2017 Race Results & Reports

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Race Results and Reports from the 2017 944 Challenge Series.

Round 3. Winton – Race 2

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?

         

Round 3. Winton – Race 1

As the cars gridded up for Race 1 on Saturday afternoon, the field was reduced down to 12 as Pedr James​ encountered issues with the ECU in his car and he stopped out on track as the rest of the field completed their warm-up lap – gut wrenching after securing his highest qualifying position of his career.

When the lights went out it was Cameron Beller who got the best start as he led into the first corner, ahead of Vince Misuraca in second position with Chris Lewis-Williams in third place.

Tony Westaway slotted into fourth from Dick Howe in fifth, Michael Westaway in sixth and Lyndon Watson in seventh.

Codey West dropped down to eighth from his second row start position, ahead of Sam Rofe and Keith Marriner rounding out the top ten, in front of Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras.

As the field came to the end of the first lap, disaster struck for Lewis-Williams, with a major engine failure ending his race, and his weekend prematurely. With the points so close this would put a major dent in his State Series Title aspirations for this season.

Howe unfortunately also stopped on lap 2 as the third retirement from the race, allowing Michael Westaway up to fourth, ahead of West, who also overtook Watson to move into fifth position, with Watson sixth, then Rofe, Marriner, Vainoras and Mitchell – who would also retire on the next lap with some gearshift issues.

The remainder of the race was a relatively straight forward affair, as Beller was able to hold the lead for the duration of the eight laps to record his fifth win of the season, ahead of Vince Misuraca, who was able to take some consolation in securing the Lap record as he ran a 1:33.9848 on the fifth lap to take the lap record away from Beller.

Unable to keep up with the top two was Tony Westaway, but delighted with a third place finish for the race in the Westbon Porsche, finishing ahead of Michael Westaway in fourth position a couple of seconds adrift of his brother.

Rounding out the top 5 in his first 944 Challenge race was the impressive Codey West, right behind Michael Westaway but unable to find a way past.

Watson was next in a relatively lonely race on his way to sixth position, after West past him Watson consolidated the spot with a large gap either side of him to the finish.

Seventh was Sam Rofe in his return race with a gap back behind Watson, with Keith Marriner finishing in eighth position a few seconds adrift on Rofe.

The ninth and final finisher of the race was John Vainoras, in a relatively lonely race also on his way to his best position to date.

Would the attrition keep up over the two Sunday races? An early start for a quick 7 laps on Sunday at 9am!

         

Round 3. Winton – Qualifying

A smaller entry field for Round 3 of the State Race Series with 14 cars entering for the weekend held under some very chilly, but clear skies – although only 13 cars would hit the track for qualifying early on Saturday morning:

In the pit paddock, but with no driver to be seen was the #74 Zantek car of Mark Taubitz – work commitments keeping him away from the circuit on Saturday, but he would make his way to the circuit on Sunday to line up from the back of the grid for Race 2.

Chris Lewis-Williams topped the time sheets as the first competitive laps were run with his 1:34.8293 edging out Cameron Bellers’ 1:35.0494 and Vince Misuraca in third with a 1:36.6437.

Debutante Codey West was an impressive fourth fastest with a 1:37.0399 ahead of Tony Westaway with a 1:38.9010, with Dick Howe sixth on a 1:39.9971.

Sam Rofe returned to the track for the first time in 18 months and was seventh quickest after his first lap, his 1:41.2786 edging out eighth fastest Pedr James with a 1:41.6161, and Michael Westaway ninth with a 1:42.3007

Tenth was Jim Mitchell with a 1:44.2406, just ahead of Keith Marriner in eleventh with a 1:44.3324. John Vainoras was twelfth with a 1:48.3947 with Lyndon Watson last with a 1:51.4660.

Beller moved to the top of the order on his second lap with a blistering 1:33.9777, dropping Lewis-Williams to second as he ran a 1:34.6199, while Misuraca improved to a 1:35.6636.

Tony Westaway improved to a 1:37.4348 but stayed fifth behind West, as Howe also stayed sixth despite his improvement with a 1:38.5776. Michael Westaway moved up to seventh with a 1:39.5082 ahead of Rofe and James, while Marriner moved to tenth with a 1:42.4199, just ahead of Mitchell now on a 1:43.0596 in eleventh.

Vainoras and Watson both improved with 1:47.4284 and 1:51.0829 laps respectively to hold their positions.

Beller improved by half a tenth of a second on his third fast lap with a 1:33.9229, while Misuraca moved to second as he ran a 1:34.2331 to displace Lewis-Williams who was now on a 1:34.6199.

Tony Westaway moved to fourth with a 1:35.5491, dropping West to fifth with a 1:36.4509. Michael Westaway found two seconds to move into sixth with a 1:37.4958, pushing Howe back to seventh after running a 1:37.8645.

Lyndon Watson vaulted into eighth with his first quick time, a 1:38.0233 to be just ahead of James, ninth with 1:38.0797. Rofe was tenth after turning a 1:39.2142, with Marriner improving to a 1:40.3842 in eleventh. Mitchell and Vainoras both continued to improve with respectively laps of 1:42.9377 and 1:46.6867.

Beller lowered his fastest time by a further two tenths of a second next time around with a 1:33.7195, while Misuraca also went quicker with a 1:34.0343, as did Lewis-Williams – only a hundredth of a second behind with a 1:34.0457. Lewis-Williams wasn’t able to improve on this time however, and would line up third on the grid for Race 1.

Tony Westaway and Codey West both lowered their times as they recorded 1:35.2279 and 1:36.0324 laps to retain their positions in fourth and fifth, while James moved up to sixth with a 1:36.8428.

