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!
The Gods smiled on Winton for the first time over the weekend, as the clouds split to miss the racetrack for the the final race, which would prove to be the closest and most exciting race of the weekend. That is, apart from for Michael Westaway – who ground to a halt on the warm up lap and was unable to take part in the final 10 lap affair. Lucky to be on the grid was Lyndon Watson, after his team managed to cobble together a makeshift setup to get the car running, the crew getting the car finished and onto pre-grid with seconds to spare.
As the lights went out, Jamie Westaway’s 944 went into wheel spin, then popped out of gear and stalled, requiring him to re-fire the car, dropping him to the back of the field by the time he did so. This allowed Mark Taubitz through into the lead, with Cameron Beller following in his wheel tracks as a drying line began to emerge.
Keith Marriner got a good start to leap into third position ahead of Andrew Jackman, with Lyndon Watson also starting well from the back of the field but unable to find a way past Jackman on the run to turn 1. Jim Mitchell was next through with Jamie Westaway leaving himself with a challenge as he got going at the back of the field.
Into Penrite corner for the first time and Jackman made a move for third position with a pass on Marriner under brakes to take the spot, with Jamie Westaway doing the same with a pass on Mitchell for sixth. Watson also followed Jackman through and around the long way around the gum tree before then sliding underneath Jackman into turn 9, taking third position as the pair made the run down the old back straight.
Westaway wasn’t messing around and he quickly ranged up on the back of the battling trio, passing Marriner on the run to turn 11, with supreme confidence under brakes on the still damp circuit, and with better power down, he moved alongside Jackman – taking fourth position down the main straight to end the first lap behind Taubitz, Beller and Watson.
Beller was sitting behind Taubitz as the pair had a decent gap over Watson in third, who was caught be Westaway by Lap 3, despite Jamie having a big moment into the first turn on lap 2 where he luckily kept the car on the tarmac. Westaway passed Watson as the pair crossed the old start/finish straight to move to third, and set off after the leading pair.
Up front, Beller could see the yellow car of Westaway now in his mirror, and realised he would have to get in front quickly to minimise his points loss from the first race. On lap 4, Beller pulled out from behind the Black Porsche across the old start/finish straight to take the lead into turn 3, and set off to maximise his gap on the flying Westaway.
Westaway closed in on Taubitz, and made the move under brakes into turn 1 to begin lap 7, and then charged off after Beller who had grown his lead to six seconds, as Taubitz began to struggle with a setup that was biased more to the wet conditions.
Westaway halved the gap to Beller on lap 8 and moved right onto the tail of the damaged #1 Porsche in the closing couple of corners in the race, but ran out of time to mount a challenge, as the pair crossed the line separated by only one tenth of a second. Showing how much of a drying line emerged, Westaway’s fastest race lap was only three seconds off of his qualifying times, with the times coming down by 9 seconds over the course of the race.
Taubitz crossed the line in third, rounding out a weekend with three podiums which gave him second overall for the weekend, with Watson in fourth, no doubt cursing his cruel luck in Race 2 which cost him the chance to be on the podium for both races on Sunday.
Rounding out the top 5 was Andrew Jackman, who had a lonely race after Lap 1 once Westaway moved ahead but circulated without drama for the 10 laps to finish ahead of Marriner in sixth, and Mitchell in seventh position, but importantly – all finishing the weekend without dramas and with straight race cars.
So after three races at Winton, we now have a new race winner, and a new leader at the top of the points ladder, proving that consistency and finishing races is the key to a good points position at the end of the year.
As the series heads back to Sandown for Round 4 in a months time, can Beller claw back the lost points to Westaway over the next six races for the Vic State Series, or will Westaway continue to add to his win tally?
Head down to Sandown Raceway on July 21-22 to watch all of the action!
More rain overnight meant a track that was just as wet and slippery as Race 1 would greet the field for the start of Race 2 on Sunday morning.
A big repair job began after Race 1 on the car of Cameron Beller aided by the contribution of a taillight and rear hatch glass courtesy of Pedr James who was fortunately still at the track and braving the cold to take in the Saturday action.
