Gucciardo breaks Chester stranglehold at Aussie Pools Winton Festival of Speed

The 2019 installment of the Winton Festival of Speed saw a big lineup of categories and once again MG & Invited British Sportscars put on a healthy grid of 22 entrants across all our classes.

Championship protagonists Vince Gucciardo and Phil Chester headlined a field that saw the return of Damien Meyer in his very quick Midget from NSW alongside brother Simon in an older Midget.   The Invited field saw Keith Ondarchie’s Stag, Gordon Bunyan in a Spitfire and Shirley St John Cox in her TR7 V8.  The classic contingent was full of quality, David Anderson, Greg White, Darren Souter and stalwart Peter Rose in their MG B’s were joined by Gary Bulmer, local Peter Dunn, Michael Herlihy, David Mottram and Jane Vollebregt showing the strength of the four cylinder MG B’s.

Dave ‘Aussie Pools’ Anderson had a strong weekend of results
Photo: Michael Wignall

Friday practice saw a small contingent run, Gucciardo found small issues with his car and the team straight onto things replacing both wheel bearings on the front, changing the front brakes and some minor fettling.  Chester was a no show for most of the day with a delayed flight into Melbourne meaning he was only able to get in the final session of the day, while Souter chased some small engine gremlins.

Qualifying saw all 22 vehicles head out, Chester pushed out a 1:32.7 straight away but Gucciardo quickly topped it with a 1:32.1, Chester improved to a 1:32.472 and called it a day with a front row start only for Damien Meyer late in the session to put in a 1:32.470 to slot into second by .0015!  Gucciardo took his first pole for the year, but his second straight at the Festival of Speed.

Peter Dunn, Peter Rose and John Stevenson battle onto the back straight. The mid pack lap times saw 10 cars seperated by less than 2 seconds!
Photo: Michael Wignall

Simon Meyer slotted into fourth with a 1:37.8, from Ondarchie on a 1:40.2 in a lonely fifth place.  The battle from 6th to 10th was a cracker, Bulmer fastest MG B from Tony Vollebregt in his ZR, David Anderson in his MG B in 8th, all three split by under half a second.  Peter Dunn and Greg White rounded out the top 10.  In perhaps a bit of a surprise David Vernall pipped Darren Souter for 11th ahead of Michael Herlihy, Ian Branson and Sean Herlihy.  All in all 10 cars were separated by just three seconds and MG B’s, MG ZR’s and MG F’s all in the mix, a showcase of the strength and diversity of the midfield of MG Racing.

Simon Meyer impressed in the older MG Midget picking up a pair of fourth placings
Photo: Michael Wignall

Race 1 – 8 laps

Gucciardo and Meyer on the front row was always going to give Gucciardo a slight advantage to Chester who was a row behind, and the run to turn 1 saw Gucciardo, Chester, Meyer and Meyer from Bulmer and Ondarchie.  Behind it was chaos as Vollebregt spun across the track between turn 1 and 2, David Vernall collecting him putting Vernall to last and Vollebregt deciding to park the car unsure of the damage.   Gucciardo pressed hard early on to build a gap, a 1:32.1 on his second lap as Chester in hot pursuit matched it, the pair trading lap times until a slight mistake on lap 4 allowed Chester to pounce for the lead, the pair locked together but Chester able to hold the gap, a slender .3 of a second across the line after 8 laps.

Both Meyer brothers suffered lonely races, Damien pushed hard early but had to relent to the pace of the V8’s mid race, Simon finding himself in no mans land and having a lonely race.  Keith Ondarchie’s Stag not quick enough for the little Midgets settled for 5th place overall and set a 1:39.6.

Gary Bulmer managed to draw a gap early on with the first lap muddle and Anderson unable to close the gap down, despite a slightly faster lap he just couldn’t quite close the gap and Bulmer finished first of the four cylinder MG B’s, Anderson first in Group S.  Greg White made progress through the race, not quite fast enough for the two out front but a strong run to 8th while Michael Herlihy showed experience to move up from 13th in Qualifying to 9th at the end of the opening race while Ian Branson in his second weekend avoided the early carnage and went from 14th to 10th and first in the Modern class just ahead of Souter, Bunyan, a recovering Vernall, Rose, John Stevenson in his MG TC, David Mottram, Sean Herlihy, Rodger Chapman and Jane Vollebregt.  Sean Herlihy was running strong in 11th behind his dad before a wild moment out of the sweeper saw him drop from 11th to 17th before a recovering Vernall moved past on lap 6 relegating him to 18th.

David Vernall impressed despite a setback in the opening race to recover to a class win in the final race
Photo: Michael Wignall

Race 2 – 8 Laps

Gucciardo got a stellar start once more leading Chester into turn 1 ahead of Meyer, Meyer and Ondarchie early on.  Bulmer and Anderson slotted into 6th and 7th while Branson jumped Michael Herlihy for 9th.  David Vernall got a poor start dropping to 14th while Tony Vollebregt starting from the back of the grid moved up to 17th on the opening lap.  Simon Meyer pitted on lap 2 with what turned out to be a loose rocker in the Midget, this moved Ondarchie up to 4th while Anderson jumped Bulmer on lap 2 to move into 5th overall.  Sean Herlihy moved from 18th to 16th passing Chapman and now behind Mottram.   Peter Dunn was recovering from his DNF to be up to 18th while Peter Rose moved into the top 10 with Simon Meyers retirement.

