Race Results and Reports from the 2017 944 Challenge Series.
Race 4 was the final race for the weekend, and 11 cars fronted for the race start with Marius Catrina packing up early unable to make the last race.
The two key protagonists for the round in Cameron Beller and Chris Lewis-Williams were even off the start as they went side-by-side through turn 1, with Beller edging ahead through turn 2. Lewis-Williams was able to get a good exit though and put himself in a good position on the run to turn 3, as the two cars were neck and neck all the way down the back sweeper on the way to the hairpin.
Lewis-Williams prevailed with the inside line through the hairpin to emerge in the lead, with Beller slotting into second position. Tony Westaway was third, from Ken Rowland and Michael Westaway in fourth and fifth positions. The top two ran neck and neck down the back straight, but Lewis-Williams cleared Beller with the inside run to the hairpin corner.
Ryan Woods and Dick Howe resumed their race 3 battle, with Howe initially moving to sixth as the pair were again side by side for sixth position. Toni Andreevski was up to eighth position, after rounding up Mark Taubitz who initially jumped well, but the car jumped out of gear, and he dropped back to ninth from his sixth position on the grid. In behind Taubitz was John Vainoras, moving ahead of Keith Marriner who was baulked by Taubitz on the run to turn one.
As the field rounded turn three, Rowland had a slide on cold tyres which allowed Michael Westaway through to fourth position, while Howe also got a run on him and nosed ahead down the back straight. Being on the outside of the track however, he wasn’t able to hold the position, and his compromised exit from the hairpin allowed Woods to range alongside and pull off the pass for sixth under brakes for turn seven.
Behind them, Marriner made a move on Vainoras for tenth position under brakes for the hairpin, while Taubitz passed Andreevski for eighth spot under brakes for the turn seven hairpin, puling the move off through the final two corners.
Beller was determined to make up for his race 2 and 3 issues and was looking for a way past Lewis-Williams, the pair not separated by more than a few tenths of a second the entire race as they pulled out a comfortable lead on the Westaways, with Tony forced to defend his third position quite against Michael right behind him in fourth. Rowland was being kept company by Ryan Woods in the early running having to keep the #17 at bay.
Marriner moved up to ninth position on lap two as he repeated his pass from the previous lap, this time on Toni Andreevski, while Dick Howe was struggling with some gear issues, as Taubitz moved around him as they crossed the line to complete the second lap.
Taubitz was closing on the battle in front of him between Rowland and Woods, and ranged onto the back of Woods, looking for a way past before encountering issues as the duo exited the hairpin on lap 7, with the #74 car coming to a halt on the infield where he would spectate the second half of the race.
Lewis-Williams was able to resist the relentless pressure from Beller to hold on and take the victory at the end of the 12 laps – which, while tying with Beller for points, would award him the round victory by virtue of his win in the final feature race for the round.
Beller couldn’t find a way through to snatch victory, and had to settle for second position, though retained his points lead exiting the round with two rounds remaining for the 2017 season.
Monopolising the third position placings for the entire weekend was Tony Westaway, although he found himself facing the biggest challenge for the position that he had for the entire weekend in the closing stages of this race, from his brother Michael Westaway, Tony was able to hold on for the spot.
Michael Westaway had great pace in this final race and closed right onto Tony in the latter stages of the race, but didn’t find away to get himself onto the podium and settled for fourth position.
Fifth position for both the race, and the weekend was Ken Rowland. Ken wasn’t quite able to keep pace with the Westaways in front, and once he was able to move away from the early challenge from behind courtesy of Ryan Woods he consolidated for the fifth spot, with Ryan securing sixth position for both the race, and also for the weekend with a solid performance in his first weekend back in the 944 Challenge.
Seventh for the race, and again – for the weekend, was Dick Howe. Dick moved back up to seventh and managed to sort his vehicle issues following Taubitz’ retirement, but he was unable to close the gap to Woods in front.
Finishing in eighth position (again, for the weekend also) was Keith Marriner. Marriner also benefitted from Taubitz’ retirement to move into eighth position, and then was able to focus on keeping Toni Andreevski behind him to the end of the race.
Toni Andreevski ran a strong race and finished off his first race weekend commendably – and managed to improve his best laptime for the weekend by a full second in the final race. He was impressive with his improvement in pace over the four races – with more clearly to be unlocked in the races ahead.
John Vainoras was tenth and the final finisher for the race as he maintained his 100% finishing record. Proving how important consistancy and finishing races is in the points tally, John finds himself sitting in seventh position in the 944 Points at present after 5 rounds – a fantastic achievement.
The only DNF in the the final race was Mark Taubitz, in what has been a forgettable few rounds for him. Initial reports was that something letting go in the driveline of the car causing a huge racket and vibration which left him unable to continue.
So two rounds remain for 2017, and we head to Phillip Island at the end of September for Round 6, which is also the final round of the Vic State Series. Cameron Beller is the favourite to secure the Vic State Series Title for 2017 as he enters with a 35 point advantage.
The battle is wide open in the 944 Series Title with the top 5 drivers in with a chance at securing the title if things fall their way. Strange things have happened in the final rounds in previous years! Head down to Phillip Island on Grand Final weekend!