The third and final Race of the 944 Challenge event at the Shannons Nationals was run as a reverse grid handicap race, again over 9 laps on Sunday afternoon, with the grid and handicaps set by the fastest laps set during Saturdays first race.
Thus it was Jim Mitchell who would start from pole position, with Peter Doherty alongside him on the front row. The second row would consist of Manny Mezzasalma with Keith Marriner for company next to him in grid spot four.
There would be a 15 second delay before the second group would commence, with Dick Howe, Michael Westaway and Mark Taubitz in that group, with a five second gap before the next group would head off, with that group containing Pedr James, Paul Crocitti and Tony Westaway. There would then be a further 15 second gap before the final group of Rob Holding, Chris Lewis-Williams and Cameron Beller rounding out the final group.
Jim Mitchell took the lead off the start from Doherty, Mezzasalma and Marriner, though Doherty would make his way past Mitchell into the lead into turn three with Mitchell slotting into second position.
Howe, Michael Westaway and Taubitz were all ducking and weaving for the first half of the lap as all three wanted to be at the head of the pack before Westaway took the lead of the group from Howe & Taubitz. A heavily patched up car of Crocitti took the lead of group 3 from James and Tony Westaway, while Lewis-Williams again got a great start to take the lead in the final group from Beller and Holding.
The first position change was on lap 3 when Tony Westaway moved ahead of James for ninth position. Beller was desperately trying to find a way past Lewis-Williams, with Lewis-Williams defending just as fiercely – both drivers knowing that the higher placed of the two would likely take home the silverware for the weekend.
At the end of lap 5 and Doherty led Mitchell by a second, with Mezzasalma and Marriner both within a further second behind him. The gap to the next group was only a further four seconds, with Howe and Taubitz all within a second of the Orange Westbon car. Crocitti was a further three seconds away, though there was another five seconds between Crocitti and Tony Westaway. James was another two seconds behind with Lewis-Williams and Beller now right on James’ tail.
The groups started to condense as the race went on between the groups, though Howe was wide on the exit of Turn 4 on lap 6, and spun off to the infield and the back of the pack. Lewis-Williams and Beller both also overtook James at Penrite corner him on lap 6, now into ninth and tenth positions respectively.
As lap 7 began, Taubitz moved past Michael Westaway the into turn 1, with Michael then slowing and retiring later in the lap with mechanical gremlins. Beller was still looking every which-way to get past Lewis-Williams, but couldn’t find a clean way to make a pass. As this group caught the slowing Michael Westaway at Penrite corner, dramas befell James who looped around, with Holding moving up to tenth position as a result, and Howe up to eleventh position, James back to twelfth. Lewis-Williams got a great run out of turn 10 and pulled alongside Tony Westaway with Beller in his slipstream, the paid moving past as Tony succumbed to the two faster cars – moving them up to seventh and eighth spot.
Up front meanwhile, and Taubitz had caught the back of the leading group – and made the pass on Marriner for fourth position in the final corner. Crocitti moved past Marriner also under brakes for turn 3 on the second last lap. Taubitz could see Doherty stretching the gap up front, and was keen to get past Mezzasalma and Mitchell to set after the leading 944 – though a small touch from Taubitz after poking his nose to the inside going into turn 9 sent the car of Mezzasalma into a slow spin – dropping him back down to eleventh position.
The most dramatic moment occurred a few corners later – as Marriner had a spin in turn 11 while sitting behind Crocitti, with the #64 PAS car stationary in the track as the pair of Lewis-Williams and Beller rounded to corner. Beller went to the left, and Lewis-WIlliams to the right – though it was Lewis-Williams who made contact with the right front of his car against Marriners – breaking his front suspension and putting him out of the race – and contention for the Dennis O’Keefe Cup immediately. CLW parked the car on the grass between the circuit and pit entry and walked to safety – a cruel blow as he looked poised to take home the prize for the weekend.
Up front and Taubitz was back onto the tail of Mitchell, and made hi move for the position on the exit of turn four, with Crocitti following him through into third position. Noone was catching Doherty up front however, as Peter crossed the line to take his first race victory by 2 seconds from Taubitz. A very popular result for the series veteran, which also earnt him third outright for the weekend – a great reward for a weekend of smart driving where he kept out of trouble without a mark on the car, and ran the consistent times and didn’t put a foot wrong when it mattered.
Second was a good result for Taubitz after his bad luck in Race 2, with the other driver who suffered poor fate in Race 2, Paul Crocitti – also taking home a well earnt podium result – his first in the 944 Challenge series – after showing great speed all weekend, only one second behind Taubitz at the end.
Holding onto fourth position was Mitchell – just – with Cameron Beller closing in and the pair crossing the line side-by-side Mitchell getting the nod by only one hundredth of a second at the line! Beller would take solace in the fact that his fifth position finish was enough for him to take home the Dennis O’Keefe Cup courtesy of aPorschapart for the weekend.
