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General News about and relating to all aspects of the 944 Challenge Series.

GT3 CUP CHALLENGE TEST FOR 944 CHALLENGE YOUNG GUN

On the eve of the second round of the 2017 944 Challenge, the following press release has today been published by Porsche Australia, Chequered Flag Media and the 944 Racing Association:

The best young racer in this season’s 944 Challenge will be the recipient of a Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia presented by Pirelli test drive in a move to strengthen the link between the two series.

The top 944 Challenge driver aged under 30 for 2017 will receive a test in Zagame Autosport’s 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, currently raced in the GT3 Cup Challenge series by former Olympic sprinter, John Steffensen.

The initiative strengthens the state based 944 Challenge series’ position as a breeding ground for future Porsche one-make racing stars, who can subsequently progress to the Porsche operated GT3 Cup Challenge and Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championships as part of its established Porsche Motorsport Pyramid.

Several former 944 Challenge participants have progressed from 944 Challenge to GT3 Cup Challenge, including GT3 Cup Challenge champions Kane Rose, Richard Muscat and Hamish Hardeman, Carrera Cup front-runner Dylan O’Keeffe and GT3 Cup Challenge racers John Morriss and Brenton Grove.

“We have seen many drivers progress from 944 Challenge and be immediately competitive in the GT3 Cup Challenge series, which proves 944 Challenge as an effective stepping stone,” said Paul Ellis, Porsche Cars Australia’s Director of Public Relations and Motorsport.

“We hope that providing a young talent with this testing opportunity can assist in progressing them to the GT3 Cup Challenge series.”

944 Racing Association President Mark Taubitz said the support from Porsche Cars Australia is a valuable addition to 944 Challenge’s offering to competitors.

“944 Challenge represents the most accessible and affordable opportunity for many competitors to have their first taste of racing a Porsche product,” Mr Taubitz said.

“While we’re at a lower profile than GT3 Cup Challenge and Carrera Cup, many of the fundamental principles are the same, including tightly controlled technical regulations and an emphasis on driver ability.

“We’re very appreciative of the support from Porsche, especially the opportunity they have provided for one of our competitors to explore the next step in Porsche one-make competition – we’re sure this is something that will be appreciated by both our current competitors and potential new entrants.”

Zagame Autosport Team Manager Cam McConville is thrilled to have the newly formed Porsche team as part of this initiative.

“Zagame Autosport is thrilled to be involved in this testing opportunity as part of our GT3 Cup Challenge program. We certainly recognise 944 Challenge as a great feeder series to national level competition and it is not short of impressive driver alumni,” said McConville.

“It’s great that our team can provide this opportunity and hopefully assist in the progression of a young driver up the motor racing ladder.”

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia presented by Pirelli will next race at Phillip Island for the 100th Shannons Nationals round on May 26-28, 2017, joined on the race schedule by Carrera Cup.

The second round of 944 Challenge will be held at Phillip Island this weekend, with the series also visiting Winton, Sandown and Mallala throughout the season.

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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Round 1. Sandown – Race 2

The forecast for Sunday morning was for overcast but dry conditions, however to throw a curveball to the drivers there was some rain amongst the clouds, wetting the track a bit before the race. Although dry for the last 40 minutes or so before the race was due to commence, the rain started again as the field made its way around on the warm up lap, which would cause some drivers to groan in frustration, and others to grin with happiness.

As the lights went out the front row starters of Vince Misuraca and Cameron Beller slithered away from the startline but would both be overtaken before the first corner by the second row, with Brad Winter leading into turn 1 from fourth on the grid, with Chris Lewis-Williams up to second ahead of Beller in third with Misuraca dropping back to fourth.

Those that started on the outside line all seemed to get the traction advantage as Tony Westaway moved past Dick Howe into fifth, and Paul Crocitti moved into seventh behind Howe, and ahead of Mark Taubitz.

Getting a brilliant start was Robert Lange, and from his thirteenth position on the grid he was ninth going into the first corner, ahead of Jim Gallagher, Ken Rowland, Pedr James, Ross Millar, Jim Mitchell and Paul Greer who also made a fantastic start from 22nd on the grid up to fifteenth into turn 1. Following through was Peter Doherty, Michael Westaway, Marius Catrina, Rob Holding, Keith Marriner, Ben Raphael & John Vainoras.

There was all sorts of action in the mid pack as the field tippy-toed to turn 2, as James pulled clear of Rowland, and Millar then made a move to also pass Rowland under brakes for turn 2. Greer outrun Mitchell to turn 2 and followed Millar through past Rowland and then lunged underneath Millar himself to move up to twelfth, Greer gaining 10 spots in four corners!

A big slide from Howe coming out of turn 4 showed how greasy the track was, as Lange got a great run out of the corner and moved past Taubitz down the back straight and also moved inside Crocitti under brakes for the esses, moving him into seventh position.

Millar was struggling with wrong tyre pressures on the slippery track and was overtaken down the back straight by Rowland, Mitchell and Michael Westaway which dropped him back to sixteenth position ahead of Doherty and Catrina.

Into Dandenong Road corner Beller made a move on Lewis-Williams as the two cars went side-by-side through the corner with Beller prevailing as the field came to the last two corners for the first time.

Greer continued his charge with supreme confidence in the slippery conditions and passed James under brakes for Dandenong Road corner.

The last couple of corners were proving to be the most treacherous, as a number of cars had a moment as they tried to feed the power on for the run down the front straight – Taubitz having a big slide which he was able to recover, but allowed Gallagher to breeze past him down the straight. A slide on corner exit also for Greer, but the biggest casualty was Jim Mitchell, who unfortunately spun out of what was a strong fourteenth place, and dropped him to the back of the pack.

Howe made a move back into the top 5 when he passed Tony Westaway under brakes for turn 1 to commence lap 2, while Greer moved into the top ten as he passed Taubitz entering into turn 2 to start the second lap. Behind them, Rowland pulled alongside James under brakes for turn 1, ultimately prevailing to take twelfth position as the two drove side by side through turns 1 and 2.

As the sprinkles from above eased, Beller made his move into the lead, passing Winter with Lewis-Williams making his way into second also, while Catrina passed Doherty for sixteenth position, and Mitchell commenced his move back up through the field when he passed Vainoras.

Beller began stretching his legs and pulled a margin out over Lewis-Williams, who also began pulling out from Winter, who had Misuraca hot on his heels. There was a gap back to the next three cars of Howe, Westaway and Lange, with another gap to Crocitti, Gallagher, Greer, Taubitz, Rowland and James with Westaway just a bit behind. Catrina made a move on Millar for fifteenth place behind them under brakes for turn 1 to commence lap 3.

Down the back straight the party was unfortunately over for Paul Greer as the car slowed, and he would not cross the line to finish lap 3, while Gallagher made his way past Crocitti into eighth place at the end of the back straight.

The lap times continued to drop as the track dried out and those who were struggling in the greasy conditions started to become more comfortable as Mitchell passed Raphael for nineteenth position as he was running strong lap times on his recovery drive.

Lange moved his way into sixth position on lap 6 with a move on Tony Westaway, while James passed Rowland at the end of the back straight to move back into eleventh place. Doherty also passed Millar under brakes for turn 1 to move into fifteenth position, and Mitchell moved past Marriner for eighteenth place.

Beller was comfortable up from and set a fastest lap of the race, a second quicker than that of the fastest of his closest rival on his way to a 8.5 second victory over Chris Lewis-Williams, who himself was 7 seconds ahead of the close battle for third between Winter and Misuraca.

