Glenn Townsend and Anthony Soole have claimed pole position for the final round of the 2015 Australian Endurance Championship, by posting the fastest legal time in the top ten shootout at Winton Motor Raceway this afternoon.
The Lotus Exige will start ahead of Robert Hackwood and John Prefontaine’s Ginetta, while 2013 race winner, Nick Cancian will start third. The Mazda MX5 driver, who won with Rob Hay two years ago, is teaming up with his father, Malcolm Cancian for the 2015 race.
One car was excluded from the Top Ten Shootout, and that was the car of Craig and Adam Burgess. In these 300km events, competition rules state that cars can’t go faster than a nominated time. In the Winton 300, it’s 1:31.5… Unfortunately, the Burgess car went under that mark in the Shootout, and will therefore start from 10th position in tomorrow’s race.
This is a race unlike any other – the cars are split up into divisions based on time, not car – there are penalties for cars if they go faster than the fastest time allowed in their respective division, pit-stops are compulsory for a minimum of FIVE minutes (two of those if you’re in Division 1) and it’s one of the only times you’ll see a Lotus Exige, Mitsubishi Evo and Minature Race Car in the same race.
The Australian Endurance Championship events bring together the best drivers from Victoria’s BMW E30 Series, Modern Sports Cars, NSW Production Touring Cars, as well as a range of vehicles often seen racing in the Motor Racing Australia series at Wakefield Park, like Linda Devlin and Harry Draper (26th) from the Mini series, and Terry Denovan and Geoff Stockley (16th) from Super TT, plus some of Queensland’s best amateur racers, like Paul Chapman and Tony Ross, who won the B-Main at the Wakefield 300, and Robin and Peter Lacey.
As was the case at the 2014 event, there will be a two races making up this round of the Championship. As a result of the number of entries taken being higher than the track density for the 3km Benalla circuit, a B-Main will be held for the slower cars, while the faster cars will do battle for outright honours in the 300.
After practice and qualifying sessions today, organisers have split the field into their divisions and race, and in a rare occurrence, it’s an even split – 30 cars will contest the B-Main, and 30 cars will contest the main race.
After the opening two rounds, it’s a battle between 3 very different cars and 6 very good drivers for the 2015 Australian Endurance Championship.
Third in the standings at present are the Wakefield 300 winners, Steve and Jake Shelly in their Lotus.
NSW Production Touring Car Championship regulars Gerry Murphy and Michael Caine sit second in their Mazda – they were runners-up in the 2014 Valvoline Winton 300, to the drivers leading the championship with 300km to go, Nathan Jess and Matthew Thompson, who took the lead just 12 corners from home, in a Bathurst 1000 style finish.
Of those three contenders, it’s the Wakefield 300 winners who are best placed after finishing 4th in the shootout, which is where Jess and Thompson won the 2014 race from. The boys in the Future Racer will start directly behind the Shelly’s, while Gerry Murphy and Michael Caine will start 14th this year – four positions closer to the front than they were at the beginning of the 2014 race.
Mark Mackay will start tomorrow’s main race from 28th position, directly behind talented female racer, Linda Devlin. Mackay’s co-driver from the opening two rounds, Justin Ruggier, who won the Australian Endurance Championship with Mackay last year, is not present at Winton this weekend.
In his absence, Mark will team up with Andrew Mackay in a Targa Racing Mazda MX5.
One notable absentee from the grid is the car that finish second in 2014, the Mazda MX5 of David Raddatz and Shane Otten.
Elsewhere, Daniel Reynolds has a new team-mate in Ryan Reynolds, as his regular co-driver Matt Stubbs is competing in the Formula Vee National Challenge at Symmons Plains in Tasmania this weekend.
The Reynolds duo will start the main race from 24th position.
The Shaw Vineyards NSW Production Touring Car Championship is well represented, with five entries on the grid.
We’ve touched on the pole-sitters Soole and Townsend, as well as Michael Caine and Gerry Murphy, who qualified 14th. Elsewhere, Dylan Thomas and Formula Vee racer Jacob Andrews will start from 15th. Daniel Flanagan and Damian Lomax will start from 20th, while David Bailey and Matt Shylan will fly the flag in the B-Main, starting from 24th position.
Looking at the B-Main, 2014 Modern Sports Car Champions David and Rob Viner will start the race from Row 3 alongside the Queensland duo of Robin and Peter Lacey.
Targa Racing drivers Tony Bonanno and Paul Keefer will start in 15th positon, directly in front of their team-mates Paul Shacklady and Anthony Carter.
The Ford AU Falcon Saloon of Tony and Natasha Evangelou will start from pole in the B-Main, ahead of Wakefield 300 B-Main winners, Tony Ross and Paul Chapman in the Mazda MX5, with Brad Rodwell and Cruz Cody’s BMW E30 325i to start third.
Fine and sunny conditions, with a top temperature of 26 degrees predicted for tomorrow, which makes for excellent racing conditions, and it’ll be nice and pleasant for spectators who venture trackside for this feature event on the Winton calendar, which takes place annually on the second Sunday in November.
For the third time, the winners of the main race will be awarded the Michael J. Ronke Memorial Trophy, named in honour of the former Winton Circuit Boss who passed away in 2013.
You can view the full championship standings ahead of tomorrow’s finale HERE.
Grid for the Winton 300 is available HERE, while the grid for the B-Main can be found HERE.
Both races will be shown LIVE, in full, commercial free, on MotorsportsTV, with commentary from David Stillwell and Lachlan Mansell, with coverage starting at 10:30am AEDST.
Below: Relive the dramatic finish to the 2014 Valvoline Winton 300, with commentary from Lachlan Mansell and Zak Caban.