2017

News from 2017 relating to the 944 Challenge Series.

Round 3. Winton – Race 3

A lovely Winter sunshine greeted the field as they lined up for the final race of Round 3 of the 2017 944 Challenge, after a delay for a clean up through turns one and two after a car from the previous race broke a rear end as they crossed the finish line! This meant that the race line through one and two was still extremely slippery as the field found out on the warmup lap.

At the start it was Cameron Beller who again won the start and led the field through the quickdry mix lining the first corner complex, followed by Vince Misuraca, the Westaway brothers Tony and Michael and Mark Taubitz in fifth position.

Lyndon Watson followed through in sixth position followed by Keith Marriner, Sam Rofe, Pedr James, Dick Howe, Jim Mitchell, John Vainoras, with Codey West dropping to the rear after missing the start.

The field tippy-toed through turns 1 and 2 fine,  before it went wrong for Howe and James as the two were side by side through turn 3. The cars slid through the slippery surface, which resulted in Howe being forced off into the weeds on the exit of the corner, resuming in last place.

West and Howe moved quickly back up to tenth and eleventh positions on the next lap disposing of Vainoras and then Mitchell on Lap 2 as the remainder of the field settled into a rhythm for the 10 laps.

Howe continued moving up the field and benefitted from a coming together between West and James as the pair exited Turn 7 which caused James to spin, moving Howe up to ninth, with West remaining tenth ahead of James who dropped to eleventh by the time he resumed.

Howe continued to surge forward moving up to seventh the following lap passing Rofe and then Marriner, and set his sights on Watson up ahead.

Up front Beller held a comfortable small margin over Misuraca, while Tony Westaway had fallen adrift of the top two, and maintained a small gap to Michael Westaway in fourth, who was now under pressure from Taubitz. Watson had fallen off the the battle in front of him as Marriner and Rofe were running together, and then dropped behind West and James on lap 7, with Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the field.

Howe caught Watson on lap 8 and moved up to the sixth position, but with 18 seconds to the Westaway/Taubitz battle, would have to settle for that position unless dramas befell one of the top 5 runners. On lap 9 James had another drama as he again had an off track excursion, dropping him back to eleventh again behind Marriner and Rofe, where he would ultimately finish the race – but took some consolation in recording a full race distance!

Up front it was Beller who recorded a near perfect weekend with Pole and three wins, only failing to secure the fastest lap for the weekend. Misuraca crossed the line for his third second position with Tony Westaway racking up a hat-trick of thirds for the weekend.

Michael Westaway also had a three-peat of race finishes with his third fourth place finish, this one hard earned to keep Taubitz behind him, who recorded a pair of fifth places from the two races he gridded up for – and ruing missing Saturdays action and a chance to record a stronger result.

Howe was sixth in his only finish for the weekend, another good drive through the field, ahead of Codey West who nabbed the seventh position on the last lap with a pass on Lyndon Watson in an impressive debut weekend for the rookie driver.

Watson had another strong and impressive weekend with eighth in the final race, ahead of Marriner and Rofe who also both had good weekends.

James was an unhappy eleventh in his only race finish – though relieved to put the car on the trailer in better condition than the previous round. Mitchell was twelfth ahead of Vainoras who continued his perfect finishing record with a thirteenth place finish.

So with three wins from three for the weekend, Beller is looking to be the man to beat for 2017 as his win tally goes to 7 – though with 7 podium finishes for Misuraca, one bad result for Beller could throw the points battle wide open again..

5 weeks until the series return to Sandown Raceway – could we see a new name on the top step of the podium??

Round 3. Winton – Race 2

A very frosty and chilly Winters morning at Winton as the 944 Challenge field prepared for the second race of Round 3 on Sunday morning saw the teams and drivers thawing out their race cars prior to their 9:10 race start for a 7 lap hitout.

A victim of the cold weather was Dick Howe – who actually overheated his car (!) in preparation for the race prior to pre-grid and would watch from the sidelines. Chris Lewis-Williams was also out for the weekend after his Race 1 engine drama, though making the trip up to Winton to start Race 2 from the rear of the grid was Mark Taubitz after missing out on Saturdays action.

Cameron Beller was able to get the jump on Vince Misuraca at the start and lead into Turn 1 from Tony and Michael Westaway behind in fourth and fifth positions. Lyndon Watson got the jump into fifth position ahead of Codey West, with Sam Rofe behind in seventh. Moving up to eighth position from the back of the grid was Mark Taubitz with a great start, with Keith Marriner in behind ahead of Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras. Not going more than a few metres from the start line was the luckless Pedr James, while this time he was at least able to take the starters orders, a driveshaft failure meant he rolled to a stop at pit exit.

The midfield battle was where the closest battle was and Sam Rofe provided the first bout of excitement as he locked a brake entering turn 11 for the first time, spinning to the apex of the corner and forcing the following cars of Taubitz, Marriner, Mitchell and Vainoras to take the long way around as he recovered in eleventh and last position.

West was looking for a way past Watson for fifth position, while Taubitz quickly closed the gap to them to make it a three way tussle, as Rofe moved his way back past Vainoras into tenth position.

On lap 3 Watson made a small mistake and picked up an inside wheel on the exit of turn 9 which pushed his car wide, allowing West to pull alongside with Taubitz looking for a way through also. Watson on the inside braked early for Turn 10 allowing West and Taubitz to follow through for position and slotted in behind them both. One corner later, West slowed exiting Turn 11, and Taubitz moved to the inside, however there was contact at the apex, which spun the #77 car around and forced Taubitz to the grass with some steering damage. Watson also took to the grass to avoid West though unfortunately spun on his return to the track, allowing the following Marriner through between the spinning Porsches into sixth position. Watson recovered to resume behind him in seventh, ahead of Rofe, Mitchell, and West down to tenth with Vainoras in eleventh.

