Round 4 of the 2016 MG Road Racing Championship ventured to sunny Winton Motor Raceway just outside Benalla in northern Victoria.
The Winton Festival of Speed is a growing part of the Victorian motorsport landscape, we saw 29 entries only to lose a couple of competitor’s last minute with Greg Hewson and Damien Meyer having to withdraw within the last week due to circumstances outside their control.
The strong field saw some new competitors, the star was Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar driver Dale Wood joining the field to steer the #77 MG B GT V8 of Bristle Blaster Australia alongside car owner Phil Chester in his MG C Sebring V8. Wood who is the older brother of 2015 champion Glen was having his first, and hopefully not last run in the class. Further down the field Australian Manufacturers Championship driver Madison Gray was driving one of JHR’s MG ZR 160’s in a one off appearance while Nahum Ayliffe debuted his MG ZS recently purchased. Rhys Howell who is currently campaigning in the Victorian Sports Car Championship stepped into an MG TF Cup for a one off appearance as well as part of Bristle Blaster Australia.
Returning from time off was some MG B drivers, Richard Vollebregt and mum Jane, Ross Kaigg in his blue MG B, Simon Meyer from Sydney and Peter Dunn with his MG B.
Qualifying got underway and Dale Wood got straight down to work setting a 1:27.8 on the first flying lap, itself under the existing lap record for the class held by Mort Fitzgerald at a 1:29.2 which sent a clear message that was going to be broken, the question was by how far? The following lap Dale set a 1:26.79, the following lap a 1:25.8 and then putting the car in the garage. Dale lost his fastest lap after being deemed to pass under yellow flags, his 1:26.79 was still good enough for pole. Phil Chester set a 1:32.8809 with Rob Whitwell finding a 1:34.71 to be third.
The fastest non V8 was Jason Holmes in 4th with a 1:36.62 in his MG ZR turbo from Jim Robertson’s MG Midget with a 1:37.4 and Paul Vernall’s MG ZR 190 with a 1:38.97. Vince Gucciardo in his MG TF LE500 was 7th from Simon Meyer, Rhys Howell and Richard Milligan being first Group S MG.
Just outside the top 10 was Bret McManus (MG B), Ross Kaigg (MG B), David Anderson (MG B), Geoff St John Cox (Triumph TR7 V8), Ed Ferguson (TR7 V8), Richard Vollebregt (MG B), Madison Gray (MG ZR 160), David Dubart-Aberdeen (MG B GT), John Stevenson (MG TC) and Bob Rowntree (Austin Healey Sprite)
Race 1 10 laps and the sun was out, Off the line and Wood got a great start, Jason Holmes slotted into second with Jim Robertson, Phil Chester with a horrible start with Vernall, Meyer, Gucciardo and Milligan early on, Chester ticked off Robertson on the opening lap and at the start of the second lap got by Holmes while Robertson had a spin at turn 1 with what turned out to be a sticking rear brake caliper. Vernall, Meyer, Gucciardo and Milligan stayed in tandem while Bret McManus got by Kaigg as did St John Cox. Robertson joined at the rear of the field while Chester had now got to the back of Wood up front and at the end of the second lap took the lead briefly before Wood got back by. Chris GIdney had a horrid start having to pull off with engine issues while Ursula Weidenmuller suffered the same thing. Down the field it was Milligan who droped from 7th to 10th on lap 3 while St John Cox went up to 7th place with McManus, Kaigg and Anderson in tow. Robertson moved up to 16th in his recovery as Gray had now moved from 17th at the start to be running in 13th place in the ZR 160. Rod Wells was on the move as well now up to 15th place in another of JHR’s ZR’s. Dale Wood was not pushing had and shattered the existing lap record, a 1:29.2 by setting a staggering 1:25.0543 on lap 4 to lower it by none other than 4 seconds!
