little meeting that is so much a part of HTCAV history.