The top four was largely spread apart with Beller aiming to try to retake back his lap record with Misuraca a few seconds back, with larger gaps to Tony, and then Michael Westaway. Taubitz was next nursing his wounded car and maintaining the gap to Marriner, with Watson closing on the back of him. West meanwhile moved back up to ninth on lap 4 with a pass on Mitchell, and then eighth the following lap at the expense of Rofe who had a drama, slipping to ninth.

Beller was unable to dip into the 33’s to take back the lap record he held previously, falling two tenths of a second short as he raced to his second victory from Vince Misuraca, Tony Westaway and Michael Westaway with Mark Taubitz in fifth position.

Lyndon Watson moved into sixth position on the final lap with a pass on Marriner, with Marriner just holding on to seventh place crossing the line a bumper ahead of West in eighth position. Rofe reconciled in ninth place ahead of Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the field in eleventh.

 

With the top two having a pace advantage over the rest of the field, could Misuraca gain the advantage for Race 3, or could the Westaways or one of the others move up to challenge for the final 10 lap race?

Round 3. Winton – Race 1

As the cars gridded up for Race 1 on Saturday afternoon, the field was reduced down to 12 as Pedr James​ encountered issues with the ECU in his car and he stopped out on track as the rest of the field completed their warm-up lap – gut wrenching after securing his highest qualifying position of his career.

When the lights went out it was Cameron Beller who got the best start as he led into the first corner, ahead of Vince Misuraca in second position with Chris Lewis-Williams in third place.

Tony Westaway slotted into fourth from Dick Howe in fifth, Michael Westaway in sixth and Lyndon Watson in seventh.

Codey West dropped down to eighth from his second row start position, ahead of Sam Rofe and Keith Marriner rounding out the top ten, in front of Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras.

As the field came to the end of the first lap, disaster struck for Lewis-Williams, with a major engine failure ending his race, and his weekend prematurely. With the points so close this would put a major dent in his State Series Title aspirations for this season.

Howe unfortunately also stopped on lap 2 as the third retirement from the race, allowing Michael Westaway up to fourth, ahead of West, who also overtook Watson to move into fifth position, with Watson sixth, then Rofe, Marriner, Vainoras and Mitchell – who would also retire on the next lap with some gearshift issues.

The remainder of the race was a relatively straight forward affair, as Beller was able to hold the lead for the duration of the eight laps to record his fifth win of the season, ahead of Vince Misuraca, who was able to take some consolation in securing the Lap record as he ran a 1:33.9848 on the fifth lap to take the lap record away from Beller.

Unable to keep up with the top two was Tony Westaway, but delighted with a third place finish for the race in the Westbon Porsche, finishing ahead of Michael Westaway in fourth position a couple of seconds adrift of his brother.

Rounding out the top 5 in his first 944 Challenge race was the impressive Codey West, right behind Michael Westaway but unable to find a way past.

Watson was next in a relatively lonely race on his way to sixth position, after West past him Watson consolidated the spot with a large gap either side of him to the finish.

Seventh was Sam Rofe in his return race with a gap back behind Watson, with Keith Marriner finishing in eighth position a few seconds adrift on Rofe.

The ninth and final finisher of the race was John Vainoras, in a relatively lonely race also on his way to his best position to date.

Would the attrition keep up over the two Sunday races? An early start for a quick 7 laps on Sunday at 9am!

Round 3. Winton – Qualifying

A smaller entry field for Round 3 of the State Race Series with 14 cars entering for the weekend held under some very chilly, but clear skies – although only 13 cars would hit the track for qualifying early on Saturday morning:

In the pit paddock, but with no driver to be seen was the #74 Zantek car of Mark Taubitz – work commitments keeping him away from the circuit on Saturday, but he would make his way to the circuit on Sunday to line up from the back of the grid for Race 2.

Chris Lewis-Williams topped the time sheets as the first competitive laps were run with his 1:34.8293 edging out Cameron Bellers’ 1:35.0494 and Vince Misuraca in third with a 1:36.6437.

Debutante Codey West was an impressive fourth fastest with a 1:37.0399 ahead of Tony Westaway with a 1:38.9010, with Dick Howe sixth on a 1:39.9971.

Sam Rofe returned to the track for the first time in 18 months and was seventh quickest after his first lap, his 1:41.2786 edging out eighth fastest Pedr James with a 1:41.6161, and Michael Westaway ninth with a 1:42.3007

Tenth was Jim Mitchell with a 1:44.2406, just ahead of Keith Marriner in eleventh with a 1:44.3324. John Vainoras was twelfth with a 1:48.3947 with Lyndon Watson last with a 1:51.4660.

Beller moved to the top of the order on his second lap with a blistering 1:33.9777, dropping Lewis-Williams to second as he ran a 1:34.6199, while Misuraca improved to a 1:35.6636.

Tony Westaway improved to a 1:37.4348 but stayed fifth behind West, as Howe also stayed sixth despite his improvement with a 1:38.5776. Michael Westaway moved up to seventh with a 1:39.5082 ahead of Rofe and James, while Marriner moved to tenth with a 1:42.4199, just ahead of Mitchell now on a 1:43.0596 in eleventh.

Vainoras and Watson both improved with 1:47.4284 and 1:51.0829 laps respectively to hold their positions.

Beller improved by half a tenth of a second on his third fast lap with a 1:33.9229, while Misuraca moved to second as he ran a 1:34.2331 to displace Lewis-Williams who was now on a 1:34.6199.

Tony Westaway moved to fourth with a 1:35.5491, dropping West to fifth with a 1:36.4509. Michael Westaway found two seconds to move into sixth with a 1:37.4958, pushing Howe back to seventh after running a 1:37.8645.

Lyndon Watson vaulted into eighth with his first quick time, a 1:38.0233 to be just ahead of James, ninth with 1:38.0797. Rofe was tenth after turning a 1:39.2142, with Marriner improving to a 1:40.3842 in eleventh. Mitchell and Vainoras both continued to improve with respectively laps of 1:42.9377 and 1:46.6867.