Michael Westaway was now seventh, but improved his time with a 1:37.0503, with Howe also improving to a 1:37.2436, as did Mitchell (1:42.3077) and Vainoras (1:45.6726)

Next time around, Tony Westaway ran his fastest lap of the session with a 1:35.0373, while West improved to a 1:35.3891 in fifth. Rofe moved up to ninth position with a 1:37.5091 in what was his fastest lap for qualifying, as Mitchell again lapped a second quicker with a 1:41.2723.

Beller cemented his position at the front of the field as he lowered the marker by another half a tenth, a 1:33.6549 was enough to secure him the pole position spot for Race 1.

Michael Westaway recorded his fastest lap for the session as he went a further six tenths of a second quicker with a 1:36.4030 to move ahead of James to sixth, Howe improved marginally with a 1:37.2021, and Watson improved by half a second and secured his tenth position on the grid with a 1:37.5653 in his fastest time for the session.

Mitchell also improved again with a 1:41.0540, and the following lap moved to eleventh as he ran his fastest time for the session with a 1:39.6769, just ahead of Marriner who also dipped into the sub 1:40 bracket to be right behind Mitchell with a 1:39.6877, while Vainoras also further improved by another second with a 1:44.6769.

Codey West moved himself onto the second row of the grid on the following lap with a superb 1:34.8601 lap to put him into fourth, Howe moved up to seventh with a 1:36.4984 as James improved slightly with a 1:36.6693, though was pushed back to eighth, while Marriner also improved with a 1:38.9337.

Misuraca hadn’t given up on trying to snatch the pole spot from Beller, but while he improved with his fastest time on 1:33.9909, it wasn’t enough for the #1 spot and he would line up alongside Beller on the front row.

James also hadn’t given up, and improved to a 1:36.2504 to put him into an excellent sixth position, a great return after the unfortunate collision which sidelined him in Race 2 at Phillip Island, as Vainoras ran his fastest lap of qualifying, with a 1:43.6491.

The final couple of improvements by James and Marriner didnt change their positions in the order, as James recorded a 1:36.2247 and Marriner ran a 1:38.5017.

Race 1 would be 8 laps held on Saturday afternoon,with Beller and Misuraca on the front row ahead of Lewis-Williams and the impressive West. Who would take the first race win for the weekend?

   

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 3

The final race for the weekend was a 10 lap affair on Sunday afternoon, with reigning 2016 Champion Cameron Beller having his sights set on making it 3 wins from 3 races.

Beller made the best start from pole position as he attempted to repeat his race 1 performance, with Vince Misuraca again getting the jump on Chris Lewis-Williams to move up to second, with Lewis-Williams back to third.

Brad Winter tucked in for fourth again ahead of Tony Westaway in fifth, Robert Lange in sixth, then Michael Westaway in seventh and Dick Howe in eighth. Mark Taubitz was up to ninth after a good start, ahead of Jim Gallagher, who didn’t get a good start dropping down to tenth position. Ben Raphael was into eleventh ahead of Marius Catrina who also got a bad start and dropped back to twelfth with Rob Holding, Lyndon Watson, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras in sixteenth position rounding out the field.

Unfortunately missing was Peter Doherty, with his car again suffering from the starting issues on pre grid as in Race 2, although this time was unable to make the race start at all.

Lewis-Williams was shadowing Misuraca on lap one looking for a way past before Beller could pull out a gap, and he again made his move under brakes for MG corner on lap 1 to move back into second position.

On the exit of MG corner, Howe’s car went around in a cloud of tyre smoke as he attempted to keep the car facing the right way, but it went around dropping him back to last position. Following behind, Taubitz was slightly baulked and made a small mistake, allowing Gallagher to pass entering the final corner to move into eighth position.

Robert Lange moved into fifth position around Tony Westaway to start lap 2, as Taubitz closed back onto Gallagher with ideas of moving back up from ninth position. As the paid approached MG the rears locked on the #74 Zantek car and Taubitz moved the car onto the infield grass, sliding at a 90 degree angle to the corner before he drove on from the slide before coming to a stop, but dropped behind Raphael, Catrina, Holding and Watson, back into thirteenth position. Behind him, Howe had moved up to fourteenth after re-passing Vainoras and Mitchell.

Marius Catrina got a good run on Raphael down the front straight to end Lap 2 and moved himself into ninth position, while Holding also passed Raphael into Turn 2 to move into tenth. Raphael got a bad run onto the main straight which allowed Watson to pass as they crossed the line for the third time, while Catrina had a huge brake lock up into Honda corner which gave an invitation for Holding to move up to ninth. and Watson to tenth. Catrina recovered to eleventh as Raphael tried to take the spot back, the two cars side by side leading to Hayshed, with Taubitz immediately behind. Catrina held the spot but again locked up into MG, compromising Raphael as he rounded turn 11, allowing Taubitz to pounce and take tewelfth position.

Catrina was struggling with his right front tyre now and he again locked up into Honda on lap 5, allowing Taubitz alongside on the run to Siberia. The two cars rounded Siberia side by side before Taubitz backed out entering Hayshed corner. Under brakes for MG Catrina again locked up, this time sending him into a spin and dropping him back to fourteenth behind Howe and Raphael who had just swapped positions also.

There was action up front as Lewis-Williams was hounding Beller, and was able to make a move past for the lead of the race, the first time Beller had been headed in any of the races.

Watson was able to pass Holding on Lap 6 to move him into ninth position, while Howe got a good enough run on Taubitz after Catrinas spin to help him sail past into eleventh. That would be short lived however as Howes car started encountering an issue, and Taubitz moved back past exiting Honda corner.

In the lead pack, Brad Winter made his move into a podium position as he passed Misuraca on Lap 7, while Tony Westaway also moved back past Robert Lange for fifth, while Taubitz moved himself back int the top ten passing Holding down the main straight to begin Lap 8.

The troubles Howe was experiencing became too much to persevere with as he retired his car, as did Catrina, both on lap 8.