Up front Gucciardo was driving a measured race, Chester chasing but unable to find a clear way through.  Anderson ran wide allowing Bulmer back into 5th and an attempt around the outside at the end of the back straight didn’t come off, Anderson dropped 3 seconds and giving up his run for 5th at that time, settling for the Group S class win.  David Vernall was on a mission back through the field, moving up to 12th before getting by Peter Rose for 11th where he would finish.  Michael Herlihy and a recovering Tony Vollebregt battled for 8th and 9th, Vollebregt getting by but the wise old fox Herlihy stuck it out and moved into 8th.

Vince Gucciardo leads Phil Chester on the way to a race win on Sunday
Photo: Michael Wignall

Out front Gucciardo and Chester ran line astern through the lap traffic, Gucciardo holding on for his first outright win from Chester while Damien Meyer had a lonely run in 3rd.

Bulmer, Anderson, White, Basnons, M Herlihy, Tony Vollebregt and David Vernall would round out the top 10.  Sean Herlihy ran a strong race, after a disaster in race 1 he managed to get back to 13th overall by the finish and John Stevenson finished up 11th with a big improvement.  From 6th to 14th the fastest lap times were all 1:45’s or 1:46’s, a ripping battle mid field once more.

Race 3 – 8 Laps

The finale for the weekend and race control had instructed the front V8’s to not use their flashing headlights in lap traffic.  Gucciardo stalled on the line, Chester bouncing away in control while Gucciardo hit turn 1 in 8th place, quickly picking off those around him, a great display by all drivers to avoid the pole sitter and allowing him lots of room to come back through, once more the camaraderie of the series showing how important it is.  Damien Meyer wasn’t leaving anything on the line and went around the outside of Chester at the gum tree, he would hold the place until the back straight when cubic inches counted, from then Chester was never headed taking a clear win.

Gucciardo recovered on the opening lap for 3rd, but it would take him until lap 6 to get by Meyer, from then he ran a comfortable second while Meyer was driving extremely well, he would finish just 6 seconds off the win after 8 laps, a very good feat for the mighty midget!

Damien Meyer was a welcome returnee in the rapid red MG Midget. The car even lead the start of the final race
Photo: Michael Wignall

Simon Meyer recovered for 4th in the final, a strong weekend despite the DNF in race 2.  Once more mid field was tight Bulmer and Anderson resuming battle, Anderson getting by and finally holding out for 5th overall for the race.  Keith Ondarchie had a horrid weekend, while running 5th he pitted with engine issues and wouldn’t rejoin, Tony Vollebregt got by Greg White for 7th place and David Vernall made strong progress, he battled Sean Herlihy early on and moved up to 10th on lap 5, Herlihy having to drop to 11th while David Mottram made strong progress up to 13th ahead of Darren Souter and Gordon Bunyan.  Peter Rose had a spin on the exit of the cleavage and would drop to 16th place, On lap 7 we saw Gary Bulmer pull off as David Vernall got by Ian Branson who ran wide on the entrance to the back straight.  Gucciardo, Chester, Meyer, Meyer and Anderson rounded the top 5 out and once more a huge part of the field within two seconds of each other again.


Name Vehicle Qualifying Race 1 Race 2 Race 3
Phil Chester MG B GT V8 3rd 1st 2nd 1st
Vince Gucciardo MG C GT V8 1st 2nd 1st 2nd
Damien Meyer MG Midget 2ND 3rd 3rd 3rd
David Anderson MG B Roadster 8th 7th 5th 5th
Simon Meyer MG Midget 4th 4th DNF 4th
Gary Bulmer MG B Roadster 6th 6th 4th DNF
Tony Vollebregt MG ZR 7th DNF 9th 6th
Greg White MG B Roadster 10th 8th 6th 7th
Ian Branson MG F 14th 10th 7th 9th
David Vernall MG ZR 160 11th 13th 10th 8th
Michael Herlihy MG B Roadster 13th 9th 8th DNS
Darren Souter MG B Roadster 12th 11th 15th 13th
Sean Herlihy MG F 15TH 17TH 13TH 10TH
David Mottram MG B Roadster 17th 16th 14th 12th
Peter Rose MG B Roadster 19th 14th 12th 15th
John Stevenson MG TC 21st 15th 11th 11th
Gordon Bunyan Triumph Spitfire 16th 12th 19th 17th
Rodger Chapman MG B Roadster 18th 18th 17th 14th
Jane Vollebregt MG B Roadster 22nd 19th 18th 16th
Keith Ondarchie Triumph Stag 5th 5th DNF DNF
Peter Dunn MG B Roadster 9th DNF 16th DNS
Shirley St John-Cox Triumph TR7 V8 20th DNF DNF DNS