Beller lowered his fastest time by a further two tenths of a second next time around with a 1:33.7195, while Misuraca also went quicker with a 1:34.0343, as did Lewis-Williams – only a hundredth of a second behind with a 1:34.0457. Lewis-Williams wasn’t able to improve on this time however, and would line up third on the grid for Race 1.

Tony Westaway and Codey West both lowered their times as they recorded 1:35.2279 and 1:36.0324 laps to retain their positions in fourth and fifth, while James moved up to sixth with a 1:36.8428.

Michael Westaway was now seventh, but improved his time with a 1:37.0503, with Howe also improving to a 1:37.2436, as did Mitchell (1:42.3077) and Vainoras (1:45.6726)

Next time around, Tony Westaway ran his fastest lap of the session with a 1:35.0373, while West improved to a 1:35.3891 in fifth. Rofe moved up to ninth position with a 1:37.5091 in what was his fastest lap for qualifying, as Mitchell again lapped a second quicker with a 1:41.2723.

Beller cemented his position at the front of the field as he lowered the marker by another half a tenth, a 1:33.6549 was enough to secure him the pole position spot for Race 1.

Michael Westaway recorded his fastest lap for the session as he went a further six tenths of a second quicker with a 1:36.4030 to move ahead of James to sixth, Howe improved marginally with a 1:37.2021, and Watson improved by half a second and secured his tenth position on the grid with a 1:37.5653 in his fastest time for the session.

Mitchell also improved again with a 1:41.0540, and the following lap moved to eleventh as he ran his fastest time for the session with a 1:39.6769, just ahead of Marriner who also dipped into the sub 1:40 bracket to be right behind Mitchell with a 1:39.6877, while Vainoras also further improved by another second with a 1:44.6769.

Codey West moved himself onto the second row of the grid on the following lap with a superb 1:34.8601 lap to put him into fourth, Howe moved up to seventh with a 1:36.4984 as James improved slightly with a 1:36.6693, though was pushed back to eighth, while Marriner also improved with a 1:38.9337.

Misuraca hadn’t given up on trying to snatch the pole spot from Beller, but while he improved with his fastest time on 1:33.9909, it wasn’t enough for the #1 spot and he would line up alongside Beller on the front row.

James also hadn’t given up, and improved to a 1:36.2504 to put him into an excellent sixth position, a great return after the unfortunate collision which sidelined him in Race 2 at Phillip Island, as Vainoras ran his fastest lap of qualifying, with a 1:43.6491.

The final couple of improvements by James and Marriner didnt change their positions in the order, as James recorded a 1:36.2247 and Marriner ran a 1:38.5017.

Race 1 would be 8 laps held on Saturday afternoon,with Beller and Misuraca on the front row ahead of Lewis-Williams and the impressive West. Who would take the first race win for the weekend?

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 3

The final race for the weekend was a 10 lap affair on Sunday afternoon, with reigning 2016 Champion Cameron Beller having his sights set on making it 3 wins from 3 races.

Beller made the best start from pole position as he attempted to repeat his race 1 performance, with Vince Misuraca again getting the jump on Chris Lewis-Williams to move up to second, with Lewis-Williams back to third.

Brad Winter tucked in for fourth again ahead of Tony Westaway in fifth, Robert Lange in sixth, then Michael Westaway in seventh and Dick Howe in eighth. Mark Taubitz was up to ninth after a good start, ahead of Jim Gallagher, who didn’t get a good start dropping down to tenth position. Ben Raphael was into eleventh ahead of Marius Catrina who also got a bad start and dropped back to twelfth with Rob Holding, Lyndon Watson, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras in sixteenth position rounding out the field.

Unfortunately missing was Peter Doherty, with his car again suffering from the starting issues on pre grid as in Race 2, although this time was unable to make the race start at all.

Lewis-Williams was shadowing Misuraca on lap one looking for a way past before Beller could pull out a gap, and he again made his move under brakes for MG corner on lap 1 to move back into second position.

On the exit of MG corner, Howe’s car went around in a cloud of tyre smoke as he attempted to keep the car facing the right way, but it went around dropping him back to last position. Following behind, Taubitz was slightly baulked and made a small mistake, allowing Gallagher to pass entering the final corner to move into eighth position.

Robert Lange moved into fifth position around Tony Westaway to start lap 2, as Taubitz closed back onto Gallagher with ideas of moving back up from ninth position. As the paid approached MG the rears locked on the #74 Zantek car and Taubitz moved the car onto the infield grass, sliding at a 90 degree angle to the corner before he drove on from the slide before coming to a stop, but dropped behind Raphael, Catrina, Holding and Watson, back into thirteenth position. Behind him, Howe had moved up to fourteenth after re-passing Vainoras and Mitchell.

Marius Catrina got a good run on Raphael down the front straight to end Lap 2 and moved himself into ninth position, while Holding also passed Raphael into Turn 2 to move into tenth. Raphael got a bad run onto the main straight which allowed Watson to pass as they crossed the line for the third time, while Catrina had a huge brake lock up into Honda corner which gave an invitation for Holding to move up to ninth. and Watson to tenth. Catrina recovered to eleventh as Raphael tried to take the spot back, the two cars side by side leading to Hayshed, with Taubitz immediately behind. Catrina held the spot but again locked up into MG, compromising Raphael as he rounded turn 11, allowing Taubitz to pounce and take tewelfth position.

Catrina was struggling with his right front tyre now and he again locked up into Honda on lap 5, allowing Taubitz alongside on the run to Siberia. The two cars rounded Siberia side by side before Taubitz backed out entering Hayshed corner. Under brakes for MG Catrina again locked up, this time sending him into a spin and dropping him back to fourteenth behind Howe and Raphael who had just swapped positions also.