Five seconds further back was the battle for fifth with Howe holding out Lange and Tony Westaway, the three covered by less than a second. Another 7 seconds back in eighth position was Jim Gallagher who had a lonely race once he passed Crocitti for position.

Ten seconds back was Crocitti who fell into the clutches of Taubitz at the end of the race but was able to hold on to finish ninth with Taubitz crossing the line 0.4 of a second behind him, with James and Rowland both also crossing the line right on each others bumper in eleventh and twelfth.

A couple of seconds behind the battle for 9th – 12th was Michael Westaway in thirteenth, with Marius Catrina 3/4 of a second behind him in fourteenth position.

Fifteenth across the line was Peter Doherty, a few seconds ahead of the battle for sixteenth between Millar, Mitchell and Holding. Mitchell was able to move past Holding on the last lap for seventeenth but ran out of time to pass Millar, as the three crossed the line separated by 3/4 of a second.

Keith Marriner was nineteenth, ahead of Ben Raphael and John Vainoras to round out the finishers, with Paul Greer sadly not finishing after his great start to the race. A fantastic effort by all drivers in the tricky conditions to have no major mishaps or DNF’s due to driving error!

With two winners from two races, there was no expectation of any rain before the final race at 1:35, would Misuraca be able to retaliate and take the final race win from Beller in the dry conditions, or could Lewis-Williams, Winter, Lange, Howe, Westaway or others mount a challenge to make it three different winners for the round?

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Round 1. Sandown – Race 1

The first race for 2017 was eagerly anticipated, and with 22 cars lining up on the grid an exciting 10 laps was assured, with plenty of close dicing and changing of positions.

It was an even jump off the line from the front runners as they raced towards the first corner when the lights went out. Robert Lange was able to hold onto the lead through turn 1 with Cameron Beller slotting in behind. and keeping ahead of Vince Misuraca who maintained third position with Chris Lewis-Williams behind them.

Tony Westaway got a good jump and slotted into fifth with Brad Winter behind him with a couple of fast starting Pauls behind them, Paul Crocitti into seventh and Paul Greer into eighth.

Not getting a good start was Mark Taubitz, who dropped back to ninth from his fifth position start, with Ken Rowland behind alongside Dick Howe as they went through the first few corners. Pedr James was twelfth ahead of Jim Gallagher who recovered from a poor getaway to be thirteenth, with Ross Millar who also got a good start in fourteenth.

Peter Doherty was into fifteenth ahead of Marius Catrina who got a poor start and dropped to sixteenth. They were followed by Mitchell, Holding, Westaway, Marriner, Raphael and Vainoras.

The top 4 runners pulled a slight gap on the next pack of 5 cars, while there was a scrap over tenth position between Howe & Rowland, which Howe was able to win as they exited turn 4 for the run up the back straight. This caused Rowland to drop behind James & Gallagher with a compromised run down the back straight and just held Millar at bay as they reached the esses at the end of the back straight. Meanwhile, Michael Westaway managed to move himself into seventeenth by the end of the lap, passing Mitchell and Holding.

Across the line for the first time the order was Lange, Beller, Misuraca, Lewis-Williams, T Westaway, Winter, Crocitti, Greer, Taubitz and Howe as the top 10. Under brakes into turn 1, Winter pulled alongside Westaway and took the fifth position, while Taubitz got a run alongside Greer and also finalised the move under brakes into turn 1, and took the eighth position.

The race was shaken up when on the exit of turn 4 Robert Lange climbed over the kerb on the exit and his car spun around back across the track. The cars behind took evasive action, however Beller was hit in the right side door as Langes car looped around, although Beller was able to continue on in the lead. No such luck for Lange however, who dropped back to last place before he was back up to speed.

On lap 3 Taubitz made another position under brakes into turn 1, passing Crocitti to move into what was now 6th position after Lange’s spin, meanwhile Paul Greer unfortunately retired from eighth position immediately after. Lange meanwhile moved up to twentieth position by the end of the lap as he passed Vainoras.

The battle amongst the top 3 was fierce with Beller holding onto the lead, while the following cars of Winter, Westaway, Taubitz & Crocitti found some space between them, while Howe started catching them all – his new car running very well around the Sandown venue, and he caught and passed Crocitti down the back straight on lap 4.

A little further back in the pack, Catrina passed Doherty to move into the 13th position, while Lange moved past Raphael, and then Marriner as he continued his recovery drive, and then passed Holding and Mitchell the lap later, with Holding also passing Mitchell on that lap.

Michael Westaway also moved past Doherty on lap 6, while Holding slipped back two positions to 19th, back behind Mitchell as well as Marriner. The following lap, Howe moved past Taubitz under brakes into turn 1 and set off after Westaway.

Up front, and Misuraca made his move, passing Beller into turn 1 to take the race lead, with Beller relegated back to second ahead of Lewis-Williams. Michael Westaway and Lange were also moving further forward with Westaway passing Catrina for thirteenth, with Lange moving past Catrina as well as Doherty to move into fourteenth position.

It all turned to tears for Westaway the following lap however, as he spun off under brakes for Dandenong Road corner into the gravel trap, with him unable to extract the car to finish the race. This moved Lange up to thirteenth, with Catrina and Doherty behind him.

The battle for the lead was close, but neither of the drivers were able to make a change for position and Misuraca would win the first race for 2017, narrowly ahead of Beller and Lewis-Williams. Winter was in fourth, with Howe finishing fifth after catching Westaway and making a pass under brakes into turn 1 for the last time.

Tony Westaway narrowly held onto sixth position with Taubitz hot on his heels at the end, with a gap back to an exciting tussle for eighth between Crocitti, James and Gallagher, all three crossing the finish line within 0.8 of a second.

Eleventh was Ken Rowland, just ahead of Ross Millar and the recovering Robert Lange in thirteenth, with a small gap back to Catrina and Doherty.

Sixteenth in his first race in the 944 challenge was Jim Mitchell, with Marriner and Holding crossing the line less than half a second off his rear bumper, with Raphael just behind them in nineteenth, with John Vainoras being the final finisher.

Two DNF’s were Michael Westaway who was in the gravel, and Paul Greer who was using the weekend as a test session to try to solve the gremlins in his car.

Race 2 was to be held at 9:50 Sunday morning, could Vince repeat his Round 1 performance of 2016 and make it a hat trick?

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Round 1. Sandown – Qualifying

A strong 23 entries for Round  1 of the 2017 944 Challenge was reduced to 22 by the time Qualifying commenced on Saturday morning, with the withdrawal of Andrew Jackman after a mishap during Friday’s practice session ruling him out for the weekend.

As the field circulated and posted their first flying laps, Robert Lange appeared at the top of the sheets with a 1:26.0909, ahead of Vince Misuraca with a 1:26.4783, and Chris Lewis-Williams with a 1:26.5184. There was a gap following the first trio as the rest of the field found space on the track to run their fast laps, with Beller recording a 1:27.7005 on his first lap ahead of Winter, 5th fastest with a 1:28.2495.

Sixth fastest after lap 1 was Dick Howe a 1:28.4384, though unfortunately this was Dick’s only flying lap as the car came to a halt on the side of the track. Seventh on his first flying lap was Ross Millar, recording a quick 1:28.9619, just ahead of Mark Taubitz’s 1:29.1900, and Pedr James and Paul Crocitti rounding out the top ten with 1:29.2464 & 1:29.2944 laps respectively.

