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Nov 2, 2015

TOP 10 DRIVERS - No. 7 JAMES WINSLOW

CELEBRATING it's 10th season, the Shannons Nationals has set out to rank the top ten drivers to have raced regularly at our rounds since 2006.

Selected by a panel of industry experts and assisted by more than 2500 votes from an online fan poll, our top-10 really is a who's who of Australia's racing elite from the last decade. We will be rolling out the full list in the next two weeks, with the Number One driver to be announced on the Friday morning of the 2015 Shannons Nationals finale' at Sydney Motorsport Park this November 13.

At number 7 it's the international expert: two-time Gold Star winner James Winslow.

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FROM THE TOP of the Phillip Island control tower, Formula 3 cars look positively tiny as they exit MG corner and begin a flat out run due south on the run down to the Southern Loop, the next braking point on a lap of the epic Grand Prix circuit and some 32 seconds away.

On this occasion, a pair of tiny Formula 3 Dallaras are obscured partly by spray and partly by the semi-fogged windows of the commentary box that casts a 360-degree vista of the second-most impressive bit of motor racing real estate in the country.

One car, red and black and leading the motor race, covers a line entering the stop at MG as the other one faints a move on the outside, seeking better traction off the turn in these sodden conditions. As the pair of cars accelerates and enters turn twelve, pedals flat to the carbon bulkhead even in these conditions that Noah would find comfortable, the second car in the line – black and silver, this one, twitches with a push of understeer and a mid-corner slide.

Nevertheless, it’s gripped up enough to remain close to the car in front, using the area of negative pressure the leader deposits in its wake to draw ever closer.

Past the commentary box and the silver car, still second, is visibly excited with energy, bobbing and weaving with minute corrections behind the wheel as the tow takes the front downforce away and adds another 5 or 6 kays per hour.

Then, as the pair of rain lights punch through the spray and with Bass straight in all her turbulence pictured behind them, one car goes left, the other goes right and all of a sudden they’re side by side entering the fastest corner these cars traverse anywhere in the land.

And there, in the pouring rain at a track he adored and in a car with which he was at one, James Winslow sailed around the outside of Leanne Tander to lead another F3 race in season 2008.

You’ll forgive the lengthy exposition but Phillip Island and wet weather perfectly sum up the immense capacities of James Winslow, a British driver to whom the term ‘Journeyman’ is perhaps apt and yet at the same time grossly unfair.

Winslow first appeared on the Australian F3 scene in 2006, winning a race at the Australian Grand Prix, and returned for the first of several full seasons the following season with the Piccola Scuderia outfit, and later Team BRM.

He finished fourth in 2007 and then won the 2008 season by four points after a dogged year-long fight with the other driver detailed in that epic Phillip Island duel – Leanne Tander.

He missed 2009 and 2010 but returned in 2011 to finish second with R-Tek Motorsport despite missing a round of the championship due to an overseas clash. He still won the most races (8) that season and promptly returned the following season to re-set the record books with his second championship triumph.

In winning the 2012 championship, Winslow set the record for most wins in a year (13) and became the first driver to win two Gold Star titles since the early 2000s. It was only this year that Tim Macrow – who has more starts to his credit – eclipsed the flying Briton for the most number of victories in the championships’ long history.

James enjoyment at driving a well-sorted and hooked up Formula 3 car was matched only by his ability to work hard to find the drives and the funding to get in one in the first place.

Astonishing in the rain, mighty on cold tyres and smooth as you like out of the car when dealing with media and sponsors, James Winslow is easily one of the top five – and there is a case to be answered that he should be higher - open wheel drivers this country has had the pleasure of watching in the last decade. His place on this particular list, as such, is well earned.

TOP 10 DRIVERS OF THE SHANNONS NATIONALS DECADE:

10th - Bruce Heinrich
9th - Des Wall
8th - Jake Camilleri
7th - James Winslow