There was action up front as Lewis-Williams was hounding Beller, and was able to make a move past for the lead of the race, the first time Beller had been headed in any of the races.

Watson was able to pass Holding on Lap 6 to move him into ninth position, while Howe got a good enough run on Taubitz after Catrinas spin to help him sail past into eleventh. That would be short lived however as Howes car started encountering an issue, and Taubitz moved back past exiting Honda corner.

In the lead pack, Brad Winter made his move into a podium position as he passed Misuraca on Lap 7, while Tony Westaway also moved back past Robert Lange for fifth, while Taubitz moved himself back int the top ten passing Holding down the main straight to begin Lap 8.

The troubles Howe was experiencing became too much to persevere with as he retired his car, as did Catrina, both on lap 8.

The following lap and Winter was able to harass Beller and take the second position as Beller was struggling with the feel of his car, and he conceded the position, while Taubitz moved back up to ninth with a pass on Watson under brakes for Honda corner.

Across the line it was Chris Lewis-Williams who ended Bellers winning streak with his first victory of the year, which combined with two second place finishes enabled him to take the honours for the Round in the State Series Pointscore for the weekend.

Brad Winter scored his best ever race result in second, a fantastic effort in which he also recorded the fastest lap of the race, crossing the line two seconds behind Lewis-Williams.

Cameron Beller was able to consolidate for third position, and hung on to the round win in the 944 Challenge points by one point due to his two race wins

Finishing in fourth, just unable to push Beller off the podium was Vince Misuraca, crossing the line only a tenth of a second behind Beller.

Rounding out the top five was the ever consistent Tony Westaway, with Robert Lange right behind him in sixth position. Michael Westaway was 10 seconds adrift in seventh position for the race, as well as the round after a lonely race, with a 20 second gap back to Jim Gallagher, also a lonely race after Lap 2 on his way to eighth position for both the race and round.

Next across the line was Mark Taubitz, but was handed down a 1 minute post race penalty due to speeding in the pit lane on the formation lap after getting blocked in the pre-grid by the non firing car of Doherty, and frustrated after a good recovery from his early slide. The penalty dropping him to twwlfth, though still enough to be classified ninth outright for the weekend.

Elevated to Ninth was Lyndon Watson, a strong result in his first foray in the 944 Challenge which helped him to tenth outright in series points for the weekend – a great effort!

Tenth position was Rob Holding, very happy to earn a top ten result in his first visit to the Phillip Island circuit, and only his second 944 event, another great result.

Moving back up to eleventh position was Ben Raphael, ecstatic after having his best showing to date with some great battles throughout the weekend at the return to the round he made his debut at last year.

The final two finishers were Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras who were together for the first few laps before Vainoras had a small mistake which dropped him off the tail of the #46 944, but noth happy to record three finishes for the weekend.

As Round 2 closes, its clear that its shaping up to be another season that will go down to the final round! With 6 weeks to the third round at Winton, the drivers and teams will all be working hard to see who can gain the advantage at the tight country track!

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 2

The rain clouds stayed away on Sunday morning as the field prepared for a quick six lap blast that was Race 2 of the second round of the 944 Challenge at Phillip Island.

Cameron Beller was again quickest off the start and led into turn 1, with Vince Misuraca running in his tyre tracks with a great start to follow him into Turn 1. Brad Winter also got a good start and was third, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams who didn’t get a good start, and dropped back to fourth place.

Robert Lange was next ahead of the inseparable Westaway brothers, with Michael this time getting the better start and leading Tony through turn 1. Ken Rowland followed in eighth position, ahead of Pedr James in ninth, and Mark Taubitz in tenth after completely missing the start and lucky not to drop further back.

Jim Gallagher was next ahead of a fast starting Ben Raphael, with Rob Holding behind him. Marius Catrina remained in fourteenth with Dick Howe in fifteenth after his rear of grid start. Peter Doherty was in sixteenth after being forced to start off the rear and had Lyndon Watson behind him in seventeenth position with Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras behind them.

Gallagher locked a brake into Honda corner and lost two spots to Raphael who moved up to eleventh, and Holding up to twelfth while Lewis-Williams moved back up to third position with a pass on Winter under brakes into MG corner.

At the front of the field, the positions were status quo as Beller was able to slowly increase his gap to Misuraca and Lewis-Williams while Winter also just slipped off the tail of the top 3. Meanwhile, all of the position changes were happening in the second half of the field!

Gallagher was able to get back to twelfth position with a pass on Holding as they crested the top of Lukey Heights, and then back to eleventh with a pass on Raphael into turn 1 at the start of lap 2, and Catrina moved up to thirteenth with a pass on Holding under brakes for Honda corner. although he left the circuit just after and dropped back to seventeenth position again behind Holding, Howe, Watson and Doherty, while Howe then passed Holding and Raphael down the front straight to end the second lap.

Catrina moved back ahead of Doherty for sixteenth before Taubitz – who was battling a very loose car, spun entering Honda corner, dropping him back to seventeenth position. This elevated Gallagher to tenth and Howe into eleventh position, while Raphael was now twelfth with Holding still on his tail, and Watson in fourteenth ahead of Catrina and Doherty. Watson would have a moment in turn 11 however, dropping to seventeenth position behind Catrina, Doherty and Taubitz.

Lap 4 and Pedr James was able to make a move for eighth position on Ken Rowland, while Howe moved himself into the top ten with a pass on Gallagher.

The following lap and Lewis-Williams was able to get back to the second position with a pass on Misuraca, and there was further action at Honda corner, as Michael Westaway made a move on Lange which unfortunately ended in a spin for both cars. This elevated Tony Westaway to fifth position, with James now up to sixth with Rowland seventh.

Unfortunately for the latter two, their race – and weekend came to a close a few corners later. As Rowland was attempting to retake the position from James his car slipped off the track on the outside of Lukey heights as they crested the hill. With the wet grass from the rain across the weekend the car slid down the hill and entered the track again on the exit to MG corner – backwards.