Eleventh was Paul Greer with a 1:29.5582, just ahead of Jim Gallagher on a 1:29.6927 lap, with Marius Catrina, Tony Westaway and Peter Doherty next in line with laps of 1:30.5021, 1:31.4160 & 1:31.8077.

Ken Rowland was sixteenth after his first lap with 1:32.4991 just ahead of Jim Mitchell with 1:32.5877, Michael Westaway on 1:32.6962, Keith Marriner with 1:32.9450 and Rob Holding twentieth with a 1:33.1980. Ben Raphael was next on 1:37.0013 just ahead of John Vainoras’ 1:37.6546.

Lange was the first man into the 25’s the following lap with a 1:25.3717, with Lewis-Williams up to second with a 1:26.1946, with Beller closing the gap to the top 3 with a 1:26.5571.

Taubitz moved up to fifth with a 1:27.0876, ahead of Winter who went quicker with a 1:27.6375. Crocitti moved up to seventh with a 1:27.9272 just ahead of Tony Westaway on 1:28.0569. Howe was pushed back to ninth with James now tenth, going half a second quicker to record a 1:28.7095.

Gallagher moved to eleventh fastest with a 1:28.7656, pushing Millar back to twelfth ahead of Rowland moving to thirteenth with a 1:29.4898 with Greer back to fourteenth.

Doherty dipped under the 1 minute 30’s with a 1:29.9426, with Catrina back to sixteenth on a 1:30.3625. Holding moved up to seventeenth with a 1:30.5376 in front of Michael Westaway on a 1:30.8304. This would be the end of Michael’s session however, as a suspension failure the following lap put him out early without being able to set a time representative of his speed.

Mitchell ran a 1:31.3925 to move to nineteenth, ahead of Marriner, going slightly quicker with a 1:32.8597, Raphael with 1:33.2589 and Vainoras recording a 1:35.4340.

Lange continued to lower the benchmark at the front, now dropping to a 1:25.0261 on his third lap, as Beller moved up to second fastest with a 1:25.5414. Misuraca also moved into the 25’s with a 1:25.6227 to remain third fastest, as did Mark Taubitz, moving into fourth with a 1:25.9916, displacing Chris Lewis-Williams back to fifth fastest.

Winter lowered his fastest time to 1:27.2565, though was a second behind fifth fastest Lewis-Williams at this stage. Crocitti shaved another tenth of a second from his fastest time with a 1:27.8558, while Jim Gallagher jumped up to eighth with a 1:27.9673. Tony Westaway also scraped half a tenth of a second from his time with a 1:28.0006, as Rowland moved up to tenth with a 1:28.1301 which displaced Howe back to eleventh fastest.

Catrina moved up to twelfth with a 1:28.6240, half a tenth faster than Millar in thirteenth with a 1:28.6776, pushing James to fourteenth ahead of Greer who gained a quarter of a second with a 1:29.2920.

Sixteenth was now Doherty who went half a second quicker with a 1:29.4206 ahead of Holding who was right behind now with a 1:29.4861. Marriner lowered his fastest time by over 1.5 seconds with a 1:31.1881 to move to nineteenth behind Westaway, and just ahead of Mitchell with a 1:31.2375 and Raphael who found another second to lower his delta time to 1:32.1691.

Misuraca improved on his fastest time the next lap. and moves back ahead of Beller into second as a result with a 1:25.5157. Winter improved his time to a 1:27.0822, ahead of Paul Greer who ran a fantastic 1:27.3565 to put himself seventh before pulling off track for the remainder of the session. Crocitti improved slightly again to a 1:27.7370 ahead of Rowland and Tony Westaway, both into the 27’s with 1:27.8658 & 1:27.9227 times respectively.

Catrina again improved, this time by a couple of tenths of a second to a 1:28.3952, as Rob Holding also got into the 28’s with a 1:28.9700, which would be his fastest time for the session.  Jim Mitchell also improved with a 1:30.8843 moving him back ahead of Marriner in nineteenth, as Vainoras also improved with a 1:34.6911.

The next lap around and Robert Lange cemented his position at the top of the timesheets as he improved by another half a second with a blistering 1:24.5600 lap, and then decided he either wasn’t going to, or needed to improve on that and parked the #6 944 for the remainder of the session. Chris Lewis-Williams also moved into the 25’s, and jumped ahead of Taubitz with a 1:25.9625 lap.

Tony Westaway moved up to seventh position as he shaved three quarters of a second from his previous best with a 1:27.2669. Crocitti also improved slightly again with a 1:26.6979 as Gallagher also improved again to move up to tenth, back ahead of Rowland with a 1:27.7361.

James improved by over half a second to move to twelfth fastest with a 1:28.0928, as Doherty also improved his time, but not his position with a 1:29.3126, which he would be unable to improve on, and Mitchell who improved by a tenth of a second, which was enough to put him ahead of Michael Westaway’s in the order.

Tony Westaway dropped into the 26’s the following lap with a 1:26.9253 to move him ahead of Winter into sixth position, as Catrina also improved by a chunk with a 1:27.7112, his fastest time for the session to move him up to eleventh ahead of Gallagher and James. Marriner got himself into the sub 1 minute 30 bracket with a 1:29.3496 to move him up to eighteenth, ahead of Raphael who also improved with a 1:30.2838 – both would be the fastest laps of the session for this pair.

Misuraca slightly lowered his marker with a 1:25.4515, while Westaway improved by another four tenths of a second the next lap around with a 1:26.5247, and Rowland who found half a second to move up to eighth with a 1:27.2920. Millar improved his time, but not his position with a 1:28.5253 to end his session, while Mitchell also found another small gain with a 1:30.6978 lap.

Lewis-Williams made a small gain of less than a tenth with a 1:25.8818, as did Rowland who ran his fastest lap of 1:27.1703 – neither driver improving their position with these times however.

Misuraca and Beller both ran quicker the next lap, with Misuraca holding the second fastest time with a 1:25.3553 keeping Beller’s 1:25.4375 behind him. Crocitti set his fastest time of the session and moved up to ninth ahead of Greer with a 1:27.3222, as Gallagher moved up to eleventh when he ran his fastest time of 1:27.4962 to move ahead of Catrina. John Vainoras also improved by over a second on his best time to date with a 1:33.6845.

With Lange in the pits, the remaining cars at the top of the times were doing all they could to move up, and it was Beller who was able to nab the second spot on the front row with a 1:25.1816. Misuraca and Lewis-Williams set their fastest laps to secure the second row with 1:25.3123 and 1:25.5480 laps.

Winter managed to sneak into the 26’s also, but wasn’t able to improve on his seventh position and would line up there alongside Rowland, behind Taubitz and Tony Westaway on the second row.

Crocitti and Paul Greer would round out the top 10, with Pedr James moving up two spots when he found six tenths of a second with a 1:27.4233, and would start alongside Gallagher.

Catrina would wind up thirteenth, alongside Howe whose only time was good enough to place him in fourteenth, just ahead of Millar and Rob Holding, a great performance in his debut qualifying session.

Row 9 would be Doherty and Marriner, with Raphael and Mitchell on Row 10 behind them, Mitchell finding another tenth of a second on his last lap with a 1:30.5372

The final row would be Michael Westaway after his mechanical mishap, and next to him would be John Vainoras, who also improved and found a further three tenths on his last lap with a 1:33.3915

Race 1 would be held at 2pm under warm sunny skies – who would take the win for Race 1 of 2017?