Rhys Howell had made good progress only to come into pit lane with what would turn out to be a fuel rail leak resulting in a DNF. Lap 6 and disaster struck up front with Phil Chester coming to a stop in the cleavage, what would turn out to be an oil pump failure but luckily he caught it quickly enough and shut the car down before any damage was done. That elevate Holmes to 2nd place and Vernall now a clear 3rd. Meyer had a lonely race in 4th with Gucciardo 5th. McManus got by St John Cox as Anderson got by Kaigg, Robertson not right behind on lap 7 got by Kaigg and Anderson and was back inside the top 10 with Milligan in his sights, Wells moved up to 14th place behind Gray and on the final lap Roberston got by Milligan and Wells by Gray as up front it was the status quo.
Race 2 Sunday morning and a couple of cars had to withdraw, An engine issue in Rob Whitwell’s B GT V8 was unable to be rectified while David Aberdeen had to withdraw with engine issues, Nahum Ayliffe suffered electrical issues, Ursula Weidenmuller also forced to head home after the opening day.
Off the start and Dale Wood had a clear run, Holmes in second while Meyer slotted into third, Vernall dropped to 4th as McManus got by Gucciardo off the start and got alongside Vernall while St John Cox, Milligan and Kaigg sorted themselves out. At turn 3 McManus pushed Vernall off as Vernall was stranded in the mud at turn 4, McManus continued on from Gucciardo, St John Cox and cox. Chester moved through to 10th at the end of the opening lap while Robertson got by Meyer on lap 2. Chester up to 6th as he picked the field off one by one, Milligan dropped from 8th to 10th with Kaigg getting by St John Cox and Gray moving up to 15th after a poor start while Wells was 18th and moved up to 17th. Vernall rejoined 25 seconds behind the field as trouble stuck once again for Gidney in his ZR having to pull in to the pits once again with overheating issues. Dave Anderson dropped off on lap 3 with mechanical dramas again as Phil Chester was up to 2nd place by now with Rhys Howell moving up the field now up to 11th place. Vernall chasing the pack to get back in the mix and recover while Rod Wells moved to 13th place, Howell now up to 9th place and pushing hard as Wood settled down with a 1:25.4 out front. Vernall recovered up to 17th on lap 5 while Howell got by Kaigg for 8th place, out front it was Wood, Chester, Holmes, Robertson, Meyer and McManus in the top 6. Vernall got by Ferguson and Gray for 15th and on the final lap Vollebregt, Wells and Rowntree to recover to 12th place by the flag. Howell held 8th place behind Gucciardo as Wood took the win ahead of Chester, Holmes, Robertson, Meyer, McManus. Kaigg was 9th and St John Cox 10th place.
The final race of the weekend and attrition had taken its toll however the field was set for a great final race, Wood and Chester off the line a 1-2 while Robertson slotted into 3rd with Holmes and Meyer, McManus and Howell with a great start up to 7th off the line. Vernall went from 12th to 9th off the start with Gucciardo going backwards down to 12th off the start. Howell got by McManus on lap 2 and was up to 6th place while Vernall moved up to 8th, Richard Vollebregt retired on lap 5 with mechanical dramas as Howell moved up again by Meyer for 5th place with the eyes on. Dale Wood had set off in pursuit of the lap record once again and on lap 5 reset his own lap record once more with a simply stunning 1:24.2883, a whole 5 seconds ahead of the original benchmark at the start of the weekend!
Vernall got by McManus on lap 6 and was up to 7th place as Rod Wells passed Milligan for 11th place further down the field. Howell was pulling Holmes in for 4th place but time wasn’t on his side with the laps counting down, on the final lap Howell got a bit of a wobble around the sweeper which turned into a spin ending a fine drive in the final race elevating Meyer and Vernall up a place. Vernall was in pursuit of Meyer on the final lap with Vernall falling .27 of a second shy of Meyer as the win went to Wood from Chester, Robertson, Holmes, Meyer, Vernall, McManus, Gucciardo, St John Cox and Wells rounding out the top 10.
Once again a fanstastic weekend and a highlight of 2016 so far. The Wolfchester Abingdon Cup for Group S MG’s went to Bret McManus while the State of Origin went to NSW this year and who can’t forget the simply stunning lap time of Dale Wood, a 1:24.2883 will take a long time to be reset from here. A big round of applause to Dale for great driving as well as car taken through the traffic, a very sporting driver and a pleasure to host him for a round.
Championship points: TBC