Craillsy’s Preview: Winton

This weekend the Shannons Nationals heads back to Winton Raceway in country Victoria.

I must lay all my cards on the table immediately, because the reason I am excited about this particular weekend is because there are not one, but two Porsche categories on the program this weekend.

I have worked with Porsche for the better part of a decade, calling their racing in the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia and the Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia and during that time I have come to know and love both the brand and the product. So, to find out that the Porsche 944 Challenge would join the Nationals program this weekend was great news, because I feel like I am quite closely tied to that category.

Also, not because I work for them or because I know anyone in particular who competes in it, but because I own one.

That’s right, I am a Porsche owner and yes, I’ve wanted to write that for some time.

Now, before you get the mental image in your mind that we high-roller commentators get around in our expensive sports cars, occasionally stopping to talk about car racing before rolling on to find the next latte, let me set something straight.

That’s the host with the most Greg Rust and pit lane’s Cameron van den Dungen – not yours truly.

My particular Porsche 944 cost $2,500 and had many things wrong with it. For instance, when I got it the engine didn’t work and nor did a majority of the electrics, aside from the fact that it didn’t have an interior. Still, it was love almost instantly and that bond has only grown stronger as I have gradually got it back on the road.

Porsche 944 Challenge

Now it has a new(ish) engine, carpets on the inside and I’ve driven it several times without it catching fire even once. The electrics still suck (the pop-up headlights, a major selling point on the car, don’t actually pop-up any more), but we’ll work on that. Still, even in a few brief drives I have been able to appreciate the remarkable balance of the chassis, the direct and accurate steering and the torque of the 2.5-litre single cam engine – frankly, it’s brilliant.

So to have a grid of them racing at a Shannons round again will be quite the joy and I intend to spend much of my time outside of the commentary box down in their paddock asking questions about how to make mine go faster.

The category is relevant to the Nationals’ because it has become something of an unofficial third-tier of Porsche one-make racing in Australia, feeding would-be champions like Richard Muscat, Kane Rose and lately, Dylan O’Keefe into the GT3 Cup Challenge and ideally up into Carrera Cup.

The cars are affordable and drive well so they offer a perfect entry-point into the sport and a stepping stone into their big brothers, the 911 GT3 Cup Cars.

Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia

Speaking of those, the Cup Challenge is back this weekend for what will be a key weekend in the series chase, with only 18 points between leader Cooper Murray and the closest chaser, Simon Fallon heading into the trio of races this weekend.

What’s more, Max Vidau is still firmly in the title hunt and just 73 points from the lead – and we’ve seen more often than not in one-make Porsche racing this year that any margin isn’t quite enough. Chelsea Angelo is coming off her first ever podium while Jimmy Vernon is good to go for the remainder of the year after mid-season budget issues, so it should be a feisty fight at the front.

Feisty will be the name of the game for CAMS PAYCE Formula 4 as well as they make their first racing visit to Winton Raceway.

It’s odd that the championship had never been there before to race, but it’s not like they will be going in green. If you haven’t tested at Winton before then you’re going to be on the back foot – it’s accessibility means it is often the testing venue of choice for many teams and drivers.

With a double round, the championship could ultimately hinge on these races. If it were just your standard three-race format then Jayden Ojeda’s 177 points to Cameron Shields 152 would seem comfortable, but with six races on the program it seems insignificant.

CAMS PAYCE Australian Formula 4 Championship

GT Trophy is back on the program as a stand-alone category and will decide their series this weekend, with five drivers in contention for the title.

Two 50-minute races will sort out the title standings that currently has Nick Kelly on point heading into the Winton weekend.

Finally there’s two, two-hour Australian Production Car Series races on the cards, which should be very competitive.

The series has undergone something of a revolution this year with massive fields at each round held so far.

The Lotus’ entries look hard to beat and it’s hard to see that changing on a circuit that could have been designed for the lightweight, nimble little sports cars, with lots of corners and not a massive requirement for horsepower.

Jacuzzi Spas Australian Production Car Series

Still, you can never underestimate the BMWs of the Sherrins and Beric Lynton nor, in anticipated wet weather, anything with AWD from Mitsubishi or Subaru.

Speaking of rain, it has been forecast for this weekend, which adds a sense of irony this weekend. Few people have more publicly promoted the current drought issues in country Australia than Grant Denyer and it just so happens that he, along with Tony D’Alberto, were last-start winners in their green Lotus.

It’d be ironic if Grant and ‘TD’ could do the job again in drought-busting conditions this weekend.

See you at the track this weekend.