by Steve Denner with photos by Col Roper

A return to (only temporary*) COVID normal brought out a huge entry to the 44th Historic Winton in north-east Victoria on the weekend of 22 and 23 May. A lot of people had been busy in the shed for the last 16 months and the air-cooled owners were no exception. A veritable herd of the little wonders turned up to try out the cunning mods engineered in the darkness of the lock-downs imposed across the country.

Brian Simpson as usual brought out his Mk9 1100 (below) resplendent in fresh paint from chassis upwards, and he was relaxing in the security that an on-board starter gives the air-cooled owner against a stall on the grid or a restart after a “gardening” incident.

Fred Greeneklee brought his Mk6 1100 from South Australia for his “arriver driver”, Peter Fagan (21, below) , who was getting back into a race after a long spell of resting on his laurels. Nevertheless, he was soon on the pace in practice with a 1min 16s and 9th fastest in a big field of no less than 34 Group Lb sports and racing cars.

This correspondent was embarrassed to spin his Mk5 1100 (2 below) on the first corner of the first lap of practice, and being unable to restart was therefore awarded the stone motherless last slot on the grid for the first race.

Greg Snape with the Mk10 BMW 600 (S) put in a handy 1min 17s to put him 12th on the grid, although he was nervous about the future since pre-event servicing had revealed a soft thread when tightening one cylinder stud. Sorry, we don’t have a pic.

Grant Cowie had been doing a lot of work to improve the flexibility of the Manx Norton in his Mk9, while resolving a variety of gearbox issues. These were successful but still left an over-fuelling problem which dogged him for the weekend.

Rod North with the ex Davison Mk5 Vincent (S) elected to run Regularity as he is still sorting out mixture balancing between cylinders on this blown engine. Although he is an experienced speedway rider this was his first venture onto four wheels. Not surprisingly with the Cooper, he says he can’t see much difference! Nevertheless, by the end of the weekend he had destroyed any chance of a Regularity award by punishing his nominated 1:25s nomination with laps in the 1:19s region.

Alan Tidbury with the other Mk5 in Regularity was 5th in the final Regularity on Sunday. This is the car which had an FWA Climax very neatly inserted behind the driver which was coupled to a VW gearbox and transaxle by Bill Pile in 1959. It is altogether a very neat conversion and is perhaps an avenue that Coopers themselves should have explored.

As the weekend wore on, so the major and minor mechanical casualties were either repaired or declared mortal. Brian Simpson’s misfire was sourced back to a loose points mounting stud, but Peter Fagan’s charge ended on Sunday morning when the gear box failed to report for duty with a suspected second gear collapse.  This was a big disappointment after his 3rd place in the Lb race on Saturday, and with a best lap of 1:13.7 in the handicap before a spin and the gearbox expiring.

Your correspondent had an ignition lead disconnect from the distributor instantly turning into a 550cc Cooper, but reported for duty, started and finished in good shape for the final Lb race on Sunday. Unfortunately on the first turn melee found Greg Snape and the Cooper BMW stalled across the track after a tangle with another car. This resulted in a stop and restart to the race and Brian Simpson got everything in the Mk9 together and earned a 4th with a best lap of 1:13.56, winning the Cooper lap time challenge for the weekend.

* The guys were lucky. At the time of publishing, 1 June, the whole of Victoria is undergoing a minimum seven-day COVID lock-down and it may be longer. Great photos, thanks Col!

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