Sa­cred Sites: Win­ton

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Win­ton has never pre­tended to be a Sandown or a Phillip Is­land. What Win­ton al­ways was – and still is to­day – is the lit­tle cir­cuit that could.

When Alan Jones fronted at Win­ton in 1982 to race a fac­tory Porsche 935 Turbo, the re­cently-re­tired for­mer F1 world cham­pion made the (in­ac­cu­rate, though hu­mor­ous) ob­ser­va­tion that it was the rst time in the his­tory of mo­tor rac­ing that one of the com­pet­ing cars was worth more than the track…

Win­ton some­times nds it­self the butt of jokes such as this, and cer­tainly there is not any ob­vi­ous sin­gle thing that makes the track spe­cial: the lay­out is tight, not par­tic­u­larly fast and, driv­ers say, not es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing, and it’s a good two hours out of Mel­bourne. But Win­ton has never pre­tended to be a Sandown or a Phillip Is­land. What Win­ton al­ways was – and still is to­day – is the lit­tle cir­cuit that could.

It had been in op­er­a­tion for al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury be­fore it hosted its rst Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship round. Yet right from the start Win­ton was the per­fect place for sedan rac­ing.

That’s prob­a­bly be­cause it of­fers some­thing for every type of car. The orig­i­nal track’s twisty na­ture al­lowed smaller ca­pac­ity cars to com­pete on level terms with the big V8s, in the cor­ners and un­der brakes. It wasn’t a power cir­cuit, and yet the V8s were in their ele­ment when it came to putting their power down out of the many slow cor­ners. These con ict­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics made for some ti­tanic David-vs-Go­liath tour­ing car bat­tles over the years.

The 1995 ex­ten­sion to 3.0km, didn’t markedly change the na­ture of the track, but the new fa­cil­i­ties and pit­lane garages did bring a touch of class to the venue.

The ex­ten­sion was just one of a num­ber of grad­ual im­prove­ments made to the fa­cil­ity by the Be­nalla Auto Club and the track’s long-time chief, the late Mick Ronke. What­ever pro ts were made at Win­ton went straight back into mak­ing it a bet­ter place to race.

What was born out of the de­sire of a hand­ful of en­thu­si­asts in ru­ral Be­nalla to nd a place to race their cars lo­cally has grown into a pro­fes­sional busi­ness that’s now ex­tended be­yond Win­ton and even Vic­to­ria, with the Be­nalla Auto Club’s pur­chase of Wake eld Park 10 years ago.

Win­ton in lots of ways is still the hum­ble coun­try cir­cuit it al­ways was. But it is now part of an or­gan­i­sa­tion that’s ar­guably the big­gest car club and mo­tor rac­ing cir­cuit op­er­a­tion in Aus­tralia.

Pre 1997 ex­ten­sion

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