2018 Race Results & Reports

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Round 3. Winton – Race 1

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?

              

Round 3. Winton – Qualifying

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!

      

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 3

The third and final race for the round promised to be the closest of the weekend – although the field size had depleted by two with Toni Andreevski unable to front for the weekend after his impromptu barbeque at the completion of Race 2, and Peter Doherty also not making it out for the final race.

Off the start, and Jamie Westaway got the jump off the start on Cameron Beller to lead into the first corner, the first time Beller hadn’t led into Turn 1 this year. Beller was on Westaway’s tail, with Lyndon Watson holding third position off the start with Brad Winter slotting in next in fourth position.

Tim Petrusic moved into fifth position, with Mark Taubitz in behind him after a strong start from eighth position saw him move ahead of Michael Westaway who slipped two positions back to seventh off the start, and Andrew Jackman in eighth position. Keith Marriner moved up to ninth position after a good start, ahead of Jim Mitchell, with Dick Howe back to eleventh after getting a tardy start, and John Vainoras in twelfth spot.

Into Honda corner and the positions remained the same as Westaway pulled a tiny gap on Beller, with Taubitz having a look on the inside of Petrusic, while Michael Westaway dove deep underbrakes on the outside, though slotted in behind the Zantek car once more. Dick Howe moved his way past Mitchell under brakes to move back into tenth position.

Through Hayshed corner and Tim Petrisuc had a mis-shift into fifth gear, and turned his dashboard into a Christmas tree of warning lights. Taubitz moved past and took the fifth position through Lukey Heights, while Westaway and Jackman also moved ahead into brakes for MG, as Howe, Marriner and Mitchell all followed through exiting MG as Petrusic recovered and got back into the gas and cleared the dash warning, now down to eleventh position.

Howe moved to the inside of Marriner into the final corner to take the position, thus it was Jamie Westaway, Beller, Watson, Winter and Taubitz across the line for the first time, ahead of Michael Westaway, Jackman, Howe, Marriner, Mitchell, Petrusic and Vainoras to complete the first of ten laps.

Westaway and Beller pulled a gap up front as Taubitz closed in slightly on the Watson/Winter battle for third position, as he pulled away from Westaway in sixth, who did the same to Jackman, who begun to have Howe to contest with. Petrusic started his recovery drive and moved past Mitchell who had fallen back from the bumper of Marriner.

Lap 3 and Howe moved ahead of Jackman to elevate himself to seventh, as Beller began to close on Westaway as he pulled alongside with the aid of the draft as the pair started their fourth lap. Westaway held the position though, but Beller was determined to take the lead and the two were side-by-side through Honda and Siberia, where Beller was able to get a superior run down the back section to move clear of Westaway once the got to Lukey Heights.

Further back meanwhile, and Petrusic moved up to ninth as he passed Marriner and set off after Jackman in eighth.

Lap 5, and Jackman had a big moment as he had a spin at Turn 1, thankfully avoiding any contact and was able to rectify himself and continue, albeit back to tenth position behind Petrusic and Marriner. Up front meanwhile, Westaway moved around the outside of Beller into Turn 1, but couldn’t quite make the move stick and had to stay in behind.

Status quo through the rest of the order as Beller led Westaway, while Watson was defending hard from a relentless Winter, looking at all angles to find a way past, with Taubitz unable to close the gap in fifth, with Michael Westaway back in sixth ahead of Howe, Petrusic, Marriner and Jackman, with Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the field.

Lap 8 Westaway was right on Bellers’ bumper once again and wasn’t quite able to maket the pass down the straight, but was able to move past under brakes for Honda corner, though Beller was again able to repeat the over and under move and re-took the position down the run through the back part of the circuit to Lukey Heights.