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2017 Season Preview! Round 1 Sandown – Part 2

Only a couple of days left before we hit the track for Practice for Round 1! Here is the second part of our preview of the drivers who will be on the grid at Sandown.

#14 Paul Greer

Making a return for 2017 is Paul Greer, with his pristine looking Bronze coloured #14 Porsche 944.

Paul has had mechanical gremlins hamper his last two race weekends in the past couple of seasons, and he will be hoping some work on the car in the off season will mean that they are now a thing of the past!

#15 Vince Misuraca

Returning to defend his State Series title from 2016 is Vince Misuraca.

Vince had an extremely consistent season and was able to comfortably clinch the State series, and took the battle for the 944 season title down to the wire at the last round at Winton.

His speed and reliability will mean he will enter Round 1 as one of the favourites this weekend.

#16 Paul Crocitti

Paul had a great start to his 2016 season with two 5th place finishes in the first two races before an engine failure caused a DNF, and Paul didn’t return until the last round of the series at Winton.

Paul again showed good pace and he will be hoping that that translates to good speed at the fast Sandown Raceway venue as he looks to compete in the full 2017 season.

#18 Ross Millar

Another of the drivers from our big list of 23 entered for Round 1 is Ross Millar.

Ross returned for four rounds last year after sitting out the 2015 season, and earned himself 5 top 10 finishes from the 11 races that he started.

For season 2017 Ross will be looking to compete in the full season and to get himself consistently inside the top 10.

#29 Ben Raphael

Ben Raphael was another driver to the 944 Challenge in 2016, coming over all the way from WA to compete in the challenge from Round 2 at Phillip Island.

Ben spent the year coming to grips with the characteristics of his car and improved his pace throughout the season to be battling with the experienced 944 field in the later races.

Relocating to Victoria in the off season, some further testing and time behind the wheel should see Ben’s car moving up the field this season.

#32 John Vainoras

John Vainoras is the next of our previewed drivers, as he has entered for his second race weekend, and first at Sandown Raceway.

John acquitted himself well at his first round at Winton last year and kept himself out of trouble and free of drama to record a consistent weekend of results, and will be looking to improve his pace at Sandown with the striking dark purple #32 944.

#37 Chris Lewis-Williams 

Chris Lewis-Williams is another long time 944 Member returning for the 2017 season aboard his familiar #37 Porsche.

2016 was another strong season for Chris who entered the last race of the season with a chance to win the title despite missing the Sandown round in May last year, and he will be looking to start this season strongly this weekend after taking the victory in the last held at the Sandown track in 2016.

#45 Michael Westaway

Back again in 2017 will be the distinctive orange #45 machine of Michael Westaway.

Michael had a great start to 2016 at Winton with a pair of fourth place finishes, and he finished the season in 5th outright only 4 points behind Tony Westaway, with seven top 5 results for the year.

Michael will be another driver wanting to get onto the podium in 2017.

#46 Jim Mitchell

One of the new drivers for the 2017 season is Jim Mitchell.

Jim has purchased the race winning car from Phillip Island from Jason Miller, and is looking forward to his first round with the 944 Challenge at Sandown Raceway.

Look out for the #46 car next weekend as he embraces the new challenge!

#50 Tony Westaway

Tony had another solid and consistent season in 2016, which netted him fourth outright for the season with two third place finishes. as well as third for the round at Sandown in May as his season highlights.

He will be looking to improve on his Sandown form and move further up on the podium.

#97 Rob Holding

Another new driver for 2017 is Rob Holding, who will be completing his OLT on Friday before competing in his first race weekend in the #97 Pellicano Porsche 944.
Rob has completed some testing in his 944 since acquiring it last year and has shown encouraging speed in his preparation for his first event.

#98 Pedr James

Last of the drivers previewed for Round 1, Pedr James has been a constant addition to the 944 Challenge over the past few years and he returns for 2017 in his distinctive white and green #98 Porsche.

Pedr showed another good increase in speed throughout 2016, which helped him secure 8th in the overall series points last year, and will be anticipating a strong showing at the fast Sandown Raceway circuit this weekend.

By |March 1st, 2017|News, 2017|0 Comments|

2017 Season Preview! Round 1 Sandown – Part 1

As we count down to the first round of the 2017 944 Challenge Series, we will feature a preview of each racer entered for Round 1. Check back soon for the second part of our Round 1 preview.

#1 Cameron Beller 

The 2016 944 Challenge Series Winner, Cameron Beller returns to commence his title defence for 2017. After winning 8 races in 2016, along with 5 of the 6 races held at Sandown Raceway, Beller will surely be one of the favourites going into Round 1 in two weeks time.

#4 Ken Rowland

Ken Rowland returned with his new car for Round 2 of 2016 and spent a few rounds sorting out the setup of the #4 Hire Depot 944, but then leapt forward with his speed, which peaked with a 4th place finish in the final race of the year at Winton Motor Raceway.

This helped him to 11th in the season points for the year, and will be looking to keep that speed up for the first round at Sandown Raceway.

#6 Robert Lange

Robert Lange is wheeling out his 944 for the first round of 2017 after returning for two rounds in 2016, which was the first time in 4 years for him to get back onto the track.

On his return qualifying session he put car #6 on the front row of the grid alongside Beller before encountering some reliability issues in the races, so pace won’t be an issue for the 4 time series champion.

#8 Dick Howe

The final driver in the first half of our preview of drivers entered for Round 1 in 2017 is veteran Dick Howe.

Dick’s 2016 was not a memorable one, missing the opening round and the majority of events peppered with mechanical gremlins. At Phillip Island in October, the Yellow #8 car met its demise with a crash coming into Hayshed corner on the opening lap of the first race ending his season.

Dick has rebuilt his car and hopes a change of colour will bring a change of fortunes, with the new #8 adorning a white paint scheme for 2017.

#12 Marius Catrina 

Marius is the most recent winner in the 944 Challenge series, and also the inaugural winner of the Dennis O’Keefe Cup in the final race at Winton in December.

Marius begins his 9th season in the 944 Challenge and will be looking forward to a strong start to his 2017 season.

#13 Jim Gallagher

Jim finished in the top 10 in the 2016 season pointscore last year despite missing a round at Phillip Island and the second day of the September Winton event. After earning a 4th place finish at Phillip Island last year, Jim will be aiming to get onto the podium in 2017.

#20 Andrew Jackman

Andrew joined the 944 Challenge midway through 2016 and he has been working on moving further up the field, and has the tutelage of past 944 driver Justin Tate to assist him in getting the Poolmaster 944 into the battle for the Top 5 in his first attempt at the full season in 2017.

#22 Brad Winter

Brad enters his second full season in the 944 challenge after debuting late in 2015.

His results improved in the second half of the season and he snared a 3rd position race finish at Sandown and a bunch of top 5’s on his way to 6th in the 2016 season. He will be looking to add to his podium haul in 2017.

#53 Peter Doherty

Peter Doherty will be racing in what will be the first time he has been able to make the first round of the season in a number of years. After only attending three rounds tin 2016, Peter will hope to do more races this year and rank higher in the pointscore than last year as a result, and will be looking for a solid start to his season at Sandown.

#64 Keith Marriner

Keith was another new addition to the 944 series in 2016. After debuting at Sandown he competed his first races there and he will be returning to a track for the first time as he looks to improve the pace of his #64 PAS backed car to move it further up the field in 2017.

