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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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|