Sixth position went to Tony Westaway, three second adrift of Beller, with Holding just behind him after showing very impressive speed all weekend – a second position for the weekend a great reward for the weekends efforts. Eighth was Dick Howe after his mid race spin, with Mezzasalma ninth and James tenth after they also had spins in the latter part of the race. Marriner was the final finisher a further twenty seconds back after his late race drama – with Chris Lewis Williams and Michael Westaway the two DNF’s for the round.
So the Shannons Nationals event was run and won – a huge thanks to CAMS, the Shannons Nationals series, Winton Raceway and the Benalla Auto Club for inviting us to be part of this great event. We can’t wait to come back for future events!
Next though, would be the final round of the Vic State Race Series on the final weekend of September, and Jamie Westaway will be back behind the wheel to try to protect his points lead from Cameron Beller – who will be looking to repeat his Phillip Island clean sweep from earlier in the year as he attempts to snatch back the title from Jamie’s grasp. Head down to Phillip Island on September 29/30 to watch all the action!
Race 2 of the 944 Challenge event at the Shannons Nationals was run as a reverse grid event over 9 laps on Sunday morning. As a result of Race 1’s finishing order, Tony Westaway lined up on the pole position, with Keith Marriner lining up alongside him on the front row with Manny Mezzasalma and Jim Mitchell lining up on the second row. Peter Doherty and Pedr James would share row 3, with Dick Howe and Michael Westaway on the fourth row. Row 5 would be made up of Mark Taubitz and Paul Crocitti, with the race 1 podium finishers Rob Holding, Chris Lewis-Williams and Cameron Beller rounding out the grid.
Jim Mitchell got his customary drag-car-like start off the line to split the front row starters and then dived to the inside of Tony Westaway to lead into Turn 1. Keith Marriner slotted into third position with Mezzasalma fourth, and Doherty and James side by side through the first corner complex. Getting a fantastic start was Chris Lewis-Williams, who took the outside line to follow Doherty and was in seventh position already, with Dick Howe on his outside on the run to turn 3. Crocitti also got a good start down the outside and was next, with Holding also moving up a few spots. The biggest losers off the start were Michael Westaway who got an ordinary getaway, and Mark Taubitz who was boxed in behind him – Cameron Beller also suffered stuck behind those who were slower away, though was able to take the inside run on Taubitz and then out-run Michael Westaway under brakes for turn 3 to move to eleventh position.
Tony Westaway ranged up alongside Mitchell and took the lead under brakes into turn 3 with James pulling ahead of Doherty and into fifth position, with Howe also making the pass around the outside of turn three as Doherty was deciding discretion was the better part of valour, and chose to let the faster cars through then press on. Crocitti and Holding were side by side through turn 3, before Holding followed Lewis-Williams through with a pass around Doherty at turn 4, while Taubitz also followed Beller through and made the pass on the inside of Michael Westaway.
Thus on the run to the sweeper for the first time it was Tony Westaway from Mitchell, Marriner, Mezzasalma, James, Howe, Lewis-Williams, Holding, Doherty, Crocitti, Beller, Taubitz and Michael Westaway. Marriner had a look on the inside of Mitchell under brakes for Penrite corner but backed out of the move, while Lewis WIlliams was scything through the field, taking the long way around Penrite corner to pass Howe, then translated that to an inside move on James around the gumtree, and then again around the outside at turn 9, this time on Mezzasalma – putting him in an incredible fourth position!
Crocitti made a move to the inside of Doherty into Penrite but had to go around the outside of gumtree to complete the pass. Beller tucked in behind Doherty but Taubitz moved to the outside and passed Beller around gumtree which put him on the inside of Doherty for turn 9, putting him up to tenth position on Crocittis bumper, with Beller then following Taubitz through underneath Doherty.
Holding moved alongside Howe on the run to turn ten, with Howe running wide and allowing Crocitti to range up alongside on the run down the back straight. Taubitz was slightly baulked and Beller moved alongside and retook the position into brakes for turn 11.
At the end of lap 1 and Tony Westaway was extending his lead from Mitchell and Marriner, now with Lewis-Williams for company. A small gap to Mezzasalma who had James and Holding behind him, with Howe and Crocitti side by side through the final corner, and Crocitti put his left side tires into the dirt allowing Howe to move ahead. This baulked Beller slightly, and Taubitz took advantage to pull back alongside down the main straight on the far right of the track, three wise with Beller and Crocitti.
Lewis-Williams moved past Marriner under brakes for turn 1 and was up to third, while James did the same thing to Mezzasalma to move into fifth.
