Winton, as I detailed previously, is situated in north-eastern Victoria. Just outside Benalla. Being located in Victoria, the weather is subject to radical and unprogrammable change and that’s certainly what happened between Qualifying and Race 1.
The weather changed for the better, given that Eastern Australia hasn’t seen a whole lot of rain over the past 18 months and this blogger is most assuredly pleased to see more than a passing shower for all primary producers in the Benalla area, and elsewhere it might be falling today as well.
That said, water on bitumen makes for unpredictable results when combined with high velocity, high performance motor vehicles. Such was the result of rain on the Winton circuit just prior to Race 1. Everyone started on wets and as one might expect, at the first corner cars started to fall off the track on cold tyres. The wetness of the track caught Todd Kelly out twice, resulting in a safety car each time. Skaife was seen to take the cross country route at least three times along with numerous other runners. Lowndes had a horror race, never managing to make the top ten at any stage. The entire forty laps, safety car periods aside, were akin to watching elephants on ice.
The real excitement came less than 10 laps from the end when following the final safety car incident, James Courtney in the Stone Brother’s Racing #4 Falcon came out of the pits on slick tyres. A giant punt to be sure, given that the track still had more wet patches in the dry line than one might consider safe. From the restart, Courtney wasted no time, exhibiting a young man’s lust for success in this high-velocity sport from the wet line more often than not. With three laps to go, he attempted a pass on Lowndes which didn’t come off, resulting in Lowndes going around and Courtney hitting the picks to assure he started in race two tomorrow. Given that incident, which saw the Jeld-Wen Falcon lose at least six places, one might have expected an eventual third place to be a gracious end for Stone Brothers. It seems the stewards saw differently.
|1||88||Team Vodafone||Jamie Whincup|
|2||6||Ford Performance Racing||Steven Richards|
|3||1||Toll HSV Dealer Team||Rick Kelly|
|4||16||Toll HSV Dealer Team||Garth Tander|
|5||33||Valvoline Cummins Race Team||Lee Holdsworth|
|6||17||Jim Beam Racing||Steven Johnson|
|7||25||Fujitsu Racing||Jason Bright|
|8||67||Team Sirromet Wines||Paul Morris|
|9||8||WPS Racing||Max Wilson|
|10||7||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Shane Price|
No James Courtney in position 3. Apparently, as Neil Crompton in commentary foresaw, the stewards took a dim view of Courtney’s means of attempting his pass on Lowndes. He wound up being allocated a spot in position 17, from where he’ll start tomorrow. The fascination for me being the turn of the tables between qualifying and actual race, albeit being a wet one. The grid started off with 8 Commodores and 2 Falcons in the top ten and ended with 6 Falcons and 4 Commodores. Does this say anything about one make over the other? Probably not, especially as the weather played such a huge part, but it is an interesting turn up for the books none the less. Equally interesting is the perseverance of both Toll/HSV cars through to the end and not one of the HRT cars. Good to see at least one of the DJR cars in at the end, and the Jason Bright-Fujitsu Falcon which is essentially a privateer entry, if such a thing still exists in this day & age.
Hopefully, and no ill-will intended towards the farming community of Victoria when I write this, tomorrow will be, if not fine, free of rain before and during tomorrows two races. We might just get a real look at the value of the field on a dry track.