As James rounded MG, he was struck in the rear by the rear of the sliding car of Rowland, putting both out on the spot as the two right rear corners of their 944’s made contact. A testament to the strength of the cars is that both will be repaired and expected on the grid at Winton for Round 3.

This elevated Michael Westaway back into the sixth position that he started the lap in, with Lange seventh, Howe to eighth position, with the rest of the field also moving up two positions also.

Beller was able to hold station out front and take a strong second victory for the weekend, with Lewis-Williams and Misuraca rounding out the Race 2 podium in a repeat of the Race 1 results.

Winter was again fourth, from Tony Westaway, Michael Westaway, Lange, and Gallagher, able to move back into eighth after Howe encountered some shifting issues on the final lap, but recovered to finish ninth just behind him.

Holding moved up to tenth position as he started the last lap dropping Raphael to eleventh, which became twelfth when Catrina also made a move past Raphael on the run to Honda corner. Holding unfortunately made a mistake at Honda and spun off, dropping him back to fourteenth position behind Taubitz, which moved Catrina up into the tenth position which he was able to hold to the end.

Doherty was able to capitalise when Holding had his moment also, and moved past Raphael into eleventh position into Siberia, pushing car #29 back to twelfth, where he finished the race.

Thirteenth was Taubitz, who was not able to run to his usual pace in the race with some car stability issues, with Holding and Watson crossing the line in fourteenth and fifteenth.

Sixteenth was Mitchell, crossing the line a few seconds clear of John Vainoras, both drivers improving substantially on their Race 1 laps times as they continue to find pace aroung the fast Phillip Island layout.

Beller had now won four races in a row – would he be able to make it five in a row at Race 3?

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 1

With so little separating the front row protagonists in qualifying for Round 2, a lot would depend on who could get the best start on the way to Turn 1 for Race 1. Off the line it was Cameron Beller who prevailed after he and Chris Lewis-Williams ran side by side through turns 1 & 2, with Vince Misuraca following them through in third position.

The following quartet of Brad Winter, Robert Lange, Tony Westaway and Dick Howe all maintained their grid position off the start, with Mark Taubitz getting a good start from tenth on the grid to jump up to eighth position ahead of Michael Westaway and Pedr James in tenth.

Ken Rowland was next from Jim Gallagher, Peter Doherty, Rob Holding, Lyndon Watson, Marius Catrina, Ben Raphael, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras as the field exited Southern Loop for the first time.

Howe made a move to the inside of Westaway under brakes into Honda for the first time, and the two ran side-by-side from Honda all the way through to Hayshed before Howe was able to take command of sixth position.

Behind them, James held on to the outside of Southern Loop alongside Michael Westaway and used the momentum to clear him on the run to Honda, towing Jim Gallagher along behind him, moving up to tenth position relegating Westaway to eleventh ahead of Rowland, Doherty, Holding and then Catrina ahead of Watson, after they swapped position on the run out of Southern Loop.

Gallagher moved up to ninth with a strong move under brakes into MG, moving underneath James which sent him back to tenth. It wasn’t over by a long shot though as James and Westaway moved either side of Gallagher on the run down the front straight into turn 1, though Gallagher held strong to maintain ninth for now. Behind him, Westaway made a last minute move under brakes into Honda corner to overtake James and move back to tenth position, and then repeated the move the following lap on Gallagher putting him ninth.

Behind them, Holding was looking to make a move on Doherty but overcooked it under brakes and gyrated the Pellicano Builders backed 944, dropping him to sixteenth position behind Catrina and Watson. Jim Mitchell also had an off road excursion at Honda corner, dropping him behind Vainroas.

Up front meanwhile, Winter also made a pass into Honda corner, passing Misuraca to move into a podium position.

Lap 4 and Michael Westaway continued his charge forward, passing Taubitz down the front straight to move him up to eighth position, while the following lap James moved back to tenth when he made a move under Gallagher under brakes for Honda corner.

As the field started lap 6 some raindrops started to appear on the windscreens of the cars as some backed off more than others, and Misuraca was able to make his way back into the third position when he passed Winter. Behind them, the #8 944 of Dick Howe found himself off the track exiting Southern Loop and into retirement, a great shame after a strong drive where he was able to keep Tony Westaway at bay for sixth position.

Up at the front, Beller was able to eke out a gap across the second half of the race with Lewis-Williams unable to stick with him, and consolidating for second place. Misuraca was able to keep Winter at bay for the final podium position, with Lange immediately on Winters’ tail, crossing the line in fifth.

The Westaway brothers were next, with Tony crossing the line in sixth ahead of Michael in seventh only a few seconds behind.

In the battle for eight position, James had honed onto the back of Taubitz and was looking to make a move for what was now eighth place after Howe’s retirement. He made a couple of attempts down the main straight as well as under brakes for MG corner on lap 7 before he was able to get a tow down the front straight as they started the last lap to take the position under brakes for turn 1, with Gallagher right in behind with a watching brief, ready to capitalise.

Taubitz had a strong run coming out of Southern Loop and was able to pull to the inside of James as they entered Honda for the final time, with Gallagher immediately behind. All three braked late, with Gallagher spinning off under brakes, as James also spun as he turned in with a little bit too much speed, leaving Taubitz to cruise through and take the eight position, with Ken Rowland the biggest winner, moving up to ninth place. James was able to recover to finish tenth, ahead of Gallagher in eleventh.

Peter Doherty was a few seconds behind Gallagher in twelfth position, with Watson in thirteenth, after managing to make his way past Catrina for the position on the final lap. Holding was next in fifteenth position, with a gap back to Raphael in sixteenth. Vainoras held on for seventeenth ahead of Mitchell who was the final finisher, with Howe the only DNF.