The following lap and Winter was able to harass Beller and take the second position as Beller was struggling with the feel of his car, and he conceded the position, while Taubitz moved back up to ninth with a pass on Watson under brakes for Honda corner.

Across the line it was Chris Lewis-Williams who ended Bellers winning streak with his first victory of the year, which combined with two second place finishes enabled him to take the honours for the Round in the State Series Pointscore for the weekend.

Brad Winter scored his best ever race result in second, a fantastic effort in which he also recorded the fastest lap of the race, crossing the line two seconds behind Lewis-Williams.

Cameron Beller was able to consolidate for third position, and hung on to the round win in the 944 Challenge points by one point due to his two race wins

Finishing in fourth, just unable to push Beller off the podium was Vince Misuraca, crossing the line only a tenth of a second behind Beller.

Rounding out the top five was the ever consistent Tony Westaway, with Robert Lange right behind him in sixth position. Michael Westaway was 10 seconds adrift in seventh position for the race, as well as the round after a lonely race, with a 20 second gap back to Jim Gallagher, also a lonely race after Lap 2 on his way to eighth position for both the race and round.

Next across the line was Mark Taubitz, but was handed down a 1 minute post race penalty due to speeding in the pit lane on the formation lap after getting blocked in the pre-grid by the non firing car of Doherty, and frustrated after a good recovery from his early slide. The penalty dropping him to twwlfth, though still enough to be classified ninth outright for the weekend.

Elevated to Ninth was Lyndon Watson, a strong result in his first foray in the 944 Challenge which helped him to tenth outright in series points for the weekend – a great effort!

Tenth position was Rob Holding, very happy to earn a top ten result in his first visit to the Phillip Island circuit, and only his second 944 event, another great result.

Moving back up to eleventh position was Ben Raphael, ecstatic after having his best showing to date with some great battles throughout the weekend at the return to the round he made his debut at last year.

The final two finishers were Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras who were together for the first few laps before Vainoras had a small mistake which dropped him off the tail of the #46 944, but noth happy to record three finishes for the weekend.

As Round 2 closes, its clear that its shaping up to be another season that will go down to the final round! With 6 weeks to the third round at Winton, the drivers and teams will all be working hard to see who can gain the advantage at the tight country track!

         

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 2

The rain clouds stayed away on Sunday morning as the field prepared for a quick six lap blast that was Race 2 of the second round of the 944 Challenge at Phillip Island.

Cameron Beller was again quickest off the start and led into turn 1, with Vince Misuraca running in his tyre tracks with a great start to follow him into Turn 1. Brad Winter also got a good start and was third, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams who didn’t get a good start, and dropped back to fourth place.

Robert Lange was next ahead of the inseparable Westaway brothers, with Michael this time getting the better start and leading Tony through turn 1. Ken Rowland followed in eighth position, ahead of Pedr James in ninth, and Mark Taubitz in tenth after completely missing the start and lucky not to drop further back.

Jim Gallagher was next ahead of a fast starting Ben Raphael, with Rob Holding behind him. Marius Catrina remained in fourteenth with Dick Howe in fifteenth after his rear of grid start. Peter Doherty was in sixteenth after being forced to start off the rear and had Lyndon Watson behind him in seventeenth position with Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras behind them.

Gallagher locked a brake into Honda corner and lost two spots to Raphael who moved up to eleventh, and Holding up to twelfth while Lewis-Williams moved back up to third position with a pass on Winter under brakes into MG corner.

At the front of the field, the positions were status quo as Beller was able to slowly increase his gap to Misuraca and Lewis-Williams while Winter also just slipped off the tail of the top 3. Meanwhile, all of the position changes were happening in the second half of the field!

Gallagher was able to get back to twelfth position with a pass on Holding as they crested the top of Lukey Heights, and then back to eleventh with a pass on Raphael into turn 1 at the start of lap 2, and Catrina moved up to thirteenth with a pass on Holding under brakes for Honda corner. although he left the circuit just after and dropped back to seventeenth position again behind Holding, Howe, Watson and Doherty, while Howe then passed Holding and Raphael down the front straight to end the second lap.

Catrina moved back ahead of Doherty for sixteenth before Taubitz – who was battling a very loose car, spun entering Honda corner, dropping him back to seventeenth position. This elevated Gallagher to tenth and Howe into eleventh position, while Raphael was now twelfth with Holding still on his tail, and Watson in fourteenth ahead of Catrina and Doherty. Watson would have a moment in turn 11 however, dropping to seventeenth position behind Catrina, Doherty and Taubitz.

Lap 4 and Pedr James was able to make a move for eighth position on Ken Rowland, while Howe moved himself into the top ten with a pass on Gallagher.

The following lap and Lewis-Williams was able to get back to the second position with a pass on Misuraca, and there was further action at Honda corner, as Michael Westaway made a move on Lange which unfortunately ended in a spin for both cars. This elevated Tony Westaway to fifth position, with James now up to sixth with Rowland seventh.

Unfortunately for the latter two, their race – and weekend came to a close a few corners later. As Rowland was attempting to retake the position from James his car slipped off the track on the outside of Lukey heights as they crested the hill. With the wet grass from the rain across the weekend the car slid down the hill and entered the track again on the exit to MG corner – backwards.

As James rounded MG, he was struck in the rear by the rear of the sliding car of Rowland, putting both out on the spot as the two right rear corners of their 944’s made contact. A testament to the strength of the cars is that both will be repaired and expected on the grid at Winton for Round 3.

This elevated Michael Westaway back into the sixth position that he started the lap in, with Lange seventh, Howe to eighth position, with the rest of the field also moving up two positions also.

Beller was able to hold station out front and take a strong second victory for the weekend, with Lewis-Williams and Misuraca rounding out the Race 2 podium in a repeat of the Race 1 results.

