Sacred Sites: Winton
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