After a very late finish on Saturday, the drivers backed up for another one-hour race on Sunday at the West End Performance Winton Double Crown, to bring the curtain down on an extraordinary 2016 season.
Late on Saturday afternoon, just to keep us on our toes, drastic changes were made to the Sunday schedule, which saw the 30-minute Qualifying session scrapped in favour of a 15-minute warm-up session.
Furthermore, the 6-lap sprint races would now close the championship, as organisers switched the races around, making the second one-hour endurance race would be a morning affair.
There was no shortage of work up and down pit-lane overnight, most notably for the team of Trevor Symonds and Scott Bargwanna. Their crew worked through the night to get the Commodore back on the grid after suffering a broken hub after Qualifying on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Matthew Holt and Mark Caine were still working on Holt’s new car, but were happy with the progress – they finished sixth in race 1, after an unscheduled pit-stop to replace a flat tyre. Steve Hodges and Robert Coulthard finally felt as though they’d made some inroads with their car after the sprint race win for Hodges on Saturday, and Dylan Thomas was still unimpressed by the 120-second penalty awarded to him after his pit-stop in Race 1.
Brett Heeley and Gerry Murphy felt as though they’d made some progress with the Heeley Motorsport Commodore, and were looking forward to another positive showing in Race 2, but the same couldn’t be said for Jonathon Fishburn, with ongoing mechanical issues forcing him to sit out Sunday altogether.
Michael Caine and Jim Pollicina, as well as the Heeley/Murphy entry, said that fuel mileage was an issue towards the back end of Saturday’s race, and that was just one of several issues for the Mitsubishi Evo, which lost a wheel, and almost the race, on the final lap, until the penalty was handed to Dylan Thomas.
37 laps were completed in Race 1 – that’s 111km of Winton, and done without a Safety Car, which is why we saw a few cars monitoring their fuel closely towards the end, and if the race goes without caution again today, we can expect more of the same you would expect.
Symonds and Bargwanna bounced back from a disappointing Saturday to top the morning warm-up, ahead of Dylan Thomas and the Heeley/Murphy entry, as they clocked their fastest time of the weekend in the process.
Chris Reeves sent out a SOS for a radiator cap for his Toyota 86 just moments before the field headed to the grid. The two-time champion was thinking he’d run into some engine issues in this final race, after a difficult day at the office on Saturday.
The Toyota 86 made the start line, but Chris Sutton would start that car.
The race, like the Saturday affair, was held in dry and very hot conditions at Winton, and it was Jim Pollicina who took the lead going into turn 1. Dylan Thomas made it through the first corner unscathed this time around, as did everyone else, and it was an early race battle between the Mitsubishi’s and Holden’s in the top six.
The Symonds/Bargwanna entry slotted into second position, and would hold that for the first 15 laps, before Dylan Thomas made his presence known – after getting by Steve Hodges in the early stages, he charged through to close in, and eventually pass his team-mate, Daniel Oosthuizen on Lap 11, and then slowly closed the gap to the Commodore of Symonds, and made the simplest of passes.
With clear track in front of him, Jim Pollicina was able to build an early race lead. Steve Hodges held fourth for a short period, until Dylan Thomas made his way by, and that left Hodges to consolidate fifth right through to his pit-stop.
Sadly, the race wouldn’t last long for the Toyota 86 of Chris Reeves and Chris Sutton, with the Toyota engine expiring after 20 minutes. By that time, Adam Gosling’s BMW E46 M3 was also in the lane, and out of the race, due to an oil leak, while further issues for the Wilbow/Holden entry saw them in retirement as well.
Daniel Oosthuizen took the lead of the motor race, as those around him jumped into pit-lane – Hodges, Symonds, Thomas and Pollicina were all in the pits at the end of Lap 18.
Whilst the pit-stop sequence went relatively smoothly for everybody, it was the pit-lane exit that claimed a few victims today, with officials coming down hard on cars who crossed the blend line while rejoining the circuit.
No less than four cars were pinged, and given a drive-through penalty, including Bruce Forsyth, Gavin Clarke/Mark Phillips, Peter Lown/Paul Loiacono, but most notably, the leading car of Jim Pollicina and Michael Caine – Caine was at the wheel at the time, and the penalty saw his stint at the wheel go from bad to worse… he’d already had an off-track excursion at turn 7 that allowed Dylan Thomas to tighten the margin in the battle for victory.
Thomas inherited the lead from Caine, when Caine completed his drive-through penalty, and from there, it was a forgone conclusion, the damage was done, and all Dylan Thomas had to do was cruise to the chequered flag.
The race was on for the final podium spot in Class A2, with the BMW of Clarke and Phillips going head-to-head with the Heeley Motorsport entry, with Gerry Murphy behind the wheel.