Two races were still to come on Sunday a quick 6 lap race in the morning with a longer 10 lap race in the afternoon.

Round 2. Phillip Island – Qualifying

Saturday morning saw 19 Porsche 944s line up for qualifying for Round 2 of the 944 Challenge for 2017.

Fast man out of the gate was Chris Lewis-Williams, the only man to go under 1 minute 50 on the first flying lap with a 1:49.9033 to be fastest, ahead of Robert Lange with a 1:50.4577 to be second quickest ahead of Vince Misuraca (1:51.0712) Brad Winter (1:52.3091) and Cameron Beller (1:52.4138)

The Westaways were the next in line, Tony (1:53.1991) ahead of Michael (1:53.3738) with Mark Taubitz in 8th on a 1:53.7024 from Jim Gallagher’s 1:54.7074 and Pedr James with 1:54.9972 to be tenth after the first lap.

Dick Howe was next after recording a 1:55.2048 ahead of Ken Rowland’s 1:55.5212 with Rob Holding next in his first Phillip Island qualifying on a 1:56.9835, in front of Marius Catrina in fourteenth with a 1:57.2321.

Lyndon Watson was fifteenth in his first 944 qualifying session with a 2:00.2051, and was followed by Ben Raphael (2:01.0337) Peter Doherty (2:02.3976) and John Vainoras eighteenth quickest with a 2:10.6052 as he started his first Phillip Island race weekend.

Pulling off on his out lap was Jim Mitchell, after a troublesome Friday practice which resulted in some open heart surgery on the 944 powerplant, the car came to a halt exiting Siberia on his out lap. Fortunately for Jim, a badly connected lead was the culprit and he would be running again quickly, though not able to record a time and would start from the rear of the grid.

Lewis-Williams went quicker on the next lap to 1:49.0684 as Beller moved into second quickest with a 1:49.6944 ahead of Lange who was now on a 1:49.9996. Winter lowered his time to a 1:50.5218 to remain fourth fastest ahead of Misuraca now down to fifth after improving by four thousandths of a second with a 1:51.0670

Tony Westaway remained sixth as he improved his time to a 1:51.4462 with Taubitz moving to seventh with a 1:51.5493. Howe was up to eighth with a 1:51.8722, now ahead of Rowland on 1:52.3412 and Michael Westaway slipping to tenth with a 1:52.6548.

James was now eleventh with a 1:53.3447 ahead of Gallagher on 1:53.4732, and Watson moving up to thirteenth after recording a 1:55.7648. Holding was back one spot with a 1:55.9126 ahead of Doherty who moved to fifteenth with a 1:56.4544.

Raphael moved ahead of Catrina to be sixteenth with a 1:57.0490, as Vainoras lowered his time to a 2:09.2111

On his third flying lap Lewis-Williams lowered the benchmark lap time as he set a 1:48.8533, with Lange (1:49.7793), Winter (1:49.8601) and Misuraca (1:49.9415) all lowering their times but not changing position.

Tony Westaway moved in the 50’s with a 1:50.5639, as Ken Rowland found two tenths of a second with a 1:52.1571 though remained eight quickest. Pedr James also stayed eleventh despite improving with a 1:52.6750. Catrina moved up to thirteenth after recording a 1:55.1004 ahead of Doherty who was up to fourteenth with a 1:55.1098 and Holding fifteenth with a 1:55.3987, dropping Watson back to sixteenth.

Ben Raphael recorded what would be his fastest lap of the session with a 1:56.3637 which would leave him seventeenth fastest, with Vainoras dropping his time a further two seconds with a 2:07.1130.

Tony Westaway improved his time, albeit by a couple of thousandths of a second in sixth position, as Howe moved to seventh with a 1:50.9864. James moved up to eighth position with a 1:51.1658 ahead of Michael Westaway who was now ninth with a 1:51.4764, dropping Taubitz to tenth and Rowland to eleventh.

Gallagher improved his time in twelfth position to a 1:52.8406, as Doherty set his fastest lap of the session – a 1:54.4256 to move into fourteenth quickest.

Ken Rowland improved his time to a 1:51.5919 on the following lap, with Jim Gallagher also improving to a 1:52.6088 with what would be his fastest time of the session to consolidate twelfth position. Rob Holding moved back up to fourteenth after running a 1:54.4718 as Vainoras also improved by .4 of a second to a 2:06.7614.

On Lap 7 Michael Westaway improved his time and position to elevate to seventh with a 1:50.8728 which would be his fastest time for the session, as Ken Rowland also improved slightly with a 1:51.5789, also his fastest time for the session to lock in eleventh on the grid in front of Gallagher and Holding, who also locked down thirteenth on the grid with his fastest time of 1:53.8313.

Watson improved his time and moved up to fifteenth fastest behind Doherty with a 1:55.0037, as Vainoras dropped his PB by almost a second with a 2:05.8007

At the pointy end, Beller was making his attempt to snatch the provisional pole time, falling just short with a 1:48.9024 -less than half a tenth behind Lewis-Williams, as Misuraca leapt two spots up to third with a  1:49.4082.

Pedr James improved further with his fastest time of the session, a 1:51.0557, as Watson and Catrina both recorded their fastest times to lock in fourteenth and fifteenth on the grid, a 1:54.0486 and 1:54.3647 respectively pushing Doherty back to sixteenth position. Vainoras meanwhile sliced 2.5 seconds from his best time to date with a 2:03.2798.

Misuraca improved again, but only by one hundredth of a second to finish with a :149.3968, unable to improve further as the session neared its completion, as Winter moved up to join him on the second row with a 1:49.7113, pushing Lange back to fifth position with his fastest time for the session, as Vainoras also recorded his best time with a 2:02.9044.

Drivers were making a last ditch attempt to improve on their times on the final lap, with Beller improving on his time on the previous lap, but was still just off Lewis-Williams time which was able to earn him Pole Position, with Bellers 1:48.8638 only one hundredth of a second away from pole.