#74 Mark Taubitz

After his first top 5 finish in 2015, Marks season didn’t start off on the right foot with a broken gearbox in practice for Round 1 meant he was a DNS for the weekend. Things improved from that point as Mark managed to collect 7 more top 5 finishes on his way to 7th outright in the 944 points for the year.

 

Part 2 of our drivers preview is coming soon!

By |February 21st, 2017|News, 2017|0 Comments|

2016 Season Wrap up

The 2016 944 Challenge yet again ran down to the wire in the last race, however there were three drivers who showed their strength through the year, sharing 80% of the podium results  and 18 of the 20 race wins this season.

Here is a brief summary on the seasons results, driver-by-driver. Congratulations to the series winners!

1st – Cameron Beller #55

Prevailing to take the 944 Series Title overall was Cameron Beller. After finishing runner-up to Adam Mills last year after a DNF in the final race for the season after a collision between the two ended his 2015 championship hopes. Beller was able to secure the 2016 season title with 2 round wins, 8 race wins, including 5 in a row at Sandown Raceway, 5 second places and 3 thirds from the 20 races.

While a poor result at Winton with a DNF and a 17th place finish with mechanical dramas put him on the back foot, he was able to drop this worst round to top the pointscore at the end of the year.

2nd – Vince Misuraca #15

Taking second outright for the series was Vince Misuraca, after a spin in the final race prevented him from taking the title, but his speed along with his consistency and reliability helped him take out the Vic State Title comfortably after Beller’s nightmare round at Winton made it a one horse race.

Vince took out 3 round wins, with 6 race wins, 6 second places and 4 thirds. In fact, Vinces’ worst race of the season was in the rainy Race 2 at Phillip Island in May, and he still finished 6th – his only non top 5 finish of the season!

3rd – Chris Lewis-Williams #37

Third outright for the season was Chris Lewis-Williams, the former series champ lost out on a chance to challenge for the State Series title when he was forced to miss the first Sandown event, but was also a model of consistency which kept him in the hunt for the title up to the last race. 1 Round win when he dominated the September Winton round and 4 race wins for the season was accompanied by 12 other podium finishes – in fact the only race that he started and didn’t finish on the podium, was Race 3 at Phillip Island in May, after recovering to 7th position after a spin while challenging for the lead of the race!

4th – Tony Westaway #50

Tony Westaway was fourth after a strong 2016 with highlights of two third place race finishes in the 2nd race at each of the Sandown events, and this helped him finish 3rd outright at the first Sandown round, despite a first corner spin in the last race! Tony backed this up with 8 top-5 finishes and 18 top-10s in the 20 races through the year.

5th – Michael Westaway #45

Michael Westaway started 2016 super strongly with a pair of 4th place finishes in the first two races at Winton, which he repeated two more times at Sandown and Winton later in the season. This helped him to record two outright fourth position results at the two rounds at the Winton long circuit, but he was unable to get himself onto the podium. 7 top 5’s, and 18 top 10s was enough to earn him 5th outright for the year, and was only four points behind Tony Westaway in 4th position.

6th – Brad Winter #22

Brads 2016 season improved as it went on as he came to grips with 944 racing, a 6th place in Race 1 of the season at Winton was not bettered until the 9th race of the season at Sandown – though this was then his best result of the year with a measured 3rd position finish. This turned his season around however, as he was not lower than 6th position in the remaining 8 races of the year, and he finished 6th outright in points with 7 top 5 race finishes, and was 4th outright in the last 3 rounds he competed in, a great springboard to a strong 2017 season.

7th – Mark Taubitz #74

2016 didn’t start out to plan for Mark, as a broken gearbox during the practice session for Round 1 at Winton meant he was starting with zero points after Round 1. He was fortunately able to finish every race after that, with the exception of Race 3 at Sandown when he was unable to refire the car after a touch with another car while defending 5th position on the penultimate lap of the race. A 4th place at Sandown was the highlight, with 7 top 5s and 15 top 10s from the 17 races he started, but fell a few points behind Winter in the outright series pointscore.

8th – Pedr James #98

Pedr’s 2017 season was another consistent showing, with a best round at Sandown in May, at which he was 7th outright with his best race finish of 6th in the final race of that weekend. Pedr finished every race that he started, and only missed the first race at Sandown in July after blowing an engine in qualifying – however he changed the engine overnight and was back for Sundays action which helped him to 8th outright, with 13 top 10s from 19 races along the way.

9th – Jason Miller #3

Jason Miller got off to a strong start in 2016 944 Challenge with a 4th in the final race of Round 1, to finish the round in 5th, before he broke through for his first win in the final race at Phillip Island, which also netted him the round win.

Two second place finishes in the next two races at Sandown and a fourth overall had him sitting third in points, however Miller then was forced to miss the next round due to conflicting work commitments. He returned for the next round at Winton, although work again meant he missed qualifying and only arrived at the track with literally minutes to spare and just managed to get into the car in time to start Race 1 from pitlane. Despite this, he moved up to finish 3rd by the end of the last race and was 6th for the weekend, but that would be the last race he would make for the year.

9th in the season standings do not reflect the speed shown by Miller during the year, but the difficulty in being able to attend the races meant the car was put up for sale, and will be in the hands of its new owner for 2017.

10th – Jim Gallagher #13

Jim Gallagher started his season with a 6th outright for the weekend at Winton with a 7th and 2 8th place finishes, before finishing 7th outright for the weekend the next round at Phillip Island with a career best 4th place finish in the final race, despite being spun around in the first race and finishing 14th.

He was forced to miss the first race at Sandown, but was up to 6th in the last race before a spin dropped him back to 13th. 8th outright for the next Sandown round kept him sitting in a good position in the points, but zero points after missing the next two events dropped him down the order.

9th outright for the final round kept him in the top ten in the standings and only two points behind Miller, and recorded 11 top 10s from the 15 races he started.

11th – Ken Rowland #4

After damaging his car at Phillip Island during practice for Round 2 in 2015, Ken Rowland undertook a rebuild and rolled out a new car for the same round in 2016. Ken came to grips with the car over this round and the next at Sandown but missed the second Sandown round before returning for Round 5 at Winton.

There was a huge improvement in speed and Ken finished 7 of the last 8 races of the season in the top 10, including a career best 5th place qualifying result and 4th place finish in the last race of the year at Winton in a fantastic show of speed, enough to earn him 6th for the round and move up to 11th outright in the points for the season.

12th – Marius Catrina #12

The highlight for the year for Marius Catrina would undoubtedly be his race win in the non-points race, the Dennis O’keefe cup held after the final race for the 944 Challenge at Winton in December after managing to hold out Jim Gallagher, and then Tony Westaway for the race win.

Winton proved to be the place for Marius’ best results, with the first round netting him his best points race result for the year with a 9th in the first race, and 10th for the round outright.

13th – Ben Raphael #29

Ben Raphael made his debut with the 944 Challenge at Phillip Island, and went about improving his speed in the car during the course of the year. After missing the third round of the series at Sandown, Ben managed to make the trek over from WA for the remaining rounds of the season, and finished with his strongest weekend with an 11th place outright for the round at the December Winton round.

14th – John Goddard #27

Johns first appearance for 2016 was at the Sandown round in May where he got his best race result for the season in the final race with a 4th place finish, and 6th outright for the weekend. John then scored a second top 5 in the final race at the following round at Sandown. The #27 car was entered for the last 5 rounds of the season, although John relinquished the drivers seat for the September Winton round to Lee Partridge who made a cameo appearance.