Beller could see there was trouble brewing and backed out of the three-wide situation – as Crocitti, seeing this moved across to take the racing line for turn 1 – unbeknownst to him though, Taubitz was in his blind spot of the far right of the track – and slight contact was the result. Crocitti did a masterful job to keep the car on track and not spin off, as his right rear wheel contacted Taubitz on the left front, sending Taubitz off into the grass. The impact broke the steering on Taubitz’s car, and he limped slowly around the pits.
Lewis-Williams continued his onslaught, and passed Mitchell for second position into turn three, while Beller made his way past Crocitti, and Michael Westaway passed Doherty. Holding was trying to find a way around Mezzasalma, which allowed Howe to sneak inside on the run to turn 9, escorting Holding wide. This allowed Beller to move inside and overtake the pair of them, moving him to seventh position, while Holding sliopped back behind Howe, Crocitti and Michael Westaway to eleventh position.
Up front, and Lewis-Williams put himself into the lead with a pass on Tony Westaway on the run to turn 10 – a very impressive two laps from the three time series champion. Beller pulled past Mezzasalma under brakes for turn 10 also, while Howe followed him through, as did Crocitti. Michael Westaway was the next one to make the pass on the run to turn 11, with Holding also finally getting past to move back to tenth position.
So at the end of lap 2 it was now Lewis-Williams opening up a gap from Tony Westaway, Mitchell, Marriner, James and Beller, with Howe, Crocitti, Michael Westaway, Holding, Mezzasalma and Doherty rounding out the field.
Beller moved into the top 5 when he passed James into turn 3, and quickly ranged up to the tail of Marriner who was still staring at the tail of Mitchell. Holding managed to find a way around Michael Westaway to go back to ninth position, while Beller then passed Marriner under brakes for turn 10, and did the same to Mitchell one corner later.
Doherty made a move past Mezzasalma under brakes for turn 1, while he battle for fourth was now heating up as James, Howe and Crocitti closed up to Mitchell and Marriner, though into turn three Howe exited the battle when his car spun to the inside of the circuit. Crocitti was right behind and went to the dirt on the outside of the circuit.
Beller continued his charge forward and passed Tony Westaway under brakes for turn 10 and began his chase of Lewis-Williams. Behind him, there was dramas as Marriner looked to challenge Mitchell for position, with Mitchell spinning under brakes, with Crocitti being unsighted running into the back of Marriner, which caused some significant damage to the front of the Gasgep machine. James was the biggest benefactor as he moved past both of them into fourth position, with Holding also taking advantage and into fifth. Michael Westaway moved up to sixth, ahead of Doherty, and Mezzasalma, and the wounded Marriner. Mitchell re-joined to tenth with Howe next after recovering from his spin, with Crocitti pitting to have a flailing front guard attended to. Marriner was severely off the pace after the contact and circulated slowly to finish the race, dropping behind Mitchell and Howe on the next lap.
At the end of lap 5 it was now Lewis-Williams from Beller, Tony Westaway, James, Holding, Michael Westaway, Doherty, Mezzasalma, Mitchell, Howe, Marriner and Crocitti with Taubitz still in pit lane.
Beller was closing on Lewis-Williams as the gap was now 3.3 seconds, while Holding was harassing James for fourth position, ultimately making the pass under brakes for Penrite corner on lap 6. The main action was now at the head of the field, with Beller breaking the lap record on consecutive laps on laps 6 & 7 in his pursuit of CLW. By the end of lap the pair were separated by less than half a second, with Tony Westaway a further seconds back in third, with a further 5 seconds hack to Holding in fourth. James and Michael Westaway weren’t too far adrift, with a large gap back to Doherty, a couple seconds ahead of Mezzasalma in eighth position. Mitchell was a further few seconds back, with a 9 second gap back to Howe who was also nursing an ailing car, and the wounded Marriner, and the battle scarred Crocitti. Taubitz meanwhile ventured back out onto the circuit on the penultimate lap to slowly complete the final lap and take the chequered flag.
Try as he might, Beller was unable to find a way past Lewis-Williams and crossed the line .2 of a second behind, with a huge 16 second gap back to Tony Westaway, with Holding only a second behind him at the end in fourth. James and Michael Westaway were close together a further fixe seconds back at the finish, with Doherty, Mezzasalma, Mitchell and Howe rounding out the top ten. Marriner and Crocitti were both a lap down, with Taubitz 6 laps down.
So it was a win apiece, and a second apiece between Lewis-Williams and Beller in the quest for the Dennis O’Keefe Cup on offer this weekend. The higher of the two finishers in the final race would likely take the Cup – though if problems befell them from making their way through the pack in the final handicap race, could one of the other competitors swoop in to steal the prize?
Race 1 of the 944 Challenge event at the Shannons Nationals was on Saturday afternoon and the only chance for the fastest runners to lead from the start, with Sundays races consisting of a reverse grid, and then a handicap race to round out the event.