Winter was again fourth, from Tony Westaway, Michael Westaway, Lange, and Gallagher, able to move back into eighth after Howe encountered some shifting issues on the final lap, but recovered to finish ninth just behind him.

Holding moved up to tenth position as he started the last lap dropping Raphael to eleventh, which became twelfth when Catrina also made a move past Raphael on the run to Honda corner. Holding unfortunately made a mistake at Honda and spun off, dropping him back to fourteenth position behind Taubitz, which moved Catrina up into the tenth position which he was able to hold to the end.

Doherty was able to capitalise when Holding had his moment also, and moved past Raphael into eleventh position into Siberia, pushing car #29 back to twelfth, where he finished the race.

Thirteenth was Taubitz, who was not able to run to his usual pace in the race with some car stability issues, with Holding and Watson crossing the line in fourteenth and fifteenth.

Sixteenth was Mitchell, crossing the line a few seconds clear of John Vainoras, both drivers improving substantially on their Race 1 laps times as they continue to find pace aroung the fast Phillip Island layout.

Beller had now won four races in a row – would he be able to make it five in a row at Race 3?

         

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 1

With so little separating the front row protagonists in qualifying for Round 2, a lot would depend on who could get the best start on the way to Turn 1 for Race 1. Off the line it was Cameron Beller who prevailed after he and Chris Lewis-Williams ran side by side through turns 1 & 2, with Vince Misuraca following them through in third position.

The following quartet of Brad Winter, Robert Lange, Tony Westaway and Dick Howe all maintained their grid position off the start, with Mark Taubitz getting a good start from tenth on the grid to jump up to eighth position ahead of Michael Westaway and Pedr James in tenth.

Ken Rowland was next from Jim Gallagher, Peter Doherty, Rob Holding, Lyndon Watson, Marius Catrina, Ben Raphael, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras as the field exited Southern Loop for the first time.

Howe made a move to the inside of Westaway under brakes into Honda for the first time, and the two ran side-by-side from Honda all the way through to Hayshed before Howe was able to take command of sixth position.

Behind them, James held on to the outside of Southern Loop alongside Michael Westaway and used the momentum to clear him on the run to Honda, towing Jim Gallagher along behind him, moving up to tenth position relegating Westaway to eleventh ahead of Rowland, Doherty, Holding and then Catrina ahead of Watson, after they swapped position on the run out of Southern Loop.

Gallagher moved up to ninth with a strong move under brakes into MG, moving underneath James which sent him back to tenth. It wasn’t over by a long shot though as James and Westaway moved either side of Gallagher on the run down the front straight into turn 1, though Gallagher held strong to maintain ninth for now. Behind him, Westaway made a last minute move under brakes into Honda corner to overtake James and move back to tenth position, and then repeated the move the following lap on Gallagher putting him ninth.

Behind them, Holding was looking to make a move on Doherty but overcooked it under brakes and gyrated the Pellicano Builders backed 944, dropping him to sixteenth position behind Catrina and Watson. Jim Mitchell also had an off road excursion at Honda corner, dropping him behind Vainroas.

Up front meanwhile, Winter also made a pass into Honda corner, passing Misuraca to move into a podium position.

Lap 4 and Michael Westaway continued his charge forward, passing Taubitz down the front straight to move him up to eighth position, while the following lap James moved back to tenth when he made a move under Gallagher under brakes for Honda corner.

As the field started lap 6 some raindrops started to appear on the windscreens of the cars as some backed off more than others, and Misuraca was able to make his way back into the third position when he passed Winter. Behind them, the #8 944 of Dick Howe found himself off the track exiting Southern Loop and into retirement, a great shame after a strong drive where he was able to keep Tony Westaway at bay for sixth position.

Up at the front, Beller was able to eke out a gap across the second half of the race with Lewis-Williams unable to stick with him, and consolidating for second place. Misuraca was able to keep Winter at bay for the final podium position, with Lange immediately on Winters’ tail, crossing the line in fifth.

The Westaway brothers were next, with Tony crossing the line in sixth ahead of Michael in seventh only a few seconds behind.

In the battle for eight position, James had honed onto the back of Taubitz and was looking to make a move for what was now eighth place after Howe’s retirement. He made a couple of attempts down the main straight as well as under brakes for MG corner on lap 7 before he was able to get a tow down the front straight as they started the last lap to take the position under brakes for turn 1, with Gallagher right in behind with a watching brief, ready to capitalise.

Taubitz had a strong run coming out of Southern Loop and was able to pull to the inside of James as they entered Honda for the final time, with Gallagher immediately behind. All three braked late, with Gallagher spinning off under brakes, as James also spun as he turned in with a little bit too much speed, leaving Taubitz to cruise through and take the eight position, with Ken Rowland the biggest winner, moving up to ninth place. James was able to recover to finish tenth, ahead of Gallagher in eleventh.

Peter Doherty was a few seconds behind Gallagher in twelfth position, with Watson in thirteenth, after managing to make his way past Catrina for the position on the final lap. Holding was next in fifteenth position, with a gap back to Raphael in sixteenth. Vainoras held on for seventeenth ahead of Mitchell who was the final finisher, with Howe the only DNF.

Two races were still to come on Sunday a quick 6 lap race in the morning with a longer 10 lap race in the afternoon.

         

Round 2. Phillip Island – Qualifying

Saturday morning saw 19 Porsche 944s line up for qualifying for Round 2 of the 944 Challenge for 2017.

Fast man out of the gate was Chris Lewis-Williams, the only man to go under 1 minute 50 on the first flying lap with a 1:49.9033 to be fastest, ahead of Robert Lange with a 1:50.4577 to be second quickest ahead of Vince Misuraca (1:51.0712) Brad Winter (1:52.3091) and Cameron Beller (1:52.4138)

The Westaways were the next in line, Tony (1:53.1991) ahead of Michael (1:53.3738) with Mark Taubitz in 8th on a 1:53.7024 from Jim Gallagher’s 1:54.7074 and Pedr James with 1:54.9972 to be tenth after the first lap.