John in fact uniquely finished a race in each position from 4th through to 10th during the races he 8 completed through the season, along with a 12th place finish, with 2 DNF’s and a Did not start at the last race in Winton after sustaining too much damage during Race 2 to make the grid for the final.

15th – Dick Howe #8

Racing veteran Dick Howe had a season to forget in 2016 – it started off on the wrong foot with a shudder/vibration that he could not get rid of hampering him at Winton and he pulled out of the event as the car was undriveable, it was fixed for the second round at Phillip Island and he started the weekend well with a 7th place finish in Race 1, before a misfire reared its head on Sunday and brought two DNFS. The two Sandown events returned mixed results, though some reliability and good speed was shown, running in the top 5 at times, but an 8th place race finish was the highlight for each round.

Returning to Winton caused more head scratching as the car, a faulty alternator and no spare meant he headed home on Saturday before qualifying, but returned on Sunday with everything ready to go – or so it seemed, as further issues caused him to miss Race 2 on Sunday morning. He finally made it on track for the last race, and moved through the field to 9th.

The worst was unfortunately yet to come, after qualifying 11th at Phillip Island Dick missed the start and dropped to the back, and when resuming at the back of the field to make his way back through, his car was unsighted and the slightest of contact at the wrong point sent him to the outside tyre wall approaching hayshed corner.  The race was red flagged, and the heavily damaged car would not see the track again, and has since donated its heart and soul to Dick’s new ride which will debut in 2017. 5 top 10s from 11 starts will be the final statistics for Howe from 2016.

16th – Ross Millar #18

Returning to the track after sitting out the 2015 season was Ross Millar, the familiar Blue car a welcome sight back. Ross returned for the third round at Sandown, and netted a pair of 9th place finishes, which he replicated at the next Sandown round, earning 9th for the round in July when he matched that with an 11th place finish.

A spin into the Winton mud in Race 1 in September hindered his weekends results, and he was forced to miss the next round at Phillip Island. His fifth and final top 10 result for the season came in the last round at Winton in the second race, with 5 top 10s from 11 races his final results for the year.

17th – Andrew Jackman #20

Andrew Jackman joined the series for Round 4 at Sandown in the Poolmaster Bayside Porsche, and rounded out the event 12th overall. The following round at Winton Andrew earned an 11th place finish in race 1 before a spin in the final race meant a DNF.

A 10th in the following race at Phillip Island would be his best result to date in a good showing in his debut year, as he elected to miss the final round at Winton to begin preparation to solve understeer issues in the car for the 2017 season.

18th – Peter Doherty #53

Peter was forced to sit out the first half of the season and hit the track for the first time for the second Sandown round in July, where he netted a 12th place finish in a great first race after missing qualifying and starting from 20th position. Peter missed the Phillip Island round but returned for the final round at Winton and recorded a 13th and a 12th place finish in races 2 & 3 after DNF’ing in the first race.

19th – Ken Knight #88

Ken returned to the 944 Challange field at the second Round at Sandown for the first time since 2012. His weekend got off to a rough start with some engine issues in Friday practice and qualifying on Saturday morning, but he was able to solve them and complete all of the weekends races.

He also made the trek down from New South Wales for the Winton round in September, and had a pair 10th place finishes and a 10th place for the weekend overall in a solid result from his efforts.

20th – Robert Lange #6

Another driver who returned to the field for the first time since 2012 at Sandown was 4 time series champion Robert Lange. He showed he had lost none of his speed in qualifying, putting his car onto the front row of the grid in qualifying. He was running in second place early on in the first race before the car dropped speed and he dropped down the order, finishing in 10th. This was to be his only finish for the weekend, as some mechanical gremlins prevented him from crossing the line in either of Sundays races.

He returned to the track for the Phillip Island round, but was a bit further in the pack than he would have liked, qualifying in 8th position, and backed this up with a 7th and an 8th place finish from the weekends races.

21st – Ryan Woods #17

Ryan joined the series for Phillip Island in April, and immediately showed his competitiveness, qualifying in the top 10 and racing to 9th in his first race, battling hard with Brad Winter and Dick Howe in the first race. Race 2 was wet, and Ryan was able to capitalise on the advantages on the setup of his car, driving brilliantly to take a comfortable race win as the rest of the car struggled with the greasy track and could only watch as he moved from 9th to the lead and pulled away. Unfortunately, the final race netted a DNF for him.

Ryans only other entry for the year was at the following round at Sandown, but after struggling with a lack of horsepower down the straights at the Melbourne venue found himself with a 11th and 13th place finishes before again suffering a DNF in the final race, some car issues putting him out of the race, and the car didn’t return for the rest of the year.

22nd – Lee Partridge #27

The 2015 Rookie of the year winner managed to steal the keys to the Plaza Auto Sales 944 for the Winton weekend in September, and showed again that he hasn’t lost any of the speed that netted him 3rd in the series in 2015.

Lee was hoping to net the race win that eluded him last year, despite an outright round win at Phillip Island – but he wasn’t able to match the pace of Lewis-Williams and Misuraca, and came away with two 3rd places and a 7th to take home a 3rd place outright for his weekends efforts.

23rd – Keith Marriner #64

Another new driver to the 944 Challenge for 2016 was Keith Marriner. Keith debuted at the May Sandown round, and unfortunately missed the first race with some mechanical issues on the warm-up lap for the first race. He finished 14th in the weekends third race and repeated that result in the first race for the following round but a DNF with a gearbox issue put him out for the rest iof the weekend.

A pair of 16th place finishes at Winton in his first race weekend there were his results of record, before a testing weekend at Phillip Island in the last round of the State Series in his last outing for the year as he was forced to miss the final round at Winton.

24th – John Stanic #47

John Stanic put his racing on the back burner for 2016, and only ventured out once – at the April/May round at Phillip Island. He also showed no loss of speed, as he qualified only just off of Pole Position, and finished with two 3rd places along with an 11th after a miraculous spin at Hayshed corner, to place 5th outright for the weekend.

25th – Paul Crocitti #16

Pauls season started well initially at Winton in the first round with a pair of 5th place finishes in the first two races, and was running strongly in the final before a blown engine meant a DNF – and he didn’t return to the track until the final round of the series, again at Winton.

He again started well and was running strong in 6th position early in the race before dropping a few spots after a mistake under brakes to finish 9th. He was running in the same spot when he had a spin exiting the fast left hand sweeper in the second race, and was hit as the car came back onto the track which put him out of the race, and the weekend.

26th – Greg Wood #19

Greg also returned his 944 to the track for the first time since 2014, entering the September Winton round and running strongly to record 9th and 12th place finishes before a DNF while running strongly again in the final.

Greg returned for the December final round at Winton and was again speedy, but suffered two DNF’s bookending a 12th place finish in Race 2.

27th – Graham Smith #99

Graham’s Winton weekend got off to a bad start with a DNF in Race 1 at Winton, but he recovered strongly to reconcile with a move through the field to 6th place in Race 2 before finishing Race 3 in 5th.

Following this round, Graham ventured down a different path joining the Toyota 86 series, and sold his car, which we look forward to seeing back on track in 2017.

28th – John Vainoras #32

After closely following the 944 series for most of 2016, John Vainoras took the plunge into 944 racing in time for the final round at Winton, and eased himself in with a reliable and sensible weekend, finishing all three races as well as the fourth ‘not for points’ race on for the weekend.

