From Behind The Wheel
Historic Winton has always been the meeting against which all others are judged. The sheer competence and willingness of such a large and varied group of volunteer members - most of whom I suspect have no interest whatever in motor racing - ensures that the meeting progresses with an appearance of relaxed smoothness and effortlessness. An appearance that is often at odds with reality, of course, but the end result is certainly unmatched.
The 'real' racers will have to speak for themselves, as most of the Austin 7 drivers were busy with Regularity. My impression is that Basil was smiling and John Heagney was not, but the impression may well be false. Trevor's participation seemed to consist mainly of wondering out loud 'what has the silly bugger done now?' Trevor had lent his car to Basil for the weekend!
The dry track and warm conditions saw many regularity competitors with far better point scores than they have been able to manage recently. An intelligent Drivers' Briefing by Clerk of Course Peter Sortwell and Chief Flag Marshal Roger Chirnside, friendly yet efficient Dummy Grid marshals led by Robert Humphreys, and a pace car that carefully controlled the gridded field through the warm-up lap, all combined to reduce congestion and ensure safe and close competition in a capacity field. The overall quality of driving, seen from a participant's viewpoint, seemed to have risen, with some of the more aggressive drivers missing this year and others responding well to the briefing.
The few minor infractions were handled in a way that led to increased respect for the officials dealing with them, and will certainly have a more positive long-term effect than the over-reaction to unintended errors of judgment we sometimes see.
The Teams Trophy has evolved from the traditional 'one-make' or self-nominated teams to include every entrant in a team: this year's teams were Bugatti, MG, Vauxhall, Ford, Maserati and Austin 7 forming the traditional one-make teams, with the rest of the field allocated to 'Orphan Specials', 'American Tourers' and 'Orphans' - the final group consisting of Pat Phillips' Salmson, Steve Denner's Alvis, Rod Amos' Lagonda and John Goodall's AC.
The biggest highlight was the number of new cars, all beautifully presented: the Willys/Singer (or 'Wilger') of Ray Lewis, the Lagonda/Rapier of Ross Stewart (after a superhuman last-minute rebuild of one of its two superchargers), the Amilcar/Riley of Rick Perry (distinguished by catching fire twice during the weekend) and the aeroplane-engined Cirrus of Frank Cuttell. And probably others I have overlooked.
Equally impressive were Grant Cowie's rebuilt Austin 7 works car, the 'Duck Racer', driven by Graeme Steinfort, Roger Benjamin's Austin 7 Special, which appeared in 'almost finished' form last year, and Leigh Goodall's recently refurbished Austin 7 Special, ex Terry White, Basil van Dongen et al. Leigh was just as impressive, with consistency for his first circuit event in the car that would shame many of the old hands. Leigh has all the respect for the line of a corner that we should expect from an old Bikie!
Other relatively new competitors from our club also outshone the veterans, Noel Wilcox, Peter Ward and Don Tomlinson each scoring well in at least one event. Of the old stagers, Graeme Steinfort managed to keep the Duck circulating well on its first outing in many years, while Bill Morling, Roger Benjamin and Russell Clough performed more respectably than Max Robinson and Chris Athey. But Chris showed a dramatic improvement after rebuilding his distributor, and Max had been putting in a perfectly adequate performance until he spent most of the last event inhaling the alcoholic aerosol coming from Ross Stewart's exhaust.
The Vauxhall team won the Teams Trophy - again - but the rumour is that they cheated by hiding a large team of timekeepers in their glove boxes.
Congratulations to all who worked so hard and so well, and thank you from those who only had to turn up and drive around in circles. In between the lies we are required to tell each other, the excuses we are compelled to invent, and the grumbling that reminds us we are still here, we really do appreciate the effort that is put into making this meeting so much better than any of the others we compete at.