Dick Howe was next after recording a 1:55.2048 ahead of Ken Rowland’s 1:55.5212 with Rob Holding next in his first Phillip Island qualifying on a 1:56.9835, in front of Marius Catrina in fourteenth with a 1:57.2321.

Lyndon Watson was fifteenth in his first 944 qualifying session with a 2:00.2051, and was followed by Ben Raphael (2:01.0337) Peter Doherty (2:02.3976) and John Vainoras eighteenth quickest with a 2:10.6052 as he started his first Phillip Island race weekend.

Pulling off on his out lap was Jim Mitchell, after a troublesome Friday practice which resulted in some open heart surgery on the 944 powerplant, the car came to a halt exiting Siberia on his out lap. Fortunately for Jim, a badly connected lead was the culprit and he would be running again quickly, though not able to record a time and would start from the rear of the grid.

Lewis-Williams went quicker on the next lap to 1:49.0684 as Beller moved into second quickest with a 1:49.6944 ahead of Lange who was now on a 1:49.9996. Winter lowered his time to a 1:50.5218 to remain fourth fastest ahead of Misuraca now down to fifth after improving by four thousandths of a second with a 1:51.0670

Tony Westaway remained sixth as he improved his time to a 1:51.4462 with Taubitz moving to seventh with a 1:51.5493. Howe was up to eighth with a 1:51.8722, now ahead of Rowland on 1:52.3412 and Michael Westaway slipping to tenth with a 1:52.6548.

James was now eleventh with a 1:53.3447 ahead of Gallagher on 1:53.4732, and Watson moving up to thirteenth after recording a 1:55.7648. Holding was back one spot with a 1:55.9126 ahead of Doherty who moved to fifteenth with a 1:56.4544.

Raphael moved ahead of Catrina to be sixteenth with a 1:57.0490, as Vainoras lowered his time to a 2:09.2111

On his third flying lap Lewis-Williams lowered the benchmark lap time as he set a 1:48.8533, with Lange (1:49.7793), Winter (1:49.8601) and Misuraca (1:49.9415) all lowering their times but not changing position.

Tony Westaway moved in the 50’s with a 1:50.5639, as Ken Rowland found two tenths of a second with a 1:52.1571 though remained eight quickest. Pedr James also stayed eleventh despite improving with a 1:52.6750. Catrina moved up to thirteenth after recording a 1:55.1004 ahead of Doherty who was up to fourteenth with a 1:55.1098 and Holding fifteenth with a 1:55.3987, dropping Watson back to sixteenth.

Ben Raphael recorded what would be his fastest lap of the session with a 1:56.3637 which would leave him seventeenth fastest, with Vainoras dropping his time a further two seconds with a 2:07.1130.

Tony Westaway improved his time, albeit by a couple of thousandths of a second in sixth position, as Howe moved to seventh with a 1:50.9864. James moved up to eighth position with a 1:51.1658 ahead of Michael Westaway who was now ninth with a 1:51.4764, dropping Taubitz to tenth and Rowland to eleventh.

Gallagher improved his time in twelfth position to a 1:52.8406, as Doherty set his fastest lap of the session – a 1:54.4256 to move into fourteenth quickest.

Ken Rowland improved his time to a 1:51.5919 on the following lap, with Jim Gallagher also improving to a 1:52.6088 with what would be his fastest time of the session to consolidate twelfth position. Rob Holding moved back up to fourteenth after running a 1:54.4718 as Vainoras also improved by .4 of a second to a 2:06.7614.

On Lap 7 Michael Westaway improved his time and position to elevate to seventh with a 1:50.8728 which would be his fastest time for the session, as Ken Rowland also improved slightly with a 1:51.5789, also his fastest time for the session to lock in eleventh on the grid in front of Gallagher and Holding, who also locked down thirteenth on the grid with his fastest time of 1:53.8313.

Watson improved his time and moved up to fifteenth fastest behind Doherty with a 1:55.0037, as Vainoras dropped his PB by almost a second with a 2:05.8007

At the pointy end, Beller was making his attempt to snatch the provisional pole time, falling just short with a 1:48.9024 -less than half a tenth behind Lewis-Williams, as Misuraca leapt two spots up to third with a  1:49.4082.

Pedr James improved further with his fastest time of the session, a 1:51.0557, as Watson and Catrina both recorded their fastest times to lock in fourteenth and fifteenth on the grid, a 1:54.0486 and 1:54.3647 respectively pushing Doherty back to sixteenth position. Vainoras meanwhile sliced 2.5 seconds from his best time to date with a 2:03.2798.

Misuraca improved again, but only by one hundredth of a second to finish with a :149.3968, unable to improve further as the session neared its completion, as Winter moved up to join him on the second row with a 1:49.7113, pushing Lange back to fifth position with his fastest time for the session, as Vainoras also recorded his best time with a 2:02.9044.

Drivers were making a last ditch attempt to improve on their times on the final lap, with Beller improving on his time on the previous lap, but was still just off Lewis-Williams time which was able to earn him Pole Position, with Bellers 1:48.8638 only one hundredth of a second away from pole.

Tony Westaway improved on his final lap, but remained sixth fastest to share the third row of the grid with Robert Lange after he recorded a 1:50.3269 on his final tour, with Dick Howe moving up one spot to seventh fastest with a 1:50.6190 ahead of Michael Westaway, who was pushed back to eighth as a result.

Mark Taubitz also lowered his best time of the session on his final lap, but a 1:51.2922 not enough to get him ahead of James, with whom he would be sharing row 5 of the grid.

The skies looked threatening for Race 1, who would strike first blood in the first Island race for the year?