He completed the weekend with a 14th place position and a pair of 16th place finishes, good enough for 13th outright for the weekend in a promising and encouraging start to his racing career.

29th – Brent Rose #38

The Rose brothers only ventured their very quick 944 out once in 2016, with Brent entering the first of the two Sandown rounds. He qualified strongly in 4th place, though he struggled with a misfire after running up in second place early in the race and finished in 13th.

In race 2 he moved up to 8th position before his misfire again surfaced as he struggled to finish 12th. In the Race 3 final Rose got a demon start and was up to an amazing 3rd place on the first lap,which he held up until the gremlins once again returned a little over halfway through the race, which this time stopped the car from finishing, the finishing results in no way reflecting the speed onboard car #38.

30th – Paul Greer #14

Paul Greer entered the second of the two Sandown rounds after undertaking some upgrades to his car, but was experiencing a big problem with fuel surge which plagued him in qualifying, unable to set a time, and again in the first race, unable to run at a representative pace. He thus put the car on the trailer and would focus on rectifying his issues before returning to the track for 2017.

Round 7. Winton – Race 4 – Dennis O’Keefe Cup

Now that the Championship for the 2016 944 Challenge had been decided, we moved onto the final race of the year, a Final 10 Lap, Reverse Grid Handicap race for the inaugural running of the Dennis O’Keefe Cup. There was action throughout the field as the fast cars moved their way through top 4 cars crossing the finish line separated by only 8 tenths of a second!

Due to the completion of the HQ 4 Hour event being run prior to the Dennis O Keefe cup a couple of drivers were unable to stay for the final afternoon race with Peter Doherty, Michael Westaway and Brad Winter all needing to make the trip back home, while the issues that stopped Greg Wood from finishing the final race prevented him from taking part also.

Nevertheless, 11 cars lined up on the Main front straight for a quick 10 lap blast around the tight short circuit layout.

John Vainoras was on Pole position alongside Ben Raphael with Marius Catrina right behind them, then a gap back to Jim Gallagher, Pedr James Tony Westaway, Mark Taubitz and Ken Rowland, with another gap to the three podium finishers in both the weekend and the season, Vince Misuraca, Chris Lewis-Williams and Cameron Beller.

As the lights went out the first three took off, with Catrina moving his way past the front row starters to lead into the first corner, with Raphael making his way into second ahead of Vainoras.
The sight of the front three racing off was too much for Jim Gallagher who took off just after the first group, while the rest of the second group waited until the lights went out and they gave chase, followed a short time later by the final trio as they set off from the startline.

Taubitz got the best start of the second group of runners to lead the second group into the first corner, though James got a better exit out and pulled to the inside to take 5th position going into the third corner, with Tony Westaway ahead of Rowland in 8th.

In the final group, Lewis-Williams were even in the drag race to the first corner, through Lewis-Williams prevailed in 9th position with the inside line to the corner, with Beller following him through and Misuraca giving chase to both. Misuraca then made a move past Beller into the following corner to move into 10th position.

Gallagher moved up to 3rd passing Vainoras into Kitome corner, then gave chase on Raphael & Catrina, as Catrina worked on building as big a gap as possible while he had clear track and a clear mirror.

Exiting Kitome corner, Taubitz pulled to the middle of the track but instead was swallowed up by Westaway and Rowland as they split the Zantek Porsche down the straight, dropping him back to 8th place.

The following lap, Gallagher moved up to 2nd position with a pass on Raphael for second position into the last corner complex, and then gave chase to Catrina.

The second group now caught Vainoras, and Westaway pounced on James under brakes for Turn 8 at the end of the back straight, as the quartet of Westaway, James Rowland and Taubitz all moved past Vainoras down the start/finish straight and into Turn 1.

Coming to complete lap 4 and Raphael had now been caught by the second group, as Tony Westaway pulled out to pass Raphael for third place as they crossed the line to complete the fourth lap. Rowland meanwhile moved up to 5th with a big move under brakes for Turn 8 at the end of the back straight to pass James, which also helped allow Taubitz capitalise and take 6th position from James under brakes for turn 1.

Behind them, the final group had caught Vainoras, as Lewis-Williams made the pass entering Kitome corner, and Misuraca and Beller also completed the passes before the end of the lap.

Rowland and Taubitz both moved underneath Raphael into Penrite corner, with James following them through into the next left hander back to 6th position. The following lap, Rownald made a mistake exiting Kitome corner understeering off into the Winton dust, allowing Taubitz and James to both move past him on the run down the back straight.

At the end of lap 6 there were fairly even gaps from leader Catrina to 2nd place Gallagher who was catching him by about half a second a lap, with Tony Westaway third who was closing by an additional second a lap, with Taubitz, James & Rowland a small gap behind, and all running similar times. Raphael was 7th, with Lewis-Williams and Misuraca running in close succession chasing him down, with Beller just behind them, and Vainoras at the back of the pack.

Lewis Williams made his way up to 7th with a pass on Raphael into the sweeper on Lap 7, then Misuraca was through into Penrite, with Beller making his move in the final corner complex

Up front Catrina ran lap 7 in 1:09.5, and Gallagher behind him caught 1.5 seconds, while Westaway ran his fastest lap of the race and gained 1.5 seconds on Gallagher and 3 seconds on Catrina. This was shaping up to be coming down to the wire! Taubitz ran a lap 1 tenth of a second slower than Westaway, and had now eked out a small gap to James & Rowland. The final group led by Lewis-Williams was closing on this duo with Misuraca and Beller in tow.

Gallagher ran his fastest lap of the race on lap 8 and closed the gap to Catrina by another 1.8 seconds, but now had Westaway on his bumper by the end of the lap, as Taubitz ran his fastest race lap of 1:06.5 to close the gap to Gallagher by 1.5 seconds.

The top 3 were nose to tail by the time they reached the left hand sweeper on the penultimate lap as Gallagher had a look inside under brakes into Penrite corner but was unable to move past. Behind them, Rowland moved back into 5th with a pass on James under brakes at the end of the back straight, which helped Lewis-Williams get onto the bumper of James.

As the cars jockeyed for track position to cross the line to start the last lap Catrina moved to the inside line to defend the lead into turn 1. Gallagher then moved to the inside to try an under and over move, but was then vulnerable to Westaway who lunged down the inside and completed the pass on a surprised Gallagher. This leading trio then became a quartet as Taubitz was now on the bumper of Gallagher as the top 4 ran down to the sweeper for the final time.

Lewis-Williams made his pass on James under brakes into turn 1 for the final time, elevating him to 6th position, which then became 5th when Rowland made a mistake into Penrite corner which also allowed James back up to 6th position. Rowland then dropped off the pace, which allowed Misuraca and Beller to both be able to move past also, dropping Rowland back to 9th position.

For the lead, all four cars were trying various lines to find a way past to get an advantage on the car in front, while defending from the car behind. Ultimately, Catrina was able to protect the position and crossed the line to take the victory by just over a tenth of a second from Westaway in a thrilling finish. Gallagher was only 4 tenths behind Westaway, with Taubitz only another 3 tenths of a second behind him in 4th place.

