Australia’s national drift championship would finish the Victorian part of their season back at Winton Raceway. Both Pro and Pro-Am drivers would be drifting at a familiar circuit, yet for the first time, on an all-new layout, which promoted door-on-door sideways action.
Winton Motor Raceway is a staple in not only drifting in Victoria, but overall in Australia. Many drivers have visited and driven this track multiple times over, and the two layouts are known by everyone. So, for the third round of this year’s championship, the Hi-Tec Drift All Stars team brought it upon themselves to bring a new layout to fruition, with AASA and Winton Raceway coming on board, and giving them the all clear to make it happen.
Funnily enough, I had never been to Winton for drifting, so I was going to photograph a new layout (to me) either way.
Essentially, this is a reversed version of the first chicane layout, which has been the most often used layout over the years.
The start line is at Winton’s Turn 3, driving anti-clockwise, they manji down the straight, sliding towards the left pit wall, then quickly to the right clipping point, before drifting into the now left hander Turn 2. This, the switchback into Winton’s Turn 1, followed by another left hander onto the short circuit’s back straight allow the chase car to follow and be on the lead car’s door, as the clipping points on the outside of the corners get covered in tyre smoke.
Now, it didn’t matter if you’d visited Winton once or a hundred times, everyone would be on a level playing field. However, drivers would still be able to try out the new layout digitally, thanks to it being uploaded to Assetto Corsa. Drifting the track in a video game/simulator would allow drivers to get familiar with the layout, but not with how their car would react to the track and its changing conditions.
Practice on Saturday would throw drivers into the deep end, their first time physically on the new layout, plus with added water.
Drivers found the limits quite quickly, with many excursions off track, including Ben Boyle overcompensating at the final clipping point, heading off course into standing water. Brad Tuohy would also head straight into the tyre barriers at the first corner in one of his early practice runs.
Matt Grice's Commodore was also left needing quite a bit of surgery after smacking the final corner's tyre barriers.
After lunch, the track was finally dry enough to see some burning rubber, and in the late afternoon, drivers would begin their qualifying runs among the golden light.
There were a handful of drivers pulling double duty, competing in both Pro and Pro-Am including Sam Mudge in his Murray RIver Motorsport Silvia S13.
Jordan Sanderson brought his Pro Commodore drift ute as well as the Commodore Ute he uses for Pro-Am. However, his Pro-Am car would suffer mechanical issues, meaning he would compete in both categories with his Pro car, just using different tyre compounds.
Jordan Putkunz, who came into round 3 only competing in the Pro-Am category, was quick to become comfortable with the new layout, and decided on Sunday morning to also take on the Pro competition.
There were a handful who wouldn’t make it to the battles, thanks to mechanical failures including Ben Brody and unfortunately Matthew Craig in the bonkers turbocharged Barra powered Onevia Hatchback.
Anthony Romano would overcome a missing third gear, by replacing the entire gearbox in time for competing in the Pro-Am class. Romano is known for drifting Ford Falcons, so its weird seeing him drive anything else.
Kurt Dunn would also work overnight to repair his shiny S15, in preparation for the battles on Sunday.
Caleb Sheehan from Tasmania would be battling mechanical issues all weekend, including have to call a five-minute mechanical for a broken throttle pedal. He got his 2JZ BMW street-car fixed in time to take on and defeat Sean Mcillhatton.
Ben Odgers would knock out the very competitive Moe Elhaouli in the first battle for Pro, but would be defeated himself by Brodie Maher, after having two wheels off into the dirt.
Dale Campaign would knock out new boy Jordan Putkunz in Pro, as Jason Ferron and Aaron Dewar tangled, handing Ferron the victory,
Pro championship leader Roger Ianson would make contact with the back of Warwick Hill's BMW E46 during their one-more-time battle.
Kieran Racklyeft would spin at the final clipping point in both his chase and lead runs, allowing Jordan Putkunz to continue on in the Pro-Am category, as Brad Tuohy halted Sam Mudge's advancements in the Pro category.
Scott Schembri in the twin turbocharged V8 350Z would first defeat Top Qualifier Patrick Barlee, then Brad Tuohy, as he popped out wide of the massive smoke clouds.
The rivalry between Jason Ferron and Dale Campaign would reignite in their Top 8 battle. Fast and smooth runs from both lead to a 'one-more-time' battle, with Dale Campaign in his Onevia getting the upper hand and advancing to the Top 4. Interestingly, the last time I photographed Dale Campaign was back in 2019, at my first drift event.
The Top 4 in Pro-Am would come down to Sam Mudge, Anthony Romano, Jordan Sanderson and Jordan Putkunz. Sam Mudge would defeat Anthony Romano, advancing to the Top 2, as Putkunz wasn't fazed by Sanderson's Pro car, advancing to battle Sam Mudge in the final.
Anthony Romano would outrun Jordan Sanderson to grab the final podium place, as Sam Mudge would latch onto the door of Jordan Putkunz, to take the overall victory in Pro-Am.
Track duties weren't over for Sanderson though, as he would fight Brodie Maher for another third-place battle.
The final battle in Pro would be against Dale Campaign and Scott Schembri. Scott Schembri would hassle the rear of Dale Campaign in his chase run, and when it came to his lead run, he bolted from the RB25 powered Onevia.
Scott Schembri would be victorious on the reverse layout at Winton for the Pro category, with Dale Campaign second, Brodie Maher third and Jordan Sanderson again in fourth.
The consistent two fourth place finishes for Sanderson gives him the championship lead in both Pro and Pro-Am. However, Roger Ianson and Patrick Barlee in Pro, and Sam Mudge and Kieran Racklyeft in Pro-Am will be aiming to get the upper hand, as the series heads to Queensland Raceway for round 4 of the 2023 championship.