The 2017 944 Challenge season was largely dominated by two drivers – with Cameron Beller and Chris Lewis-Williams sharing 21 wins of the 22 races held through the 2017 season between them.
1st position for 2017 ultimately went the way of Cameron Beller with 452 points – although it was ultimately by a scant 2 points over Lewis-Williams after all drivers dropped the points for their ‘worst round’, the title was decided in Beller’s favour after in a consistent season meant he was unable to be caught in the points going into the final round. Ironically, this was his worst round of the season, and the only time he went winless during the weekend for the year. 11 wins, 7 second places, 2 third places and 2 fourth places, finishing every one of the 22 races (one of only two drivers to record this statistic) are testament to his second 944 Challenge Championship.
2nd for 2017 was Chris Lewis-Williams, the only person who could go toe-to-toe with Beller for the entire season, finishing with 450 points. Chris’ season was ultimately unfortunately dealt a critical blow with an engine failure on the opening lap of the first race at the third round at Winton automatically becoming his worst round and unable to miss a beat for the rest of the year.
Lewis-Williams did his best to overcome the gap, and actually won the next four rounds outright, taking nine further race wins to go along with his race win in Race 3 of Round 2 at Phillip Island, but was unable to overcome the losses incurred earlier in the year, finishing the year with 10 race wins, 7 second places and 2 third places – placing on the podium in every race that he greeted the chequered flag – an impressive statistic!
3rd position went the way of Tony Westaway, after a great season in which he was the only other driver alongside Beller to finish every one of the 22 championship races held in 2017 and end the year with 392 points. Unfortunately Tony wasn’t able to best the two drivers finishing ahead of him in the championship, but 10 podium appearances (all with third place finishes) is another impressive set of results which helped him to third outright in the season for 2017.
4th position outright was Vince Misuraca, losing the chance to challenge for the series title with Beller and Lewis-Williams after he was forced to miss the fifth and sixth rounds at Mallala and Phillip Island, he finished with 353 points for the year. Vince was the only driver to take a race victory in 2017 when he triumphed at the season opening race at Sandown, and also recorded 7 second place finishes along with 5 third places as he finished fourth outright in the season, with Vince finishing every race that he started in the top 4 positions.
5th was 2017 was Michael Westaway with 345 points, in a season that saw some fantastic performances, but was hampered from a higher season finish with a couple of DNF’s, both times at Sandown, however in different rounds hurting his tally when dropping his worst round meant a DNF result was still in his final points total. Unfortunately Michael didn’t get onto the podium in 2017, but recorded 6 fourth place finishes during the year, including a trifecta at Winton at Round 3.
6th position outright was Mark Taubitz on 281 points after an up and down season including a qualifying accident as Sandown put him out for the weekend, and mechanical issues while showing encouraging pace at Mallala preventing him from moving higher up the order. His best results for the year was a pair of fifth place finishes at Winton, ironically when he started at the rear of the grid on Race 2 after missing qualifying and the first race.
7th was Dick Howe, the veteran scoring 222 points after having a season peppered with some strong results at various points of the year, including a third place finish in the final race – and for the round outright at Phillip Island in October the highlights of his 2017 season.
8th for the year was Keith Marriner, with 215 points just securing him the position after showing signs of improvement throughout the year, with a 7th place finish in Race 2 at Winton , as well as the round outright being his highlights for the season.
9th in 2017 was John Vainoras after a consistent season which saw John close the gap to those ahead markedly in the final few rounds of the year. 20 Race finishers saw him rack up 213 points which kept him only 2 points out of 8th position. A 9th position finish in Race 1 at Winton was his highest finish of the season.
Rounding out the top ten for the year was Brad Winter with 210 points – Brad showed plenty of speed during the year but was only able to compete at four of the seven rounds through the year. Brad showed good results in those rounds he attended, with 3 podium finishes from 11 races he started with a 2nd place at Phillip Island in May, along with 3rd place finishes at Sandown and Phillip Island being his season highlights.
11th with 208 points for the year was Jim Gallagher, after missing two rounds at Winton & Mallala, Gallagher’s season was highlighted with a 5th place finish in the wet second race at Phillip Island during the Island Magic event, though 3 DNF’s prevented him from finishing higher up in the points for the year.
