Winton Festival of Speed

This year I travelled to the Winton Festival of Speed for the Saturday action, electing to compete in the MGB GT at a Calder Sprint the following day.

The weather was kind, but followed periods of inclement weather in the led up.

Still in its infancy the entry numbers are not yet at the levels of the other historic meetings in Victoria, but no doubt this will pick up in the coming years.

With a focus on muscle cars, the Saturday highlight to many would be the Top 10 shoot out for Group N cars. Very well organised & compared by the regular commentators, Darren Knight and Ron Simmonds. This session shows that a “flyer” in a qualifying session is not always re-produced in a shoot out. This was the case for Michael Hibbert (Valiant R/T Charger) who qualified 4th, but was knocked down to 10th in the shoot out. Tony Hubbard (Chevy Comaro) cruised to pole position knocking off Frazer Ross (Ford Mustang) by ½ a second.

The first race showed no change for the first two runners, but Denis O’Brien (Ford Mustang) got up to third place to round off the podium.

After an early battle in the Sa & Sb race, event organiser Ian Ross raced away to a cruisy victory over the similar Shelby of Chris La Rosa, but the race long dice went to two Group Sa cars vieing for the 3rd place on the podium with Peter Jackson (Austin Healey 3000) having the power over Don Bartley’s Austin Healey Sprite at the finish.

In the demonstration events we saw the collection of Porsche Museum cars currently in the country, but also local heroic cars including the ex HDT Marlboro Holden Commodore VB that Peter Brock took to the 1980 Australian Touring Car Championship. The owner, Rowan Harman, also competed in the regularity Division 2 events.

A number of categories were mixed due to the entrant numbers, which led to 1960s F2 & F3 cars combined with Formula Ford. John Bowe made another appearance in Trevor Simpsons Brabham BT23B-2 Climax & showed his dominance during qualifying and the race over the Brabham BT29. Then it was the battle of the Formula Fords with young Tim Blanchard driving a proper racing car, the Van Dieman RF88 (in which his father competed in period) leading the similar RF89 of Andrew McInnes and David Hardman driving Bill Hemming’s Elfin 600.

The feature for the meeting was the re-enactment of the Rose City 10000 race of 1978. That year, former F1 World Champ James Hunt flew in for the race & drove one of the MR8-AC Elfins. This weekend saw two of these cars in the Formula 5000 race, one the Hunt car, which was driven by Bob Harborow, and the other of Bill Hemming, probably Australia’s most travelled historic competitor this year fitting in this event between consecutive weekends of racing the Junior in Europe.

The Penfolds Wines Matich A50 of Bryan Sala took the first race win of the weekend, but it wasn’t without dramas in Friday practice when he collided with another 5000, but was back on track after tireless work by the team in an “all-nighter”. Andrew Robson was content with a non-to-familiar second place against Australian competition.

Very worthwhile making the journey to the Winton Festival of Speed as a spectator this year, although competing would’ve being better!

Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia

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