Tony Westaway improved on his final lap, but remained sixth fastest to share the third row of the grid with Robert Lange after he recorded a 1:50.3269 on his final tour, with Dick Howe moving up one spot to seventh fastest with a 1:50.6190 ahead of Michael Westaway, who was pushed back to eighth as a result.

Mark Taubitz also lowered his best time of the session on his final lap, but a 1:51.2922 not enough to get him ahead of James, with whom he would be sharing row 5 of the grid.

The skies looked threatening for Race 1, who would strike first blood in the first Island race for the year?

2017 Round 2 Preview – Phillip Island

Only two more sleeps before a field of 19 drivers venture onto the hallowed Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for Qualifying for Round 2 of the Victorian Circuit Race Championships! Here is a quick preview of who to look out for..

#1 Cameron Beller – The Defending 944 Challenge Champion will start his weekend on the back foot after missing the Friday Pracice Day, but will no doubt be at the pointy end come Qualifying, fresh from two race wins at Round 1 at Sandown.

#15 Vince Misuraca – Vince made a great start to his 2017 season with a victory in Race 1 at Sandown, and followed up with a 4th and 3rd to be sitting in 2nd position in the points

#37 Chris Lewis-Williams – Chris also had a strong weekend at Sandown and sits 1 point behind Misuraca after netting himself a trio of podium finishes.

#22 Brad Winter – The 2016 Rookie of the Year started 2017 strongly and led his first race laps in Race 2 before finishing on the podium

#50 Tony Westaway – Tony was again consistant in his results over the Race 1 weeend, and this has placed him 5th in the points entering Round 2 – and with the aim of improving on that spot after Phillip Island.

#8 Dick Howe – A great weekend for the racing veteran with a pair of 5th places before losing a few spots in the closingstages of Race 3 with some shifting issues, Dick will be looking for more Top 5’s this weekend!

#6 Robert Lange – Rob grabbed a stunning Pole Position in Qualifying for Round 1 at Sandown but it went downhill in Race 1 with a spin while leading, and he had to spend the rest of the weekend playing catchup. Nevertheless, he consolidated for 7th outright for the weekend and will look to make it consecutive Pole Positions this weekend.

#74 Mark Taubitz – Mark qualified 5th with a strong lap in Qualifying but was let down by poor starts in the races which cost him spots in the races. He was able to consolidate for 8th outright over the weekend, and will be hoping for better results at PI.

#4 Ken Rowland – Recently voted ‘Most Improved Driver’ for 2016, Ken again had a solid weekend at Sandown and sits 10th in the series points heading into Round 2.

#98 Pedr James – Pedr was having another strong weekend at Sandown, dicing inside the top 10 before a mchanical gremlin crept in during the last race, dropping him down the order. Nevertheless, 11th outright in points and Pedr will hope his consistancy will see him move up the points ladder.

#12 Marius Catrina – Marius showed good signs of speed at Sandown and found himself 13th in points at the end of the weekend,and will have his sights set on moving into the top ten with a good weekend at the Island.

#53 Peter Doherty – Peter had a welcome drama free weekend at PI which sees him 14th in points just behind Catrina,andwith some tweaks that he will hope will help him with some Best times when we hit the track on Saturday.

#13 Jim Gallagher – Jim was having a strong weekend at Sandown until the 3rd race, when a bad start dropped him back, before anoff road excursion did some damage which ended his weekend.15th in points despite the DNF, he will be another hoping a solid weekend will move him up the pointscore.

#45 Michael Westaway – Michael definitely didn’t start 2017 off the way he wouldhave planned, only completing one lap in qualifying and a DNF in Race 1 was a horror Saturday, before recovering to a 7th place finish in Race 3 which sees him 16th in the points.

#46 Jim Mitchell – The winner of the 944 Challenge Pool Tournament had a good showing in his debut race weekend with the 944 Challenge,showing some good laptimes during the weekend – and he will move himself further up the field as he gets more comfortable with the car.

#29 Ben Raphael – Ben returns to the sceneofhis racing debut last year with a lot more knowledge gained in the past 12 months. Battling off some sickness,Ben will be looking to put that to the back of his mind as he looks to push his way further up the field.

#97 Rob Holding – Rob also made his debut with the 944 Challenge at Sandown and was running strong before some mechanical issues at the end of the final race dropped him down the order. His first visit to Phillip Islandwillno doubt be an experience as he also familiarises himself with his car.

#32 John Vainoras – John continues on his learning curve as he enters his first race weekend at the famed Phillip Island track, and will be looking to continue his unblemished run of reliability thus far as he looks to improving his speed in the #32 Porsche.

#5 Lyndon Watson – Another new name inthe 944 Challenge field sees Lyndon Watson taking the controls of the ex-Graham Smith 944. We welcome Lyndon aboard and hope he has a blast this weekend!

There you have your race preview for Round 2! Qualifying commences at 10:50am on Saturday with Race 1 at 2:45pm.

Sunday will see a 6 lap screamer held at 10:30, before a 10 lap final at 2:00pm.

And don’t forget… there is still a big announcement to come…

Round 1. Sandown – Race 3

All was dry for the final race of the weekend at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon after the unexpected moisture for race 2 – and all 22 cars that qualified on Saturday morning lined up to take the starters orders for the final race on Sunday afternoon.

It was even-stevens off the line amongst the front two rows on the race to turn 1 from the start, with Cameron Beller able to hold position as the leaders entered the corner, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams. Vince Misuraca and Brad Winter rounded turn 1 side-by-side with Misuraca able to take the third position with the inside line for turn 2.

Behind them in fifth position was Robert Lange, ahead of Dick Howe, Tony Westaway and Paul Crocitti in eighth position. Getting a great start from thirteenth on the grid was Michael Westaway, who took the ninth position ahead of Mark Taubitz in tenth.

