Russell/McGregor strike first at Winton

Drew Russell (left) and Dean Croswell (right) fought hard for second place - and what would eventually be the race win today at Winton

Drew Russell (left) and Dean Croswell (right) fought hard for second place - and what would eventually be the race win today at Winton

Drew Russell and Ross McGregor have taken an upset victory in Race 1 of the Commodore Cup’s Ashley Cooper Memorial round at Winton Raceway today.

In a dramatic 45-minute race, Russell and McGregor were only handed the win after the Matt Hayes/Christian D’Agostin VS that crossed the line first was penalised after Hayes exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed for any one driver.

An early strategy call got the Hayes/D’Agostin entry a substantial lead, however Hayes was judged to have exceeded the 30-minutes allowable for any one driver in the car and was penalised 32 seconds – the length of a drive through penalty – for the indiscretion that hindered an otherwise superb drive, relegating them to third overall.

Russell’s eventual win was hard-fought, after the Westocast Windows car started the race from 12th.

The pair battled its way through the field with Russell setting a new Commodore Cup lap record (eclipsing the old benchmark set in 1999) in his pursuit of the Adam Beechey/Dean Croswell car – a battle for second place on the circuit that would ultimately for the win.

The pair ran side-by-side and off the track on occasion in a suburb fight within the last 10 minutes of the 45-minute affair.

With Hayes / D’Agostin relegated to third and the Action Racing entry of Marcus Zukanovic and Gerard McLeod fourth despite early-race dramas. In a contentious battle early in the race, Tony Bates and McLeod made contact in the Turn 11 with Bates’ out of the race and McLeod dropping to the back of the field.

An outstanding sixth place went to the Aquacity Pool and Spa VH Commodore of Neil Crowe and Graeme Meer, in just his fourth-ever Commodore Cup race.

After starting 13th, the pair was one of the few to enjoy a trouble-free run and their result was just reward – though Meer felt it afterwards on his non-power steering-equipped Commodore.

Other key contenders were eliminated earlier in the race, Steve Owen and Geoff Emery having shown the field a clean pair of heels early before a major engine problem sidelined the NDD Commodore. The crew will replace the engine overnight.

The field will regroup overnight before the final race of the round – featuring the same format – will be contested tomorrow afternoon.

Earlier, Steve Owen and Geoff Emery combined to score pole position with their aggregate time of both sessions enough to score them the top spot comfortably.

While the focus is on Commodore Cup this weekend, four other classes are contesting their respective championships and series at Winton.

In the Radical Australian Cup, Peter Opie had things all his way, winning both races. HQ Holden was taken out by Rodney Raatjes, who had qualified second behind Carl Mchenry but was able to score the win.

Queenslander Jesse Dixon took victory amongst a slim Australian Swift Sport Series field, while Shawn Jamieson dominated the opening Saloon Car race, winning by nearly 10 seconds over Matt Lovell, Sam Milton, Gavin Ross and Geoff Brown.

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