   

Round 1. Sandown – Race 3

All was dry for the final race of the weekend at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon after the unexpected moisture for race 2 – and all 22 cars that qualified on Saturday morning lined up to take the starters orders for the final race on Sunday afternoon.

It was even-stevens off the line amongst the front two rows on the race to turn 1 from the start, with Cameron Beller able to hold position as the leaders entered the corner, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams. Vince Misuraca and Brad Winter rounded turn 1 side-by-side with Misuraca able to take the third position with the inside line for turn 2.

Behind them in fifth position was Robert Lange, ahead of Dick Howe, Tony Westaway and Paul Crocitti in eighth position. Getting a great start from thirteenth on the grid was Michael Westaway, who took the ninth position ahead of Mark Taubitz in tenth.

Slotted into eleventh was Pedr James, with Ken Rowland in twelfth as they rounded turn 1, with a slow starting Jim Gallagher side-by-side with a fast starting Ross Millar through the corner. Marius Catrina was next from Peter Doherty, Keith Marriner, Rob Holding, Ben Raphael, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras. Paul Greer again made a strong start but pulled off very quickly, with his mechanical issues still not solved, he retired the #14 car.

On the short run to turn 2 there was some action mid pack as Ross Millar, Jim Gallagher and Ken Rowland were three wide on the approach to the corner, though Millar braked latest and with the inside line, took the twelfth position with Gallagher sweeping around the outside to move into thirteenth ahead of Rowland. Down the back straight, Gallagher then rounded up Millar with a bold move around the outside at the end of the back straight to move into 12th position, and began the chase of the cars in front of him.

Across the line the first time it was Beller, Lewis-Williams, Misuraca, Winter, Lange, Howe, T Westaway, Crocitti, M Westaway, Taubitz, James, Gallagher, Millar, Rowland, Catrina, Doherty, Marriner, Holding, Raphael, Mitchell and Vainoras.

The top 3 were close as the other cars found a bit of space as they settled in for the 10 lap race – up to the battle for eighth that is, with 7 cars all in close proximity. Behind that battle, Doherty was able to pass Catrina on lap 2 to move up to fifteenth position.

Michael Westway made a move to the head of the train when he passed Crocitti under brakes into turn 1 to start lap 3, and then began to scoot away from his pursuers.

The following lap, Lange made a move past Winter to move up into the fourth position, meanwhile Tony Westaway passed Howe for sixth position under brakes for turn 1. Just behind them, Taubitz repeated the move Westaway made on the previous lap and passed Crocitti into turn 1 to move into ninth place.

On the run to turn 2 both James and Gallagher had visions of capitalising on Crocitti’s compromised exit from turn 1 and 3 cars went into turn 2! 3 into (turn) 2 doesn’t go however, and Gallagher on the inside of the corner couldn’t hold the sharp line and bounced across the turn 3 infield grass, with Pedr James following him to cleverly avoid contact with the about to be airbourne #13 944. Gallagher rejoined the track having gained two positions in tenth, with Crocitti back to eleventh and James twelfth, with Millar and Rowland watching and waiting to capitalise behind them.

Down the back straight Crocitti pulled out and re-took tenth position from Gallagher, as Gallagher lifted from the throttle down the front straight as it appeared his grassy excursion had caused some further dramas, and he retired the car.

Up front and Beller was eking out a small gap to Lewis-Williams, while Lange was starting to close on the battle for second between Lewis-Williams and Misuraca, while Tony Westaway started making inroads on the gap up front of him to Winter.

Taubitz had closed back up to Michael Westaway, and made a lunge under brakes for turn 1. The two cars ran side-by-side through 1 and in the approach to 2 before Taubitz yielded, and Westaway held onto the position. Crocitti meanwhile, being harassed by James behind him, made a small error with a locked brake into Dandenong Road corner on lap 5, and allowed James to move alongside in the drag race to the final corners. James held tough on the outside of turn 11 which gave him the inside for turn 12, and secured the tenth position.

Two laps later it was deja vu, although this time the drivers roles were reversed – James going wide at Dandy Rd, Crocitti taking the left line and moving back to tenth position after going around the outside of turn 11 to get the inside run onto the main straight. James though, was now mechanically wounded, and the Millar/Rowland battle quickly caught and passed him in the run to turn 2, as did Catrina and Doherty, with Catrina having retaken the position he lost to Doherty on lap 2. Further back, Holding was experiencing some dramas and he lost the nineteenth position to Mitchell on lap 8.

Howe was trying hard to retake the sixth position back from Westaway but had a brake lock up into Dandenong Road corner and ventured across the gravel – fortunately he was able to continue, but lost a chance of taking the sixth position. What this did do though, was put him back into the clutches of Michael Westaway, who was still being relentlessly pursued by Taubitz.

James’ struggles saw him lose two further positions to Marriner and Raphael on lap 9, with Mitchell dropping him back to eighteenth on the final lap.

It was Cameron Beller though who took a lights to flag victory over Chris Lewis-Williams with a three second margin. Following close behind were Vince Misuraca and Robert Lange in fourth, a good recovery after dropping to last in the first race, but he was no doubt ruing the mistake.

Crossing the line fifth was Brad Winter, another solid round of results placing him fourth overall for the weekend, ahead of Tony Westaway who closed right onto his bumper at the finish, and who also had a strong weekend in which he was classified fifth outright.

The battle for seventh went right to the wire, as Michael Westaway and Taubitz were right behind Howe the last lap. Westaway made a move under brakes for turn 11, which he was able to pull off to take the seventh position. As Howes’ exit onto the main straight was then compromised, Taubitz was able to optimise his run out of the final corner and pulled alongside Howe as they approached the finish line, and crossed a mere .002 ahead of Howe to steal the eighth position at the finish.

Tenth across the line was Crocitti, narrowly ahead of Millar in eleventh position, with Rowland a couple of seconds further back in twelfth. Thirteenth and fourteenth positions went to Catrina and Doherty, separated by half a second across the line.