Off the start it was Chris Lewis-Williams who led into Turn 1 after just edging Cameron Beller in the short drag racce off the start, with ROb Holding, Tony Westaway side by side behind them, with Mark Taubitz and Paul Crocitti side by side right behind them as they ran through turns 1 & 2. Michael Westaway was next edging ahead of Dick Howe, with Jim Mitchell in behind them, with Pedr James, Keith Marriner, Manny Mezzasalma and Peter Doherty rounding out the field.
Lewis-Williams and Beller had a small gap while Holding took the inside line to sweep into third position. Taubitz tried to follow him through into turn 4 but had the door firmly shut on him by Tony Westaway – leaving him vulnerable to Crocitti. H0we moved back ahead of Michael Westaway, and then passed Crocitti into turn 9 to take the sixth position.
As the field crossed the line to end lap 1, Beller pulled alongside Lewis-Williams and took the lead under brakes into turn 1, with Holding and Tony Westaway now right behind them. a small gap back to Taubitz, Howe, Crocitti, Michael Westaway, Mitchell, James, Marriner, Mezzasalma and Doherty.
The top three were nose to tail, with Tony Westaway and Taubitz just off the back of the lead trio. Howe and Crocitti continued to battle with Westaway tagging onto the back of the pair. Doherty meanwhile took Mezzasalma for twelfth position.
James was the next driver to make progress, as he moved ahead of Mitchell on lap 3 to take the ninth position.
Lewis-Williams returned serve on Beller at the beginning of lap 4 and took the lead under brakes for turn 1, with Holding continue to shadow the multi-time champions closely. Tony Westaway had a drama in turn 9 and spun the Westbon 944, dropping him all the way to then end of the pack. His spin delayed Taubitz who was right behind, which allowed Howe to spring a move to take fourth position from Taubitz on the run to turn 10.
Marriner was the next one to have issues as he dropped positions at the end of lap 5, allowing Doherty into the top ten, with Mazzasalma to eleventh and Westaway to twelfth as Marriner now re-joined at the back of the pack.
Beller took the lead again as the field commenced lap 6, and this time began to build a small gap to Lewis-Williams, setting the races fastest lap on lap 7 on the way. The battle for fourth position behind them was raging, with Howe defending from Taubitz who was also having to deal with Crocitti behind him, until Crocitti made his way past for fifth position on lap 7. Tony Westaway also moved up another position when he passed Mezzasalma on that lap.
Crocitti made a move on Howe into Penrite corner, and the pair battled fiercely for the next few corners, with Howe ultimately coming off second best when he slid wide as he pulled alongside Crocitti under braking on the outside for turn 10 later in the lap, sending him wide and dropping him back to seventh place behind the pursuing Taubitz and Michael Westaway.
Tony Westaway also made further progress, moving up to ninth passing both Doherty, and then Mitchell, while James had put the hammer down and was reeling off a string of quick times in the 37’s as he chased after the battle for fourth through to seventh position.
At the end it was Beller who won by 2.5 seconds from Lewis-Williams, with Holding an impressive third a further 2.5 seconds back. Fourth position went to Crocitti in an impressive performance with Taubitz right behind him, and Michael Westaway right on his tail, with Howe another second adrift from James, who closed to only a second off of Howe’s tail also.
On the last corner, and Tony Westaway spun, allowing Peter Doherty, who had just passed Mitchell earlier in the lap, through for ninth position, with Mitchell rounding out the top ten. Mezzasalma was eleventh just behind Mitchell in his debut race, with Marriner a few seconds behind. Crossing the line as the final finisher after recovering from his spin was Tony Westaway. With the next race a reverse grid race, questions were asked as to whether Tony was foxing in an attempt to gain the pole position for this race! Tony denied this sheepishly..
Would this starting position prove to work for Tony with Holding, Beller & Lewis-Williams starting off the back?
The 944 challenge field rolled out for qualifying on Saturday morning for the Shannon’s Nationals round, and proving he hasn’t lost his speed despite not turning a wheel in the past ten months was Chris Lewis-Williams who set the fastest lap first up with a 1:36.2726. Mark Taubitz was second quickest with a 1:37.5693 on his first fast lap, ahead of Cameron Beller third with a 1:38.7129 in third, with Tony Westaway fourth with a 1:39.4822.
Dick Howe was fifth fastest with a 1:40.3904 from Paul Crocitti on a 1:41.5013, with Peter Doherty seventh fastest with a 1:42.6179 and Michael Westaway just behind with a 1:42.6892. Jim Mitchell was ninth with a first lap of 1:45.4529 from Manny Mezzasalma, tenth quickest with a 1:46.2730 with Pedr James, Keith Marriner and Rob Holding rounding out the runners with all three not running a representative time on their first laps.
