THE RXAus Australian RallyCross Championship has made a spectacular debut at Winton Motor Raceway today: practice, qualifying and the first round of heat racing contested in cool but fine conditions.
The high-speed circuit produced competitive racing and an average lap speed of over 105kph for the fastest cars – fast for RallyCross.
Will Orders set the early benchmark with his 44.76s lap in AWD qualifying, drawing top seed across the two groups of all-wheel-drive cars.
He then went on to beat Justin Dowel in his group’s first heat, with Steve Glenney and Darren Windus fighting an intense battle for the final spot on the podium – Windus edging out the TechSport Mitsubishi.
Orders also set a race lap record in heat one at 44.97s.
Subaru driver Aaron Bowering won the AWD Group 2 heat ahead of Jamie Sargent (Mitsubishi) and Russell Pilven’s VW Polo.
Ashlea James was a surprise polesitter in the 2WD class, edging out championship leader Mike Conway by less than half a second in his VW Polo.
Conway was second while Richard Gay, Scott Anderson and Ross Murdoch were third, fourth and fifth respectively and covered by just 0.4 seconds.
A notable absentee from qualifying was Arron Windus, who only completed three laps in practice and qualifying after a coil pack failed on his Mazda 2.
The 18-car 2WD class was split into three groups, with Windus (Group 3), Richard McNay (Group 2) and Mike Conway (Group 1) scoring the victories in the first round of three heat races.
The battle between Conway and James in the group 1 heat was particularly intense – and included a side-by-side battle through the final chicane before Conway’s Escort edged out the class polesitter for the first race win.
Richard McNay’s Holden Commodore Ute won the first Group 2 heat, leading home Braeden Kendrick and Matthew Jones in a Holden 1-2-3 for the rear-wheel-drive machines.
Windus was relegated to the third group of 2WD competitors for the heats and powered through to win his first race ahead of Cody Richards (Escort) and James Rooke (Corolla) – however the Mazda 2 driver will need to ensure he finishes the semi-final in first or second place to ensure he makes the 2WD SuperFinal on Sunday afternoon.
Windus sits second in the 2WD championship however will need to score as many points as possible to continue to apply the pressure to leader Conway.
Four cars from 2WD Group 1 and two each from Groups 2 and 3 will make the feature race that completes the program.
Class leader Ron Bustard grabbed pole in the Excel Cup, but was unable to make the start of the first heat race – allowing Dan Donnelley to grab the win in the first heat race. Neil Schey and Kelvin North completed the top-three.
A bumper Sunday will see two more rounds of heat racing kick off the day – including a full reversal of the race one results for every class in Heat 2.
The class finals will then build the grids for the three SuperFinals that complete the round.
Tickets are $15 and are available at the gate at Winton Raceway.