As the lights went out it was Lyndon Watson who got the power down on the grippier right hand side of the track, while pole sitter Jamie Westaway struggled to get off the line and was rounded up by Jim Mitchell and Mark Taubitz, and slipped back to fourth position with Michael Westaway, Andrew Jackman, Cameron Beller and Keith Marriner rounding out the field as they tiptoed through Turns 1 & 2.
Watson began to bolt away while Taubitz looked underneath second placed Mitchell into Turn 4, but backed out of that move which allowed Jamie Westaway to sneak past around the outside of the snookered Taubitz in Turn 4. Jamie then scythed past Mitchell to move to second, and set off after Watson, who had already built a huge gap in the first half a lap.
Taubitz followed the younger Westaway through past Mitchell to move back into third position, upon when Mitchell had a moment getting onto the throttle a bit too early coming onto the old back straight, and skewed towards the grass allowing Michael Westaway, Jackman and Beller through while he held onto the spot in front of Marriner.
A mistake by Watson in the sweeper on Lap 2 allowed Westaway to pass and move back into the lead entering the top section of the circuit, with Taubitz closing up the gap to Watson also. Towards the back Mitchell had a big off track moment which allowed Marriner through to seventh positionas Mitchell lost a lot of time getting back onto the circuit.
Beller was being very careful after his Saturday mishap in a patched together car in the wet conditions, and he took his time getting past Jackman which he did on lap 3, and set off after Michael Westaway ahead of him. Up front meanwhile, Jamie Westaway continued to open up his lead over Watson, though not by as much as he was able to do on Saturday, though he was clearly comfortable running that pace out front.
The gap between second and third between Watson and Taubitz ebbed and flowed over the next few laps with Taubitz closing the gap slightly, before Watson had a big spin under brakes for the first corner to begin lap 7 – Watson spun to the infield but fortunately came to stop in between turns 1 & 2, at which point Taubitz scooted past in second position, with Watson able to resume behind him without losing any further positions. Michael Westaway was also delayed which allowed Beller to close right up onto the tail of him.
Jamie Westwaway was thus able to cruise to a second comfortable victory, with Taubitz coming home for second position. Behind him, Watson was able to resume on the pace after his spin and pursued after Taubitz, only for his car to come a cruel halt on the final corner on the last lap of the race, with a fuel pump failure – which also registered him as a DNF for the race.
Rounding out the podium as a result was Michael Westaway, Beller right beind him in fourth position, with Jackman rounding out the top 5 for the race. Rounding out the finishers were Keith Marriner in sixth, and Jim Mitchell in seventh position.
So Beller was back on track and starting towards the front of the field for the final, with Taubitz and Michael Westaway looking threatening while Jamie Westaway was the class of the first two races – and some angry, angry looking weather was headed to Winton before Race 3… anything could happen!
The Winton weather forecast proved accurate for Saturday afternoon as the skies dumped a load of rain on the circuit to recreate the slippery track conditions from Friday practice.
It didn’t take long for the first surprise event to occur – in fact, treacherous turn two bit yet again, before the race would even begin. All were shocked as reigning champion and pole sitter Cameron Beller, testing the wet track on the warm up lap befell the same fate in the same way as those on Friday, as the car snapped sideways and slid into the old pit wall on the outlap, leaving car #1 on the sidelines for Race 1. We would certainly have a new race winner for Race 7 of the 2018 season!
This left Jamie Westwawy all alone on the front row of the grid, and as the lights went out he scampered off towards turn 1. Behind him, neither of the second row starters went anywhere. Codey West lost all drive off the line as the car rolled about 50 metres, his weekend over. Mark Taubitz who was starting alongside him, stalled as the lights went out. The rest of the field did a great job avoiding the two stricken Porsches and West & Taubitz were no doubt glad it was a small field and all made their way past without drama.