Fifteenth was a good result for Marriner, a could of seconds clear of Raphael in sixteenth position. Some way back was Mitchell in seventeenth, ahead of the ailing James, who managed to just hold out Holding as they ran to the line, with Vainoras being the final finisher. Only two DNF’s were Jim Gallagher after his off road expedition brought him unstuck, and the luckless Paul Greer, who will hopefully solve his car gremlins soon, as once they are sorted, the car will be a definite contender for top 10 results.

So Round 1 for 2017 is run and won, congrats to ALL entrants on a great clean and fun weekend of racing, now a chance to regroup and plan for Round 2 at Phillip Island in two months time!

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Round 1. Sandown – Race 2

The forecast for Sunday morning was for overcast but dry conditions, however to throw a curveball to the drivers there was some rain amongst the clouds, wetting the track a bit before the race. Although dry for the last 40 minutes or so before the race was due to commence, the rain started again as the field made its way around on the warm up lap, which would cause some drivers to groan in frustration, and others to grin with happiness.

As the lights went out the front row starters of Vince Misuraca and Cameron Beller slithered away from the startline but would both be overtaken before the first corner by the second row, with Brad Winter leading into turn 1 from fourth on the grid, with Chris Lewis-Williams up to second ahead of Beller in third with Misuraca dropping back to fourth.

Those that started on the outside line all seemed to get the traction advantage as Tony Westaway moved past Dick Howe into fifth, and Paul Crocitti moved into seventh behind Howe, and ahead of Mark Taubitz.

Getting a brilliant start was Robert Lange, and from his thirteenth position on the grid he was ninth going into the first corner, ahead of Jim Gallagher, Ken Rowland, Pedr James, Ross Millar, Jim Mitchell and Paul Greer who also made a fantastic start from 22nd on the grid up to fifteenth into turn 1. Following through was Peter Doherty, Michael Westaway, Marius Catrina, Rob Holding, Keith Marriner, Ben Raphael & John Vainoras.

There was all sorts of action in the mid pack as the field tippy-toed to turn 2, as James pulled clear of Rowland, and Millar then made a move to also pass Rowland under brakes for turn 2. Greer outrun Mitchell to turn 2 and followed Millar through past Rowland and then lunged underneath Millar himself to move up to twelfth, Greer gaining 10 spots in four corners!

A big slide from Howe coming out of turn 4 showed how greasy the track was, as Lange got a great run out of the corner and moved past Taubitz down the back straight and also moved inside Crocitti under brakes for the esses, moving him into seventh position.

Millar was struggling with wrong tyre pressures on the slippery track and was overtaken down the back straight by Rowland, Mitchell and Michael Westaway which dropped him back to sixteenth position ahead of Doherty and Catrina.

Into Dandenong Road corner Beller made a move on Lewis-Williams as the two cars went side-by-side through the corner with Beller prevailing as the field came to the last two corners for the first time.

Greer continued his charge with supreme confidence in the slippery conditions and passed James under brakes for Dandenong Road corner.

The last couple of corners were proving to be the most treacherous, as a number of cars had a moment as they tried to feed the power on for the run down the front straight – Taubitz having a big slide which he was able to recover, but allowed Gallagher to breeze past him down the straight. A slide on corner exit also for Greer, but the biggest casualty was Jim Mitchell, who unfortunately spun out of what was a strong fourteenth place, and dropped him to the back of the pack.

Howe made a move back into the top 5 when he passed Tony Westaway under brakes for turn 1 to commence lap 2, while Greer moved into the top ten as he passed Taubitz entering into turn 2 to start the second lap. Behind them, Rowland pulled alongside James under brakes for turn 1, ultimately prevailing to take twelfth position as the two drove side by side through turns 1 and 2.

As the sprinkles from above eased, Beller made his move into the lead, passing Winter with Lewis-Williams making his way into second also, while Catrina passed Doherty for sixteenth position, and Mitchell commenced his move back up through the field when he passed Vainoras.

Beller began stretching his legs and pulled a margin out over Lewis-Williams, who also began pulling out from Winter, who had Misuraca hot on his heels. There was a gap back to the next three cars of Howe, Westaway and Lange, with another gap to Crocitti, Gallagher, Greer, Taubitz, Rowland and James with Westaway just a bit behind. Catrina made a move on Millar for fifteenth place behind them under brakes for turn 1 to commence lap 3.

Down the back straight the party was unfortunately over for Paul Greer as the car slowed, and he would not cross the line to finish lap 3, while Gallagher made his way past Crocitti into eighth place at the end of the back straight.

The lap times continued to drop as the track dried out and those who were struggling in the greasy conditions started to become more comfortable as Mitchell passed Raphael for nineteenth position as he was running strong lap times on his recovery drive.

Lange moved his way into sixth position on lap 6 with a move on Tony Westaway, while James passed Rowland at the end of the back straight to move back into eleventh place. Doherty also passed Millar under brakes for turn 1 to move into fifteenth position, and Mitchell moved past Marriner for eighteenth place.

Beller was comfortable up from and set a fastest lap of the race, a second quicker than that of the fastest of his closest rival on his way to a 8.5 second victory over Chris Lewis-Williams, who himself was 7 seconds ahead of the close battle for third between Winter and Misuraca.

Five seconds further back was the battle for fifth with Howe holding out Lange and Tony Westaway, the three covered by less than a second. Another 7 seconds back in eighth position was Jim Gallagher who had a lonely race once he passed Crocitti for position.

Ten seconds back was Crocitti who fell into the clutches of Taubitz at the end of the race but was able to hold on to finish ninth with Taubitz crossing the line 0.4 of a second behind him, with James and Rowland both also crossing the line right on each others bumper in eleventh and twelfth.