12th position went to Lyndon Watson with 195 points, after a great first season which saw plenty of speed onboard car #5. Lyndon’s highlight was a 4th place finish at the July Sandown round, along with a handful of sixth place finishes on record.
13th for the year was another debutante in Codey West, Codey first joined the series at round 3 and immediately showed great speed, and scored a 5th place finish in his first race. Codey never finished a race outside of the top ten, but a DNS and DNF at Island Magic kept him with 191 points and unable to move up higher in the points.
14th was Ken Rowland, who showed flashes of great speed on the Hire Depot car on his way to scoring 181 points for the season after the five rounds he entered – though 4 DNF’s cost him valuable series points, with a 4th place finish at Mallala being his highlight for the season.
Paul Crocitti was 15th with 164 points after entering 4 rounds during the year, though a couple of DNF’s at Sandown and Phillip Island, along with engine issues keeping him out of Sunday’s action at Mallala hurt his final points tally. Paul had his breakout performance at Mallala with two 4th place finishes from Saturdays two races before retiring from the weekend before Race 3.
Rob Holding was another new driver for 2017, and he finished 16th for the year with 161 points from the four rounds he attended during the year. A 5th place finish in the wet at Sandown in July was his highlight as he came to grips with the car throughout the season.
17th in the points was Marius Catrina with 159 points, further down than previous years after missing rounds at Winton and Sandown in the middle of the year, Marius had two 9th place finishes as his best results for the season.
18th was Jim Mitchell, who despite entering every round had a number of mechanical dramas which kept his race finishes down to only 12, leaving him with 138 points. 2 10th place finishes at Winton and Sandown were his best two results for the season.
Pedr James was another who ran a shortened season missing the mid season Sandown and Philiip Island events while engine woes put him out at Mallala during qualifying – leaving him in 19th for the year with 122 points. Pedr ended his year strongly however with a 6th place finish in the wet at Phillip Island while running as high as 4th a couple laps from the end.
20th for the season was Robert Lange with 115 points – despite only entering the first two rounds, Lange put his car on Pole Position before a spin in Race 1 dropped him back in the field, though he managed a 4th place finish in the final race. Some engine woes after the second round kept him away from the track for the remainder of the year however.
Andrew Jackman was 21st after only competing in two rounds during the year, damage during practice for Round 1 kept the Poolmaster away before returning for Round 4 at Sandown where he scored his best result of 7th in the final race, while he finished 8th in the second race at the other event he competed in at Phillip Island later in the season, finishing with 94 points.
22nd in points for the year was Peter Doherty, also finishing with 94 points after entering three events, however a couple of DNF’s prevented him from entering the top 20 in points. Peter’s best result was 10th in the wet second race at Island Magic at the end of the season.
Toni Andreevski was another new driver who joined the series in the second half of the season with Mallala his first race event, and also entered the Island Magic event at the end of the year. Toni’s best event was 9th in the final race of the Mallala event on his way to 23rd with 76 points.
Ben Raphael finished the season in 24th position after only competing in the first two rounds of the year before venturing on holiday, and incurring an injury which kept him out of the seat for the rest of the year. Ben’s 62 points was by virtue of a best race position of 11th in the final race at Round 2 at Phillip Island.
Ryan Woods was scored as the best of the drivers who only competed in a single round, when Ryan ventured across to Mallala to join in the fun around the tight South Australian venue. Ryan was involved in some great racing on his way to a 5th, 6th and 8th place finishes for the weekend to finish with 59 points for the weekend in 25th outright.
Sam Rofe also only competed in the single event in 2017, making the trip to Winton for Round 3 of the series in June. A best finish during the event of 7th earnt Sam 52 points for the event as he finished the season 26th in points for the year.
Ross Millar entered the first round of the season at Sandown, and a best finish of 11th in the third race with an entry field of 23 for the weekend was a good showing, and earnt Ross 39 points for the weekend in what was unfortunately his only outing for the year, leaving him 27th in points.
Two further drivers entered a round during the 2017 season, though unfortunately neither scored any points. Paul Greer entered the first round and while he again showed plenty of speed and flair, he wasn’t able to sort his engine cut-off issues which hampered him in each race, causing him DNF’s – while Ken Knight entered the final round at Island Magic, but terminal engine issues in the first race ended his weekend early.
Congratulations to every driver and team who entered throughout the year, hopefully we will see some big fields entered for the 2018 season!
Round 1 preview to follow shortly!