Although not yet the stature of the AFL Grand Final or Melbourne Cup, the annual Winton Historic meeting is high on top of my sporting calendar. Held across the last weekend in May l have not missed a year since 1979; 2017 was to be no different.
The meeting brings together historic car and bike categories ranging from the 1920s through to 1980. Sports cars, open wheelers, tin tops, solos and outfits, there is something for every taste in automotive finery.
As usual, we had an early start up the Maroondah Highway through fog and darkness with daylight breaking around Yea. In deference to my advancing years l was driving my HSV coupe, whilst my young and foolish son was travelling in his rather more raucous 65 Mustang. All the regular suspects were there again with my mates Clive, John and Mick also pulling up a folding chair at turn one upon arrival. We were however one man down with Ross Anderson attending to more pressing matters. We did speculate on what could possibly be more important and concluded that Ross must have needed urgent and lifesaving medical intervention. A quadruple bypass, lung transplant or suchlike.
There is action aplenty both on and off the track and a visit to the pits is essential. This year l was particularly drawn to the MAB, a concoction of Edwardian truck chassis, minimal bodywork and a WW1 V12 Liberty aircraft engine. Also with an aeronautical bent was a chain drive GN special built around two cylinders salvaged from a radial aircraft engine. Each cylinder has a capacity of three litres, that’s a six litre V2! The range and variety of pre and post war homebuilt specials is a real showcase of Aussie ingenuity and imagination.
On track, the Winton short circuit tends to equalise fields of cars having very different performance characteristics. Unlike Sandown and Phillip Island where a big and powerful car can run away, the twists and turns of Winton favour more good braking and handling. This makes for some entertaining race-long dices between the “biggies” and the “littlies”, often not settled until the last corner of the last lap.
The Group N touring cars were once again a highlight with a raft of three wheeling Minis doing battle with Mustangs, Falcons, Chargers and Camaros. Further down the field Cortinas, EH Holdens and a lone Studebacker were scrapping over track space. Surprisingly there was a minimum of on track carnage this year as the tin tops often seem to thrive on rubbing panels. Of course a Camaro came out on top proving once again that Chevy power is number one.
After a beautiful sunny day the cold really started to bite from around 4:00pm signalling that racing was coming to an end and it is time to head back home. Now we just have to wait until next year to do it all again. Only 362 sleeps!