A couple of seconds behind the battle for 9th – 12th was Michael Westaway in thirteenth, with Marius Catrina 3/4 of a second behind him in fourteenth position.

Fifteenth across the line was Peter Doherty, a few seconds ahead of the battle for sixteenth between Millar, Mitchell and Holding. Mitchell was able to move past Holding on the last lap for seventeenth but ran out of time to pass Millar, as the three crossed the line separated by 3/4 of a second.

Keith Marriner was nineteenth, ahead of Ben Raphael and John Vainoras to round out the finishers, with Paul Greer sadly not finishing after his great start to the race. A fantastic effort by all drivers in the tricky conditions to have no major mishaps or DNF’s due to driving error!

With two winners from two races, there was no expectation of any rain before the final race at 1:35, would Misuraca be able to retaliate and take the final race win from Beller in the dry conditions, or could Lewis-Williams, Winter, Lange, Howe, Westaway or others mount a challenge to make it three different winners for the round?

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Round 1. Sandown – Race 1

The first race for 2017 was eagerly anticipated, and with 22 cars lining up on the grid an exciting 10 laps was assured, with plenty of close dicing and changing of positions.

It was an even jump off the line from the front runners as they raced towards the first corner when the lights went out. Robert Lange was able to hold onto the lead through turn 1 with Cameron Beller slotting in behind. and keeping ahead of Vince Misuraca who maintained third position with Chris Lewis-Williams behind them.

Tony Westaway got a good jump and slotted into fifth with Brad Winter behind him with a couple of fast starting Pauls behind them, Paul Crocitti into seventh and Paul Greer into eighth.

Not getting a good start was Mark Taubitz, who dropped back to ninth from his fifth position start, with Ken Rowland behind alongside Dick Howe as they went through the first few corners. Pedr James was twelfth ahead of Jim Gallagher who recovered from a poor getaway to be thirteenth, with Ross Millar who also got a good start in fourteenth.

Peter Doherty was into fifteenth ahead of Marius Catrina who got a poor start and dropped to sixteenth. They were followed by Mitchell, Holding, Westaway, Marriner, Raphael and Vainoras.

The top 4 runners pulled a slight gap on the next pack of 5 cars, while there was a scrap over tenth position between Howe & Rowland, which Howe was able to win as they exited turn 4 for the run up the back straight. This caused Rowland to drop behind James & Gallagher with a compromised run down the back straight and just held Millar at bay as they reached the esses at the end of the back straight. Meanwhile, Michael Westaway managed to move himself into seventeenth by the end of the lap, passing Mitchell and Holding.

Across the line for the first time the order was Lange, Beller, Misuraca, Lewis-Williams, T Westaway, Winter, Crocitti, Greer, Taubitz and Howe as the top 10. Under brakes into turn 1, Winter pulled alongside Westaway and took the fifth position, while Taubitz got a run alongside Greer and also finalised the move under brakes into turn 1, and took the eighth position.

The race was shaken up when on the exit of turn 4 Robert Lange climbed over the kerb on the exit and his car spun around back across the track. The cars behind took evasive action, however Beller was hit in the right side door as Langes car looped around, although Beller was able to continue on in the lead. No such luck for Lange however, who dropped back to last place before he was back up to speed.

On lap 3 Taubitz made another position under brakes into turn 1, passing Crocitti to move into what was now 6th position after Lange’s spin, meanwhile Paul Greer unfortunately retired from eighth position immediately after. Lange meanwhile moved up to twentieth position by the end of the lap as he passed Vainoras.

The battle amongst the top 3 was fierce with Beller holding onto the lead, while the following cars of Winter, Westaway, Taubitz & Crocitti found some space between them, while Howe started catching them all – his new car running very well around the Sandown venue, and he caught and passed Crocitti down the back straight on lap 4.

A little further back in the pack, Catrina passed Doherty to move into the 13th position, while Lange moved past Raphael, and then Marriner as he continued his recovery drive, and then passed Holding and Mitchell the lap later, with Holding also passing Mitchell on that lap.

Michael Westaway also moved past Doherty on lap 6, while Holding slipped back two positions to 19th, back behind Mitchell as well as Marriner. The following lap, Howe moved past Taubitz under brakes into turn 1 and set off after Westaway.

Up front, and Misuraca made his move, passing Beller into turn 1 to take the race lead, with Beller relegated back to second ahead of Lewis-Williams. Michael Westaway and Lange were also moving further forward with Westaway passing Catrina for thirteenth, with Lange moving past Catrina as well as Doherty to move into fourteenth position.

It all turned to tears for Westaway the following lap however, as he spun off under brakes for Dandenong Road corner into the gravel trap, with him unable to extract the car to finish the race. This moved Lange up to thirteenth, with Catrina and Doherty behind him.

The battle for the lead was close, but neither of the drivers were able to make a change for position and Misuraca would win the first race for 2017, narrowly ahead of Beller and Lewis-Williams. Winter was in fourth, with Howe finishing fifth after catching Westaway and making a pass under brakes into turn 1 for the last time.

Tony Westaway narrowly held onto sixth position with Taubitz hot on his heels at the end, with a gap back to an exciting tussle for eighth between Crocitti, James and Gallagher, all three crossing the finish line within 0.8 of a second.

Eleventh was Ken Rowland, just ahead of Ross Millar and the recovering Robert Lange in thirteenth, with a small gap back to Catrina and Doherty.

Sixteenth in his first race in the 944 challenge was Jim Mitchell, with Marriner and Holding crossing the line less than half a second off his rear bumper, with Raphael just behind them in nineteenth, with John Vainoras being the final finisher.

Two DNF’s were Michael Westaway who was in the gravel, and Paul Greer who was using the weekend as a test session to try to solve the gremlins in his car.

Race 2 was to be held at 9:50 Sunday morning, could Vince repeat his Round 1 performance of 2016 and make it a hat trick?

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