Thus it was Lyndon Watson who moved up to second, with Michael Westaway behind him in third position. Andrew Jackman moved up to fourth, with Jim Mitchell fifth, Keith Marriner in sixth position and Taubitz restarting and resuming behind Marriner at the tail of the field while the recovery crew did a great job to get West’s car off the circuit without interrupting the race.
Jamie Westaway immediately began to open up a gap to Watson and Michael Westaway, while Taubitz moved up to fifth position, passing Marriner around the outside of the sweeper and then Mitchell under brakes for Penrite corner.
Across the line the first time it was Jamie Westaway with a huge five second lead as Michael Wesaway began to close up to Watsons’ bumper, with Jackman being chased by Taubitz, while Mitchell was holding off Marriner.
Westaway continued to pull out a lead as he was comfortably the fastest car on the track, while Michael Westaway was looking for a way past Watson. Taubitz was turning the second fastest laps and was closing on Jackman, before AJ had a moment under brakes into Turn 1 on the fourth lap and went straight off the track, though he was able to rejoin the circuit only having lost the one position to Taubitz. Behind them, Mitchell had a spin which allowed Marriner to move through into sixth while Mitchell resumed.
The lead for Westaway continued to grow by five seconds a lap to Watson, while Michael Westaway was struggling to find a way to get past Watson, and Taubitz began closing on the pair of them. Lap 5 and Michael’s car burst into wheelspin exiting turn 4 and the orange 944 went sliding through the Winton infield, elevating Taubitz to third position while Michael was able to resume in fourth position ahead of Jackman.
Without the pressure of Westaway right behind him Watson was able to focus on his laptimes and maintained the gap to Taubitz behind him, who consolidated his third position in the final couple of laps.
As the race entered the closing stages, Andrew Jackman misjudged the extra speed he carried on that lap through turns 1 and 2 and went in too deep under brakes for Turn three, nosing into the kitty litter. Unable to get out to finish the race, a fifth position went begging.
And that would be the way the field would finish, with Jamie Westaway winning by over 30 seconds at the end from Lyndon Watson, with Mark Taubitz in third. Michael Westaway was fourth ahead of the lapped cars of Keith Marriner and Jim Mitchell in fifth and sixth positions respectively, with Jackman, West and Beller all classified as non finishers.
With action that no one could have predicted on Saturday, and some heavy rain predicted for Sunday, what further curveballs would Races 2 & 3 bring?
With weather suitable only for ducks on Friday causing havoc, the 13 car entry field was down to only 9 cars that could front up for qualifying for Round 3 of the 2018 944 Challenge at Winton Motor Raceway.
Dick Howe, Tim Petrusic, Pedr James and Jim Gallagher all would not take any part in the weekend’s racing, the latter three all out after making contact with the unforgiving concrete walls exiting the treacherous slippery surface out of Turn 2.
The 944 field were first up on track on Saturday morning, with the track still wet from overnight rains, though the rain held off, which allowed for some competitive times toward the end of the session.
Cameron Beller was the most daring on his first flying lap, and ran a time 5 seconds faster than the next closest lap, his 1:39.4810 was a huge distance ahead of second fastest Lyndon Watson who ran a 1:44.4680. Jamie Westaway was third quickest with a 1:44.9126 with Mark Taubitz fourth with a 1:46.2488. Michael Westaway was a little further behind in fifth with a 1:49.7221 ahead of the returning Codey West sixth with a 1:49.9751, just ahead of Andrew Jackman in seventh with a 1:49.9805. Keith Marriner was next with a 1:53.5259, with Jim Mitchell rounding out the runners with a 1:53.9574.
Beller lowered his time on the second lap with a 1:37.4997 as the track started to get some temperature in it, with the remainder of the field starting to shrink the gap to they flying #1. Jamie Westaway moved into second position with a 1:41.8091, with Watson dropping to third with a 1:42.9497. Codey West moved up to fourth position with a 1:45.9631 with Taubitz dropping back to fifth after having a spin in the sweeper as he pushed the limits of the track grip, but found his way back onto the circuit to resume without any further incident.
