Race Results and Reports from the 2017 944 Challenge Series.
A very frosty and chilly Winters morning at Winton as the 944 Challenge field prepared for the second race of Round 3 on Sunday morning saw the teams and drivers thawing out their race cars prior to their 9:10 race start for a 7 lap hitout.
A victim of the cold weather was Dick Howe – who actually overheated his car (!) in preparation for the race prior to pre-grid and would watch from the sidelines. Chris Lewis-Williams was also out for the weekend after his Race 1 engine drama, though making the trip up to Winton to start Race 2 from the rear of the grid was Mark Taubitz after missing out on Saturdays action.
Cameron Beller was able to get the jump on Vince Misuraca at the start and lead into Turn 1 from Tony and Michael Westaway behind in fourth and fifth positions. Lyndon Watson got the jump into fifth position ahead of Codey West, with Sam Rofe behind in seventh. Moving up to eighth position from the back of the grid was Mark Taubitz with a great start, with Keith Marriner in behind ahead of Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras. Not going more than a few metres from the start line was the luckless Pedr James, while this time he was at least able to take the starters orders, a driveshaft failure meant he rolled to a stop at pit exit.
The midfield battle was where the closest battle was and Sam Rofe provided the first bout of excitement as he locked a brake entering turn 11 for the first time, spinning to the apex of the corner and forcing the following cars of Taubitz, Marriner, Mitchell and Vainoras to take the long way around as he recovered in eleventh and last position.
West was looking for a way past Watson for fifth position, while Taubitz quickly closed the gap to them to make it a three way tussle, as Rofe moved his way back past Vainoras into tenth position.
On lap 3 Watson made a small mistake and picked up an inside wheel on the exit of turn 9 which pushed his car wide, allowing West to pull alongside with Taubitz looking for a way through also. Watson on the inside braked early for Turn 10 allowing West and Taubitz to follow through for position and slotted in behind them both. One corner later, West slowed exiting Turn 11, and Taubitz moved to the inside, however there was contact at the apex, which spun the #77 car around and forced Taubitz to the grass with some steering damage. Watson also took to the grass to avoid West though unfortunately spun on his return to the track, allowing the following Marriner through between the spinning Porsches into sixth position. Watson recovered to resume behind him in seventh, ahead of Rofe, Mitchell, and West down to tenth with Vainoras in eleventh.
The top four was largely spread apart with Beller aiming to try to retake back his lap record with Misuraca a few seconds back, with larger gaps to Tony, and then Michael Westaway. Taubitz was next nursing his wounded car and maintaining the gap to Marriner, with Watson closing on the back of him. West meanwhile moved back up to ninth on lap 4 with a pass on Mitchell, and then eighth the following lap at the expense of Rofe who had a drama, slipping to ninth.
Beller was unable to dip into the 33’s to take back the lap record he held previously, falling two tenths of a second short as he raced to his second victory from Vince Misuraca, Tony Westaway and Michael Westaway with Mark Taubitz in fifth position.
Lyndon Watson moved into sixth position on the final lap with a pass on Marriner, with Marriner just holding on to seventh place crossing the line a bumper ahead of West in eighth position. Rofe reconciled in ninth place ahead of Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the field in eleventh.
With the top two having a pace advantage over the rest of the field, could Misuraca gain the advantage for Race 3, or could the Westaways or one of the others move up to challenge for the final 10 lap race?