Slotted into eleventh was Pedr James, with Ken Rowland in twelfth as they rounded turn 1, with a slow starting Jim Gallagher side-by-side with a fast starting Ross Millar through the corner. Marius Catrina was next from Peter Doherty, Keith Marriner, Rob Holding, Ben Raphael, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras. Paul Greer again made a strong start but pulled off very quickly, with his mechanical issues still not solved, he retired the #14 car.

On the short run to turn 2 there was some action mid pack as Ross Millar, Jim Gallagher and Ken Rowland were three wide on the approach to the corner, though Millar braked latest and with the inside line, took the twelfth position with Gallagher sweeping around the outside to move into thirteenth ahead of Rowland. Down the back straight, Gallagher then rounded up Millar with a bold move around the outside at the end of the back straight to move into 12th position, and began the chase of the cars in front of him.

Across the line the first time it was Beller, Lewis-Williams, Misuraca, Winter, Lange, Howe, T Westaway, Crocitti, M Westaway, Taubitz, James, Gallagher, Millar, Rowland, Catrina, Doherty, Marriner, Holding, Raphael, Mitchell and Vainoras.

The top 3 were close as the other cars found a bit of space as they settled in for the 10 lap race – up to the battle for eighth that is, with 7 cars all in close proximity. Behind that battle, Doherty was able to pass Catrina on lap 2 to move up to fifteenth position.

Michael Westway made a move to the head of the train when he passed Crocitti under brakes into turn 1 to start lap 3, and then began to scoot away from his pursuers.

The following lap, Lange made a move past Winter to move up into the fourth position, meanwhile Tony Westaway passed Howe for sixth position under brakes for turn 1. Just behind them, Taubitz repeated the move Westaway made on the previous lap and passed Crocitti into turn 1 to move into ninth place.

On the run to turn 2 both James and Gallagher had visions of capitalising on Crocitti’s compromised exit from turn 1 and 3 cars went into turn 2! 3 into (turn) 2 doesn’t go however, and Gallagher on the inside of the corner couldn’t hold the sharp line and bounced across the turn 3 infield grass, with Pedr James following him to cleverly avoid contact with the about to be airbourne #13 944. Gallagher rejoined the track having gained two positions in tenth, with Crocitti back to eleventh and James twelfth, with Millar and Rowland watching and waiting to capitalise behind them.

Down the back straight Crocitti pulled out and re-took tenth position from Gallagher, as Gallagher lifted from the throttle down the front straight as it appeared his grassy excursion had caused some further dramas, and he retired the car.

Up front and Beller was eking out a small gap to Lewis-Williams, while Lange was starting to close on the battle for second between Lewis-Williams and Misuraca, while Tony Westaway started making inroads on the gap up front of him to Winter.

Taubitz had closed back up to Michael Westaway, and made a lunge under brakes for turn 1. The two cars ran side-by-side through 1 and in the approach to 2 before Taubitz yielded, and Westaway held onto the position. Crocitti meanwhile, being harassed by James behind him, made a small error with a locked brake into Dandenong Road corner on lap 5, and allowed James to move alongside in the drag race to the final corners. James held tough on the outside of turn 11 which gave him the inside for turn 12, and secured the tenth position.

Two laps later it was deja vu, although this time the drivers roles were reversed – James going wide at Dandy Rd, Crocitti taking the left line and moving back to tenth position after going around the outside of turn 11 to get the inside run onto the main straight. James though, was now mechanically wounded, and the Millar/Rowland battle quickly caught and passed him in the run to turn 2, as did Catrina and Doherty, with Catrina having retaken the position he lost to Doherty on lap 2. Further back, Holding was experiencing some dramas and he lost the nineteenth position to Mitchell on lap 8.

Howe was trying hard to retake the sixth position back from Westaway but had a brake lock up into Dandenong Road corner and ventured across the gravel – fortunately he was able to continue, but lost a chance of taking the sixth position. What this did do though, was put him back into the clutches of Michael Westaway, who was still being relentlessly pursued by Taubitz.

James’ struggles saw him lose two further positions to Marriner and Raphael on lap 9, with Mitchell dropping him back to eighteenth on the final lap.

It was Cameron Beller though who took a lights to flag victory over Chris Lewis-Williams with a three second margin. Following close behind were Vince Misuraca and Robert Lange in fourth, a good recovery after dropping to last in the first race, but he was no doubt ruing the mistake.

Crossing the line fifth was Brad Winter, another solid round of results placing him fourth overall for the weekend, ahead of Tony Westaway who closed right onto his bumper at the finish, and who also had a strong weekend in which he was classified fifth outright.

The battle for seventh went right to the wire, as Michael Westaway and Taubitz were right behind Howe the last lap. Westaway made a move under brakes for turn 11, which he was able to pull off to take the seventh position. As Howes’ exit onto the main straight was then compromised, Taubitz was able to optimise his run out of the final corner and pulled alongside Howe as they approached the finish line, and crossed a mere .002 ahead of Howe to steal the eighth position at the finish.

Tenth across the line was Crocitti, narrowly ahead of Millar in eleventh position, with Rowland a couple of seconds further back in twelfth. Thirteenth and fourteenth positions went to Catrina and Doherty, separated by half a second across the line.

Fifteenth was a good result for Marriner, a could of seconds clear of Raphael in sixteenth position. Some way back was Mitchell in seventeenth, ahead of the ailing James, who managed to just hold out Holding as they ran to the line, with Vainoras being the final finisher. Only two DNF’s were Jim Gallagher after his off road expedition brought him unstuck, and the luckless Paul Greer, who will hopefully solve his car gremlins soon, as once they are sorted, the car will be a definite contender for top 10 results.

So Round 1 for 2017 is run and won, congrats to ALL entrants on a great clean and fun weekend of racing, now a chance to regroup and plan for Round 2 at Phillip Island in two months time!

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