Lewis-Williams was 5th, only 1.5 seconds off the race win, with James crossing the line 6th a couple of seconds ahead of Misuraca in 7th, and Beller in 8th. Rowland limped across to finish in 9th, ahead of Raphael & Vainoras. With the top 4 crossing the line in 8 tenths of a second, and only 8 seconds covering the top 8 cars, the reverse grid was deemed a great spectacle and a huge success – a very entertaining way to round out the racing for 2016, well done to all drivers and teams for the 2016 season.

Congratulations go to Cameron Beller for taking out the 944 Challenge for 2016, to Vince Misuraca for winning the 2016 State Series Title for the 944 Challenge, as well as the Winton weekend outright and runner-up position in the 944 Challenge Series, and to Chris Lewis-Williams for his third place finish in the 944 Challenge Series.

Also, to Marius Catrina on his first race win, and earning the inaugural Dennis O’Keefe Cup!

Now the countdown begins to the first round for 2017! Look forward to getting back on track at Sandown!

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Round 7. Winton – Race 3

Sunday morning dawned, with it all to play for in the race for the 2016 944 Challenge Series Title! If Cameron Beller finished second, he would secure the title ahead of Vince Misuraca by one solitary point. However, if Vince could win this race with Beller third, they would finish tied on points.
If this eventuated, there would be 7 wins apiece, so the winner of the series would thus be the driver with the most second place finishes – which would then be Misuraca, with 6 seconds to Bellers’ 5! And if the two of them encountered dramas, Chris Lewis- Williams would be potentially able to capitalise and swoop in to steal the spoils from under their noses…

There would be three cars missing from Sunday’s proceedings, with Ross Millar and Paul Crocitti unable to front for Sunday’s events, and John Goddard’s car suffering a damaged radiator in the Race 2 impact from Saturday keeping him from being able to race on Sunday also.

As the lights went out Beller got a great jump from the front row to sweep into the lead around the outside of turn 1, while Misuraca didn’t get the greatest of starts and had Chris Lewis-Williams and Brad Winter moving alongside to be 3 wide into the braking area for turn 1. Some slight contact on corner entry as Misuraca desperately tried to hold onto second, and Lewis-Williams and Winter eased out of the throttle to let Misuraca into the spot.

What they likely weren’t counting on was the fast starting Mark Taubitz, who followed in the tyre tracks of Misuraca and edged past Winter and alongside Lewis-Williams on the short tun into turn two, taking the position on the preferred line through the corner.

Not getting a good start from the third row was Tony Westaway, starting alongside Taubitz the Westbon Porsche stalled on the grid, and Tony eventually resumed to start chasing after the field.

Rowland also capitalised on the skirmish between those at the front and moved up into 5th past Winter going into turn 2 at the start, behind Winter was Michael Westaway, Jim Gallagher, Pedr James with Greg Wood rounding out the top ten. Peter Doherty was next ahead of Ben Raphael, John Vainoras and Marius Catrina, who also missed the start, then the medical car…. followed by Tony Westaway.

Catrina made his way past Vainoras for thirteenth into Penrite corner, while Winter also made his way back past Rowland coming onto the back straight for the first time.

Misuraca started chasing after Beller in the front as he knew his primary chance at taking the title was to get into the lead. At the start of lap 2, a small mistake by Taubitz into turn 1 allowed Lewis-Williams through to third to chase after his two title rivals in order to capitalise if some drama unfolded, while towards the back Tony Westaway caught and passed Vainoras.

Misuraca made his move on Beller to take the lead into Turn 1 starting lap 3, Beller not defending too hard as he knew that he only had to finish second, but if the two cars had issues and dropped down the order, the title could go to Misuraca or Lewis-Williams. Winter also made his move on Taubitz into Penrite corner to take the fourth position. Further down the field, Raphael dropped two spots to both Catrina and Westaway.

Chris Lewis-Williams began closing on the top 2 with the intention to do what he could to try to get past Beller to help his teammate Misuraca claim the title. The three were nose to tail midway through Lap 5 when the tension reached fever pitch with Vince spinning as the result of touch in the slow turn 6 section. Lewis-Williams took the grass in avoidance and resumed on the back straight behind Beller who was now back in the lead, with Winter now third ahead of Taubitz, Ken Rowland and Misuraca resuming in sixth position.

At the end of lap 5 Taubitz had a wobble through the final left hand corner which allowed Rowland to get a run on him down the front straight and take fourth position under brakes for turn 1. Tony Westaway continued his forward charge, passing Doherty and Catrina to move to 11th position, with Catrina also moving up a position passing himself Doherty also.

Misuraca started recovering ground as he moved back to fifth by passing Taubitz under brakes into turn 1, and then also past Rowland into Kitome corner later in the lap to move back up to fourth by the end of lap 7.

Up front it was Beller from Lewis-Williams, with Winter in third, until the end of the penultimate lap when Winter spun entering the esses to end the lap, dropping him back to sixth position behind Misuraca, Rowland and Taubitz. Jim Gallagher also moved himself up a position, passing Michael Westaway for seventh spot.

At the end of the final lap it was Beller who held on for the win in the race, and as a result, the 944 Series title for 2016, with Chris Lewis-Williams a close second, and also taking the new lap record for 944’s around the short Winton layout in the last race with a 1:05.0137 on the penultimate lap, and finish third in the 2016 pointscore.

Vince Misuraca recovered for third in the race, after doing all he could to try to take both titles for the year with a great consistent run throughout all race weekends during the year, he ultimately fell short in the 944 challenge series and had to settle for the runner-up spot behind Beller.

Fourth was a great result for Ken Rowland, his best race finish in his career to date, and sixth on points for the weekend, ahead of Mark Taubitz who recorded a consistent three fifth places for the weekend to finish the weekend fifth overall. Brad Winter recovered from his spin for sixth position, which was enough to secure fourth on points for the weekend.

Seventh was Jim Gallagher, a good recovery from the bad start to his weekend in qualifying, which helped him to a tenth position outright for the 2016 series points. He finished the race ahead of Michael Westaway who was eighth in both the race, and the points for the weekend, which was enough to secure him fifth place in the outright 944 series points.

Ninth and right on Michaels tail was Pedr James, which helped him secure tenth for the weekend, and eighth for the 2016 outright points. One spot behind in tenth was Tony Westaway, enough to secure seventh for the weekend which helped him to fourth outright in points for 2016.

Eleventh was Marius Catrina, who was 12th for the weekend and finished 2016 twelfth in points, dropping 1 point behind Rowland. Finishing in twelfth was Peter Doherty who was hampered for the weekends points by his DNF in race 1, one spot behind was Ben Raphael who was eleventh for the weekend in a solid result, and showing big improvements throughout the year,

The final finisher was John Vainoras, keeping the car clean and straight throughout the weekend in a successful debut to finish all three races without a drama, and was thirteenth for the weekend in points.

An unfortunate DNF was Greg Wood, who encountered mechanical issues in the last race after breaking an alternator bracket which prevented him from finishing the last lap while he was running in a strong tenth.

So the points for 2016 was settled in the favour of Cameron Beller, who took the 944 series title for 2016 after finishing 2015 as the  runner up while securing the State Title. Vince Misuraca replicated Bellers results from 2015 this season, will he continue to replicate Beller’s performance and take the 2017 944 Challenge Championship, or will Beller be able to go back-to-back? There will be a host of other drivers on track to try to stop him!

But for now – there was one more race to go before the cars were packed away for 2016…. the final reverse grid, handicap race to be held for the Dennis O’Keefe Cup!

2016R7R3results 2016R7R3times 2016R7R3chart r7r3chart