Beller moved himself into second position on his next lap when he ran a 1:36..7372 on his next lap, while Tony Westaway improved his best time with a 1:39.0906. Howe improved in fifth with a 1:39.1899 , as did Crocitti behind him with a 1:39.5737. Doherty also improved with a 1:40.7660 lap to remain in seventh position. Mitchell also improved his time with a 1:43.6399 while James moved to tenth quickest with a 1:44.3737 and Holding up to eleventh with a 1:46.0733 moving Mazzasalma back to twelfth ahead of Marriner with a 1:48.6943.
Beller improved again next time around with a 1:36.1396, while Holding leapt up to fourth fastest with a 1:38.0625. Howe also improved with a 1:38.2680 in what would be his best time for the session though remained in fifth position. Crocitti remained sixth with a 1:38.8707, with Michael Westaway also displacing his brother with a 1:38.9504 to go to seventh, dropping Tony to eighth.
Mitchell was still tenth, now with a 1:41.8584 ahead of Marriner with a 1:42.1178, James on a 1:42.9105 and Mezzasalma in thirteenth.
Beller took the top spot on the next lap with a 1:35.4449, with Lewis-Williams also improving with a 1:36.0622 though slipped back to second fastest. Crocitti moved to third fastest with a 1:37.5224 pushing Taubitz, Holding and Howe back down the order, with Tony Westaway moving back ahead of Michael with a 1:38.2698, just behind Howe. James moved up to ninth with a 1:39.8623 ahead of Mitchell who again improved with a 1:40.2257, while Doherty again improved also, though slipped back to eleventh with a 1:40.5616. Marriner also improved slightly with a 1:41.8950 in twelfth position.
Beller continued his streak of improving his lap times, and his next 1:34.9431 put himself safely at the top, as Lewis-Williams improved again with a 1:35.8562 next time around. Tony Westaway leapt up the order with a 1:37.2345 to move up to third fastest, while Michael Westaway also went quicker with a 1:38.0569 which put him into seventh position ahead of Howe – a time he wouldn’t improve on. Mitchell also improved again, thought just slightly with a 1:40.1124, while Mezzasalma improved his time with a 1:44.4233.
Beller ran one more lap, and went quicker again with a 1:34.7701 – and then parked it – confident that his one second advantage would secure the pole position for him. Holding improved his time with a 1:37.9509 to remain in sixth position, while James also went faster with a 1:39.0975 in ninth position, his fastest time for the session. Marriner moved up to eleventh with a 1:40.1328, while Doherty ran a 1:40.3861 though he slipped to twelfth position.
Rob Holding raised eyebrows as he ran a blistering 1:36.5544 to vault him into third position, while Tony Westaway moved to fourth as he ran a 1:36.8942. Taubitz put a lap together as he improved on his early time with a 1:37.0346 though was now fifth, Marriner dipped under the 1 minute 40s as he ran a 1:39.6276 in his fastest lap to move him into tenth position ahead of Mitchell and Doherty, while Mezzasalma also started to turn some quicker laps as he grew comfortable with the car, running a 1:42.1414.
Tony Westaway pulled out one last quick lap to displace Holding with a 1:36.4920 for third fastest, displacing Holding who went within half a tenth of a second of his best lap, but slipped to fourth. Taubitz ran his best lap on the last tour with a 1:36.9136 to stay fifth, ahead of Crocitti who also improved with a 1:37.3120 but remained in sixth.
Doherty pulled one out of the bag as he went over a second quicker to vault him up to ninth position with a 1:38.9869 on his final lap, pushing James back to tenth ahead of Marriner and Mitchell who also dipped under the 1:40’s on his last lap with a 1:39.8636. Mezzasalma also improved again on his last lap with a 1:41.8898 lap, a good effort in his first 944 challenge session.
The last lap was run by Lewis-Williams, who improved in a last ditch effort at pole, but a 1:35.3785 wasn’t able to do it, though cemented his spot on the front row of the grid alongside Beller for Race 1.
9 Laps would follow later in the day – who would take first blood for the weekend??
Race 3 of the weekend would be critical for the two chief title protagonists for the Vic State Series title, with Cameron Beller needing to win the final race to tie round points with Jamie Westaway to give him a chance to race for the title at Phillip Island without having to rely on luck to fall his way. Missing would be Lyndon Watson, the gearbox issues in race 2 unfortunately causing him to pack up early.
Off the line and the front row combatants jumped off together, but it was Beller who took the lead when Westaway again struggled going through the gears at the start of the race, though Jamie muscled his way past his uncle Michael with the slightest of touches in turn 1 to hold onto the third position behind Beller and the fast starting Dick Howe. Michael Westaway slotted in behind his nephew with Mark Taubitz right behind after getting a good start but finding himself on the inside of both Westaway’s heading to turn 1 – and wisely backed out early to avoid what would have been inevitable contact.