Michael Caine broke the Production Touring lap record in Race 1, and it got smashed in Race 2, firstly by Jim Pollicina, and then by Caine himself. Dylan Thomas and Mark Caine also clocked times faster than the 1:34.6969 that Caine set in Race 1.
The new lap record now sits at 1:33.8505 – almost a second faster than Bob Pearson’s 1:34.8397 2012, which was the existing lap record prior the Race 1 on Saturday.
Mark Caine had an interesting stint in the #65 Commodore. He had the flat tyre in race 1, and further issues in race 2 results in a few off-track excursions, including a hairy moment in turns 1 and 2, but he still managed to get the car to the chequered flag.
Dylan Thomas cruised to a 25-second victory from Caine and Pollicina. It was Thomas’ fifth win of the season, and while it won’t make up for what happened in the fall out from Race 1, the result does allow him to end the season on a positive note, claiming CXC’s 15th win of season 2016.
Mark Caine secured Class A2 victory for Matthew Holt and himself with third outright, and Holt maintained the lead in the MoComm Cup as a result.
Scott Bargwanna and Trevor Symonds took fourth place, which was their best finish of the season, and they were just ahead of the Oosthuizen Motorsport Evo, and Jimmy Vernon was 6th, the winner of Class D
Rounding out the top ten was Lown/Loiacono, Heeley/Murphy, Clarke/Phillips and Graeme Heath was 10th.
Looking at class winners, Geoff Kite won Class A2 following Adam Gosling’s demise – he was 11th outright. 13th outright was Bruce Forsyth – the winner of Class C – and just behind him in 14th was the sole Class B1 runner, Peter and James O’Donnell. James Herrington took 15th position, and Class S honours.
All in all, a very entertaining race, that saw Mitsubishi maintain their unbeaten run in the endurance races this season. A safety car free race, as was the first on Saturday. In total, 37 laps in both races, a total of 222km of racing in the final two endurance events of season 2o16.
Sadly, as detailed earlier, Chris Reeves was a retirement in that race – he didn’t get to drive the car in the final race of the season – and it was unfortunate to see him end his tender as champion with a retirement.
Through finishing fifth, Daniel Oosthuizen secured the 2016 Club Championship in the V8 Superlaps Production Touring Cars, and he is a very, very worth champion – 9 wins this season, including his first enduro, and he’ll be hard to beat again in 2017.
You might think we’re done, BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE – Following on from the Enduro, many drivers packed up and departed Benalla, to commence the journey back up the Hume Highway, but those that stayed were left to contest the final sprint races of season 2016.
Despite holding the lead in the MoComm Cup, Matthew Holt opted to miss the sprint race, meaning Jimmy Vernon only had to finish the race to claim the MoComm Cup – he did just that, claiming third position outright, just six seconds behind Trevor Symonds, who led from start to finish, to claim his first win of the season.
For Symonds, the victory was a terrific way to end a challenging weekend, and for Jimmy Vernon, victory in the MoComm cup capped an amazing debut season in the V8 Superlaps Production Touring Car Championship.
Second place went to Adam Gosling, while fourth back was Geoff Kite, Graeme Heath, Bruce Forsyth and Peter O’Donnell, while Phil Holden failed to make it to the chequered flag.
Just three drivers would contest the final race of the season, in what turned out to be an all BMW affair.
Adam Gosling, James O’Donnell and Bruce Forsyth would contest the race, that was shortened to five laps, and while there were a few changes for the minor placings, Gosling led from start to finish, to claim his first win in the V8 Superlaps Production Touring Car Championship, and BMW’s first of season 2016, as well.
Sadly, ongoing overheating issues resulted in O’Donnell retiring on the final lap, allowing Bruce Forsyth to claim second.
The win for Gosling gave us six different winners across the weekend, from three different manufacturers – with variety and diversity like that, there’s little wonder why this championship is the most popular in New South Wales at the moment.
So, what a season – the emergence of some great young talent like Jimmy Vernon, Blake and Kyle Aubin, Zac Raddatz and Finley Hills, the continued rise of guys like Josh Muggleton, as well as Jacques and Daniel Oosthuizen, along with the experienced hands of Dylan Thomas, Michael Caine, Jim Pollicina, Matthew Holt and Chris Reeves continuing to take the challenge to their younger rivals, and as for everyone else, they’ve helped play a part in the biggest season in Production Touring Car Championship history, and while change is in the air for 2017, the racing stays the same – it’s held our attention all weekend at Winton, in the way that it’s done all season.
We wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas, and all the very best for 2017 – we’ll see you then.
From us at Zak Sports, goodbye.