Andrew Jackman moved to sixth with a 1:46.4752 ahead of Michael Westaway’s 1:47.2640. Mitchell moved to eighth with a 1:50.2064 with Marriner back to ninth with a 1:51.1749
Beller lowered his benchmark by a further two tenths of a second on his third lap with a 1:37.2090, while Jamie Westaway closed the gap significantly with a 1:38.4531. Watson recorded a 1:41.7479 to just remain ahead of Taubitz who moved back to fourth with a 1:41.8044, with West back to fifth with a 1:43.2724. Michael Westaway moved back to sixth with a 1:44.4286 while Jackman recorded a 1:45.6592 back in seventh, ahead of Mitchell who recorded a 1:46.6299 with Marriner running a 1:50.5012 in ninth.
Westaway closed the gap to Beller to less than a second on his fourth lap with a 1:38.1080, while Watson, Taubitz and West all improved but remained in the same positions, though much closer now as Watson’s 1:41.2286 headed Taubitz’s 1:41.5453 and West closing the margin with a 1:41.9005. Michael Westaway also closed the gap right up with a 1:42.0189, with Jackman remaining seventh with a 1:44.9665, while Marriner dipped under the 1:50’s with a 1:49.9320.
Beller was pushing the limits also in his attempt to find more speed and also had a spin at the sweeper, also rejoining with no issues but chose to pit to re-pressurise his tyres, while Jamie Westaway closed the gap to less than two tenths of a second with a 1:37.3751 time.
The battle for third continued to be closely fought as Watson lowered his time with a 1:40.3904, with West up to fourth with a 1:40.7111 ahead of Taubitz who slipped back to fifth with a 1:40.8304. Michael Westaway was just behind with a 1:41.6511, while Jim Mitchell moved up to seventh with a 1:44.6800, displacing Jackman to eighth.
West moved himself up to third position next time around as he was the next to dip under the 1:40 second bracket with a 1:39.8744, while Watson pitted and Michael Westaway moved right behind Taubitz with a 1:40.9368. Jackman moved back to seventh with a 1:43.4583, just ahead of Mitchell who ran a 1:43.5357 in what would be his best lap, unable to better that over his next few laps. Marriner was slowly lowering his times as he ran a 1:49.5644, still in nith position.
Jamie Westaway moved into the top spot on the next lap as he moved ahead of Beller with a 1:37.0214, while Taubitz moved up to third with a 1:38.9372. West improved further with a 1:39.4774, with Michael Westaway improving slightly with a 1:40.8179. Marriner began to find some more pace as he ran a 1:46.0306 though remained in ninth.
Beller was quick to respond and recorded his fastest lap with 1 :36.4019 to reclaim the provisional pole position with a time he wouldn’t improve on in his remaining two laps. West moved himself just ahead of Taubitz on his next lap with a 1:38.9155 in his best time for the session, with Watson running a 1:39.5185 in fifth position with Michael Westaway running a 1:40.0012 still in sixth. Jackman improved slightly with a 1:43.2450 to strengthen his hold on seventh spot.
Jamie Westaway improved again running a 1:36.6834 to close to within a quarter of a second to Beller, with Watson improving his time with a 1:39.0628 in his fastest lap for the session, just behind West & Taubitz. Marriner meanwhile found another half a second to run a 1:45.5603. West & Taubitz meanwhile were running line astern and both on track for fast laps when they both slipped off the circuit on the penultimate corner, with both choosing to enter pit lane.
The chequered flag flew soon after, and Jamie Westaways final lap was a further improvement, though not enough to best Beller, his 1:36.5686 falling just short of a maiden Pole Position which went to Beller yet again, with West and Taubitz rounding out the second row. Michael Westaway improved on his final lap, though his 1:39.2337 wasn’t enough to bounce Watson out of fifth position, and he would remain in sixth.
Jackman ran his fastest lap on the final circuit with a 1:43.0228, with Keith Marriner pushing his way ahead of Jim Mitchell on his last lap with a two second improvement, a 1:43.2997 moving him to eighth position.
The upcoming weather forecast was looking bleak, so setups and tyre pressures for the first nine lap race of the weekend would be crucial!