Pedr James was next through in sixth, with Mitchell getting another of his customary bullet starts to move into seventh on the run to the first corner, though Keith Marriner diving deeper under brakes to take seventh position through turn 1, with Michell slotting into eighth. Behind him were Toni Andreevski and John Vainoras after both getting a less than ideal getaway.
Jamie Westaway quickly moved ahead of Howe on the run down the back straight to move into second position and again chase after Beller, with Howe back to third. Taubitz was hounding Michael Westaway, and on the run down the back straight he made the pass for position into the esses on the second lap. He didn’t hold onto the position for long though, as he set off after Howe in front, but carried too much speed into turn 1 and lost the rear of his car, spinning to the outside of the circuit.
He recovered quickly and got going behind the battle between James, Marriner, Mitchell and Andreevski, though this became a three way battle only seconds later as Marriner’s car slowed immediately after passing Taubitz and pulled off circuit on the grass between turns three and four to retire. This allowed James to build a small buffer, to sixth placed driver Mitchell, which became sixth placed Andreevski when Mitchell ran wide coming onto the front straight at the end of the lap, allowing Andreevski through for the position.
Up front, and Jamie Westaway had caught Beller, and took the lead on the fourth lap, as Beller was not feeling completely comfortable with his car. Beller set the fastest lap of the race the following lap with the aid of the draft from Westaway’s car, but was unable to challenge for position. Further back, and Michael Westaway slowly started shrinking the gap to Howe in front of him, while Taubitz moved past Mitchell at the end of lap 4 and set off after James and Andreevski.
Andreevski began closing the gap to James in front, while Taubitz was closing in behind him – until the #74 Porsche suddenly slowed on lap 6, pulling into pit lane with a broken exhaust dragging under the car – no doubt caused from his earlier spin over the ripplestrip at turn 1.
This left three separate battles throughout the field, with Jamie Westaway and Beller up front, Howe defending from Michael Westaway and James doing the same against Andreevski – with Mitchell and Vainoras having dropped off and circulating on their own.
Try as they might, neither of the pursuers were successfully able to mount a challenge for position, and this was the finishing order at the end of the 9 laps with Jamie Westaway taking the win from Beller, with Howe completing a strong weekend for third, just ahead of Michael Westaway. James crossed the line fifth in his best weekend result to date with fifth for the race and outright for the round, with Andreevski also earning his best race and round result thus far with sixth. Mitchell and Vainoras rounded out the finishers in seventh and eighth position respectively.
So with one round of the State Championships left to go, Jamie Westaway holds a 18 point advantage over Beller – enough that he can take the title with a trio of second places, but one bad result could change things significantly. Though the 944 Series points still has Beller in front due to the dropped worst round rule, though Westaway was close behind with only 6 points separating the pair with 9 races remaining for the outright title. Will someone else throw a spanner in the works for the title protagonists? Head down to Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit September 29/30 to watch all of the action!
Before that however, the 944 Racing Association Inc series heads to Winton on September 1 & 2 to compete at the Shannons Nationals round! Come down for a great weekend of racing including Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia, the Australian GT Trophy Series, Australian Formula 4 Championship and the Australian Production Cars Series! With free entry for spectators, a few drivers making their first starts for 2018 and a reverse grid as well as a handicap race in the schedule, there’s no excuse not to come on down to watch some exciting racing!
Race 2 of the weekend was held as the longer 11 lap feature race for the weekend, which involved higher points for this race. Jim Mitchell was a no show for this race but would return for the final race of the weekend.
Wanting to make the most of his Pole position, Cameron Beller leapt away from the start with Jamie Westaway being slowed as he encountered issues finding third gear, allowing Taubitz and Watson to stream past, dragging Dick Howe and Michael Westaway along for the ride. With Beller clear in front, Watson and Taubitz were side by side under brakes for Turn 1, with Watson holding tough around the outside to take the second position with Taubitz slotting in behind him. Behind the top 6, Pedr James was alongside Keith Marriner into turn 1, with James also taking the position around the outside with Toni Andreevski and John Vainoras rounding out the field.
Jamie Westaway wasn’t in the mood to mess around and quickly dived inside his Uncle Michael to take back second position under brakes for turn 2, while Taubitz had a small moment in turn 4 which allowed Howe to comfortably move past into third position as the pair moved through the kink onto the back straight. Jamie Westaway continued his recovery as he moved past Taubitz under brakes for turn 1 to begin the second lap, with Taubitz then dropping back a further spot after clipping the kerb on the inside of turn 4, fortunately not looping the car, but costing him another spot as Michael Westaway also drove past by the time they got to the kink on the back straight.
