Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould
Nearly 40 cars lobbed for some long track action across two days of the Winton Festival of Speed (5-6 August 2023), with the 50K JUST CARS Historic Touring Car Cup the big feature on Sunday. After a substantial dump of rain late on Friday the weekend dawned with brilliant sunshine that lasted the whole meeting.
Qualifying – Saturday morning
NSW’s Brad Tilley in the 289 Group Nc Mustang grabbed pole, almost a second faster that local Andrew Williams (Torana) and heralding a dominant performance. A second further back local Darren Collins (302 Mustang) headed a group of Adrian Moyle (Camaro), Andrew Girvan (Torana), Peter McNiven (Mazda), the legendary Tony Hubbard (Camaro), Brent Trengrove (Camaro) and Gary Edwards (Torana) – all within a second, ahead of Brett Ferris (Torana) who rounded out the top ten.
Race One – Saturday afternoon
It was Tilley’s first visit to Winton in 15 years and looking to replicate son Jamie’s stunning run last year, Brad leapt to an early lead in front of Williams as Darren Collins slotted into third in his recently acquired `68 ‘Warhorse Mustang’, one of the first Group Nc cars built in the late `90s by Rian Nott in Melbourne. Adrian Moyle ran off the end of the old back straight and fell to the back as fellow Camaro campaigner Tony Hubbard retired. McNiven’s Mazda began to look very racy, pressuring the Torana of Andrew Girvan for fourth. Former Torana front runner Edwards, back after relocating to Queensland some years ago, was running strongly in the top ten.
Just behind him the immaculate XU-1 of Brett Ferris had former HTCAV President Chris Stern (Mustang) and current Pres Ben Dahlstrom (Charger) duking it out right in his mirrors. Willie van Wersch found a box of neutrals in his Falcon right at the wrong time, at full noise at the end of the back straight, jumping off line to avoid pole axing cars in front but then hitting the wet grass and clouting the tyre wall. Willie emerged unhurt with the race ending under safety car with only a couple of laps remaining. Tilley won from Williams, Collins, McNiven, with Girvan, Trengrove, Edwards, Ferris, Stern and Dahlstrom completing the top ten.
Fierce NSW rivals David Noakes (BDA Escort) and Tom Tweedie (Mini) finished next a second apart, with Tweedie bagging bragging rights with fastest lap in the first of their three magnificent stoushes for the weekend. Les Walmsley led the contingent of six Cortinas home, their number only interspersed by Phil Barrow (FJ Holden) and Dean McLaughlan (Datsun 1600).
Race Two – early Sunday morning
With the main ‘enduro’ in the middle of the day, this short sharp 5-lapper just after 9 am blew cobwebs out of cars and drivers event on a cold track.
Even with less-than-ideal wide ratios in a replacement gearbox, Tilley led early with Williams hot on his heels. The cool air worked magic as Tilley broke the outright Group N record with an astounding 1.35.3. Girvan was out early after a belt departed. McNiven nipped under Collins and began harassing Williams in a fantastic dice with a similar David and Goliath stoush erupting between Richard Hill (Mini) and reigning HTCAV Champ Pete Meuleman (Mustang).
Dahlstrom went out with gearbox issues as open wheeler ace Tom Tweedie flung his Mini around with much verve in his pursuit of Dom Leo in the ex-Collins Camaro. This time he bested Noakes and set the unofficial Mini record for the Winton long track of 1.39.4 and finished just outside the top ten. Tilley was never headed and took the win from Williams and McNiven closely followed by Collins and Brent Trengrove (Camaro), Stern’s Mustang and the Toranas of Ferris and Edwards.
THE 50K JUST CARS Historic Touring Car Cup
This is toughest race on the HTC calendar. The Winton track tests everything on designs that are between half and three quarters of a century old – even though many are newer builds the stresses and strains saw ten cars unable to endure the Enduro.
Fuel tanks were brimmed with 17 laps in the offing as the field gridded up under bright sunshine. Tilley made another tidy start to lead as mid-pack Rob van Stokrom, who had steadily moved up the order over the weekend in his unfamiliar ex-McKelvie Mustang, had a moment through the sweeper. Stu Bailey (Cortina) tried to avoid cannoning into the errant Pony but was collected in the rear quarter by an unsighted Girvan charging up from the rear. Both retired as did Stern a few laps later with power steering woes and Meuleman with a dead fuel pump, ending his incredible run of consecutive race/session finishes, thought to be as high as 74.
Tweedie and Noakes engaged in some spirited dicing in front of S.A. visitor Evan Gobell (Torana). Les Walmsley was having another solid run in the freshly painted Cortina (striping still to come) while McNiven pitted with a loose wheel ending his chances of another good finish. Brent Trengrove nabbed third place from Collins then almost immediately retired after the throttle cable dislodged. D`oh!
Collins then suffered his own misfortune with a gearbox issue allowing Moyle onto the podium as Tilley made it a clean sweep for the weekend including that new lap record earlier in the day. Williams, Moyle, Collins and Edwards rounded out the top five, ahead of Makulu Vehicle Storage HTC Driver of the Meeting Andrew Ferris. The VHRR Driver of the Meeting, over all race categories, went to Tom Tweedie for his giant killing efforts, which resulted in a 9th place finish, scraping home just over a .1 sec ahead of his archrival Noakes.
A great weekend with two lucky days of good weather to showcase the JUST CARS Cup, now firmly established as the feature race on this premier historic motor racing meeting.