What happened at Winton in 2004 that Cameron McConville hasn’t told anyone?
It was his first race win in V8 Supercars in a Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden Commodore VY, taken after a chaotic day of nasty weather and a spectacular last corner pass on Rick Kelly, then in the Kmart Racing #15 Commodore.
The 300km, 100-lap race was arguably Winton’s best – and is certainly a race McConville won’t forget.
“I remember even though it wasn’t a hot day, physically it was exhausting doing a 100-lap race around Winton,” McConville, who is now the CAMS Driving Standards Observer, said.
His current position makes the story even more interesting in retrospect.
McConville qualified 10th and Craig Baird scored his first pole position, with McConville’s then-teammate Garth Tander also on the front row.
“Garth had a mechanical problem, so he dropped out; Marcos Ambrose (who won the year’s Championship) got bogged – it was quite a funny day,” McConville said.
He told v8supercars.com.au what happened the day he won his first V8 Supercars race in such spectacular – and controversial – fashion.
“As the race went on I found myself just chipping away, chipping away; and on the front straight one lap there was water running right across the first corner. I was running about fifth at the time and Greg Murphy went off in the Kmart car, then Paul Morris, quite a few cars went off and I managed to stay on. I came out of the corner second with about 10 laps to run.
“Rick was in front in the other Kmart car and I thought, ‘we’re on for a podium here, this has just fallen into my hands’. Murph was all over me but I saw in the mirror his radiator was covered in mud, so he only had a couple of laps to try and get by … he dropped off, so that allowed me to focus on Rick.
“Three laps to go I was writing the speech for second and thought, this is great – I’d qualified tenth on my home track, second will be great.
“And then on the last lap I came into the sweeper and I realised I was a little bit closer than I had been the other laps. So I thought, I’ll just put some pressure on him on the last lap – more for a bit of fun, not even remotely thinking I’d be able to inherit the lead on the last lap, or bluff him into a mistake – but I thought I’d try.
“We came into turn 10 and I got a good run. Brad Jones’ car had been stopped because it had ran out of fuel – it was a real fuel economy race as well to a degree – and Brad was stopped on the right so there had been yellow flags for a while.
“Being the last lap – and I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this – I’d completely forgotten about the yellow flag! Rick braked, sort of mid-track … he’d obviously been thinking, ‘it’s yellow flag zone I’ve won, and I’ll just bring it home’.
“When his brake lights came on I was still 100 percent throttle. So I effectively just kept my foot down for that poopteenth longer and went to the right and then braked.
“Before I knew it I was alongside him, and I was like, ‘holy shit I’m past him’! And I came onto the straight absolutely pumped, flashed the headlights and saw the GRM guys on the side and I was thinking, ‘how could he have left a hole like that?’ He just seemed to brake early.
“On the cool down lap I could see him swerving at me, throwing his fists everywhere and I thought, ‘uh oh, maybe there were still yellow flags out at that point’.”
McConville was trying to get an answer from his crew during the cool down lap, but couldn’t get much through their celebrations.
“When I got out of the car, Rick came up all animated – ‘you passed me under yellows’ – and to be honest at the time I thought I had, and it was going to be the most embarrassing moment.
“You always try and defend yourself on the front foot, so I pointed to the green flag point and said, ‘No there were green flags, I passed you at green flag!’ – but I had no idea whether I’d passed him at the green flag or too early, because I’d forgotten about the yellow flags.
“That is something I preach now – always know where the flag points are!
“But I saw a gap and a race win and I just went in there, I was in there without even thinking too much!”
Jason Bright came home behind Kelly in third, in his PWR Performance Products Commodore VY.
McConville didn’t enjoy the podium. “I thought, ‘If this gets taken off me, it’s embarrassing’.
“I went in with Colin Bond – who had my (current) role, the DSO – and we sat down and freeze-framed it. When they freeze-framed the video I was right alongside his front wheel, at the green flag point. You go back a frame I’m not alongside him, you go forward a frame, I’m past him. And they got a line out on the TV screen and said, ‘You’re pretty much bang on, we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, it was well calculated’.
“And I went out of there and breathed the biggest sigh of relief.
“I said at the time I was trying to time the pass right to the green flag point – and to this day I haven’t told many people, but it was a complete fluke that I timed it to the green flag point. It was not pre-meditated, trying to pass at the flag point – I completely forgot where the flag points were. And that was my first race win!”
The win was special for a number of reasons – McConville had grown up racing at Winton, having started in 1989; it was the team’s home test track; and he’d just started dating Cassandra, who had come along to her first race – and now she is his wife of eight years.
“It’s a special memory and certainly one of the highlights of my racing career, certainly in V8 Supercars … it’s a race I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”
The Winton 360 runs from August 23-25 at Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria and tickets are available now.