Beller had cleared out up front with Watson on his own while Howe was defending the podium position from Jamie Westaway. Michael Westaway had a second gap on Taubitz with James a similar distance behind in seventh position, Marriner was right behind him in eighth, with Andreevski on his tail while Vainoras had dropped back slightly.
As the field commenced the fourth lap the Safety car boards came out due to one of the E30 BMW’s that slipped off the circuit on the turn 4 exit, neutralising and bunching up the field.
The lights were out on the safety car on lap 6, and the field resumed racing at the end of the lap. Controversially, it was deemed that Beller resumed back to racing speed too early, and was handed a 5 second penalty. Watson was doing his best to stick with Beller while Jamie Westaway passed Howe down the back straight to take the third position. Vainoras meanwhile had a spin at turn 1 once racing resumed, dropping him behind the remaining E30 runners by the time he resumed.
Beller worked on trying to create a gap that he needed to retain the lead after his post race penalty would be issued, while Jamie Westaway closed on the back of Watson. The trio of Howe, Michael Westaway and Taubitz remained in close proximity while James wasn’t able to keep up and slipped off the back of this little pack, though he was able to gap Marriner who was dealing with Andreevski on his bumper.
Westaway moved himself up to second position on lap 9 when he passed Watson down the back straight, which left him three seconds behind Beller as he crossed the line. The battle for fourth was still on in earnest between Howe Michael Westaway and Taubitz – though this became for third position when Lyndon Watson encountered gearbox issues as he exited turn 4 on the final lap – cruelly preventing him from collecting points as he was unable to cross the line and recorded a DNF.
Up front, Westaway was able to peg the gap between he and Beller so while Beller crossed the line first, he would be demoted to second with his 5 second post race penalty. He had a big enough gap over third placed Howe to retain the second position though, with Michael Westaway able to resist the pressure from Taubitz on the final lap to hold him out for fourth place.
James was unable to challenge Taubitz and dropped back after the safety car came in, and was followed across the line at the end of the race by Marriner with Andreevski staying on his tail, the trio crossing the line covered by only a second – with Vainoras the final finisher a little further back after his spin.
With the penalty issued to Beller effectively resulting in an 8 point swing in the State Series points, and only four races remaining, every race for both he and Jamie Westaway would be crucial in deciding who would win the State Series Championship! What would happen in the final race for the weekend?
Race 1 for Round 4 was on Saturday afternoon over 9 laps in cool conditions at Sandown Raceway, and as the lights went out it was Cameron Beller who made the most of his pole position rto lead into the first corner, with Jamie Westaway pulling up alongside Lyndon Watson and taking second position as they moved into Turn 1, with Watson slotting behind in third ahead of Mark Taubitz behind him.
Michael Westaway was looking on the inside of Dick Howe under brakes, with the pair ultimately conceding to Keith Marriner who took the racing line to slot into fifth position ahead of Howe and Westaway, with Jim Mitchell following them through after one of his customary good starts from the back of the grid. Pedr James was next ahead of Toni Andreevski and John Vainoras.
Mitchell ran wide on the exit of turn 1 though head onto the eighth position, while Vainoras overtook Andreevski into Turn two for tenth spot. Onto the back straight and Howe pulled out from behind Marriner to move into fifth position, though by that stage had already lost a lot of ground to the quartet up front.
Westaway wasn’t letting Beller run away up front as the pair slowly edge away from Watson who was able to put some distance between himself and Taubitz. Howe put his head down to work on closing the gap to Taubitz in front of him, while Marriner tried to hold Michael Westaway behind him, though would ultimately lose the spot as Westaway moved past into sixth on lap 3. Mitchell was next with James in tow, while Andreevski also made a pass for position on Lap 3, moving back ahead of Vainoras for the tenth spot.
Up front was where the action was, as Beller and Westaway battled hard for the lead, and on lap 6 Westaway made a pass to take the top spot. He didn’t hold onto it for long however, as Beller made his way back past on the very next lap, setting his fastest lap of the race on the way to retake the lead.
Despite Westaway running the races fastest lap the next time around, he wasn’t able to pull off another pass and followed Beller across the line, with Watson a lonely third six seconds behind.
Taubitz was next a further 8 seconds behind, with Howe crossing the line right on his tail after having a couple of attempts to pass as he caught Taubitz on the penultimate lap, though was unable to pull off a pass – though Howe also carried a 5 second time penalty for rolling at the start – despite him making a slow getaway.
Michael Westaway was next in sixth position, with Marriner not letting him get too far away as he crossed the line 1.5 seconds adrift. Behind them was the battle for eighth between Mitchell and James, with Pedr unable to find a way past the Martini liveried 944 and had to settle for ninth, with a small gap back to Toni Andreevski who rounded out the top ten, and John Vainoras rounding out the finishers in eleventh position.
One race down, two to go on Sunday – would the tables turn at the top for Races 2 & 3?
A lovely sunny Winter’s day to open up Round 4 of the Victorian State Race Series, and the 944 Challenge field hit the track just before noon for qualifying, joined on circuit by the BMW E30 Racing series for the round.
With turn 1 & 2 getting an early coating of fluid due to a failure from one of the E30 BMW’s which pulled off circuit on the outlap keeping everyone on their toes early, it took a while for competitive times to be set.
Not making it out for qualifying after a scrutineering issue was Jim Mitchell, and he would start from the back of the 944 field for Race 1 from position 11.
Jamie Westaway was the fastest on the first flying lap albeit with only a 1:30.1646, ahead of Lyndon Watson with a 1:32.4806, Dick Howe third with a 1:32.7605, Keith Marriner fourth with a 1:33.1695 and Cameron Beller fifth with a 1:33.5138.
Mark Taubitz was sixth with a 1:34.9582 just ahead of Pedr James with a 1:34.9677. Michael Westaway was next with a 1:35.6211, ahead of Toni Andreevski’s 1:35.7306 and John Vainoras with a 1:45.1951.
Westaway remained at the top as the times tumbled as the drivers figured out where the grip was in the early part of the lap, as he ran a 1:27.0489, with Howe second after running a 1:28.9064. Taubitz moved to third with a 1:29.6732 ahead of Watson’s 1:29.7494 and Beller’s 1:29.7728. Michael Westaway moved to sixth with a 1:31.2907 with Marriner now seventh with a 1:31.9739 ahead of Andreevski’s 1:32.8765, James’ 1:33.4190 and Vainoras’ 1:39.8530.
Watson moved to the top of the time sheets on the next lap with a 1:26.3542, just ahead of Beller who ran a 1:26.5595. Taubitz slipped to fourth behind Jamie Westaway with a 1:28.0079 with Howe dropping to fifth position. Michael Westaway improved with a 1:29.4438 while James moved to eighth with a 1:32.7406, as Vainoras chopped five seconds off his best time with a 1:34.4321.
The top three all lowered their times on the following lap as Watson reset the benchmark to a 1:25.0493, with Beller two tenths behind on a 1:25.2550 and Jamie Westaway next with a 1:25.9035. Howe moved back up to fourth with a 1:27.8720 pushing Taubitz back to fifth.
Michael Westaway ran a 1:28.6409 – but then pulled off circuit with fuel delivery issues putting an end to his session as he exited Turn 1 pon the next lap. Marriner improved to a 1:29.1385 with James running a 1:31.4157.
Taubitz moved himself back to fourth on the next lap with a 1:26.8772 putting him back ahead of Howe, with James and Andreevski both improving with 1:30.9470 and 1:30.9765 laps respectively, while Vainoras also improved with a 1:32.3353.
Jamie Westaway moved up to second on the following lap with a 1:25.1820 relegating Beller to third, with Taubitz improving in fourth with a 1:26.5891, with Marriner also improving his time with a 1:28.9708. Andreevski dipped under the 1:30’s with a 1:29.7941 moving him up to eighth position with James down to ninth now with a 1:30.4992.
Dick Howe ran his best lap the following lap with a 1:27.2721 to secure fifth fastest, while Keith Marriner moved ahead of the stranded Michael Westaway when he ran a 1:28.2567 lap to move up to sixth position. Toni Andreevski improved slightly with a 1:29.6928, as did James with a 1:29.9309 and Vainoras with a 1:32.2829, with both Andreevski and Vainoras going quicker again on the next lap with a 1:29.0441 and a 1:31.5761 respectively.
As it looked like there might not be any further changes, Beller pulled out a blinder lap with the aid of a draft down the back straight to snatch pole position with a 1:24.3802, pushing Watson and Westaway down to second and third. With that, the grid was set with James the only other car to improve his time with a 1:29.6247, but unable to better his ninth position.
So it would be Beller on pole for the fourth time, this time with Watson joining him on the front row of the grid, with Jamie Westaway missing out on the front row for the first time with Mark Taubitz joining him on the second row.
Dick Howe was next with Keith Marriner for company on the third row, with Michael Westaway seventh fastest to line him up on the inside of the fourth row alongside Toni Andreevski in his first event at Sandown Raceway in eighth position
Ninth on the grid was Pedr James, great to see Pedr back on the grid after his crash at Winton and gearbox issues in Friday practice, albeit with some temporary panel repairs on the PKJ Rural Fencing car, and struggling with car setup keeping Pedr down in ninth position, while rounding out the top ten was John Vainoras, returning after missing the Winton round.
With the points battle for the front of the 944 series tight after Winton, could Beller close the gap, or would Watson be able to shake things up from his front row starting position? Race 1 was at 3:30pm!