Beller wasn’t able to hold the lead for long though as Westaway again drafted back onto the bumper and alongside Beller, this time clearing him as the pair rounded Turn 1. The batle for third behind them hadn’t eased, and as the dice between Watson and Winter rounded Southern Loop, Watson slipped off the circuit, and entered the coarse Phillip Island gravel trap sideways, immediately burying the car deep, Watson unable to recover and rejoin the race, a devastating DNF after what had been a great weekend to that point, and allowing Winter through to an uncontested third that he had battled hard to earn.

Next on the scene was Taubitz, who slowed substantially as the wind blew a large cloud of gravel dust across and onto the apex of the corner. This alowed Michael Westaway a sniff of what had now become fourth position as he closed the gap significantly.

All eyes thus turned to the action up front, as Beller pulled out of the draft on the run down the front straight to start the final lap, and reversed the move from Westaway on the previous lap as he swept around the outside to take the lead. Westaway was all over Beller like a cheap suit, but Beller drove a great defensive final lap and didn’t allow Westaway to stick a nose inside anywhere, and crossed the line to take the victory by a scant .12 of a second.

Third after a strong run was Brad Winter, which also earnt him third outright for the weekend, ahead of Mark Taubitz in fourth position, a result which put him up to third in the series pointscore. Michael Westaway was fifth, unable to quite close the gap enough to mount a challenge on Taubitz on the final lap.

Dick Howe was sixth – just – after dramas on the last lap slowed him down, he was able to cross the line just ahead of a recovering Tim Petrusic in seventh position, a good result in his return drive to the series.

Eighth across the line was Marriner, with Jim Mitchell moving up to ninth on the final lap after catching and overtaking the ailing Jackman, who was nursing home his car and D shaped tyres after his mid-race spin to finish tenth. The final finisher was John Vainoras who ran his fastest laps of the weekend as he found more speed and comfort with the new suspension in the Noras Distribution Porsche.

So Beller leaves Phillip Island undefeated so far in 2018, though with the series headed to the tight Winton venue for Round 3, will one of the three W’s – Westaway, Watson or Winter be able to prevent him from adding three more wins to his tally? Come down to Winton June 16-17 to watch all the action!

        

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 2

Race 2 of Round 2 was early on Sunday morning – as the lights went out it was Cameron Beller who jumped away off the start, with Mark Taubitz getting a good jump to out drag front row starter Jamie Westaway to move into second into Turn 1, with Westaway slotting into third with Lyndon Watson next through in fourth position. Brad Winter was next in fifth position, ahead of Michael Westaway and Tim Petrusic with Dick Howe in eighth position as most of the field held their position from the start.

Andrew Jackman was ninth, ahead of Keith Marriner and the fast starting Jim Mitchell from the back of the grid. with Peter Doherty in behind, ahead of John Vainoras and Toni Andreevski who missed a gear change on the run off the line, though he was able to move past Vainoras exiting the first corner.

Jamie Westaway didn’t want to lose touch with Beller, and was able to get a stronger run than Taubitz coming out of Southern Loop and took the second position back on the run around Stoner corner, with Mitchell moving into the top ten around the outside of Marriner.

As the field ended Lap 1, Watson ranged up onto the tail of Taubitz as the pair came down the straight, and moved to the inside to take the third position into Turn 1. Taubitz then shadowed Watson for the rest of the lap and made a move back down the inside under brakes for MG corner later in the lap. The two cars ran side-by-side through Turn 11 before Taubitz conceded to draft Watson down the straight, while Jamie Westaway was doing the same to Beller further up the road.

Howe meanwhile moved himself up to seventh position as he moved himself past ahead of Petrusic down the main straight to end the second lap.

Taubitz was eager to move back into a podium spot back past Watson, but pinched a brake on the entrance to Southern Loop and sailed off the corner into the grass, and nosed into the gravel trap. He was able to stick the boot in and got the car out and back onto the track, albeit dropping down to ninth position behind Jackman, and just managing to stay ahead of the battle for tenth with Mitchell, Marriner, Doherty and Andreevski.

Just ahead on the track, Howe was looking to find a way past Michael Westaway for what became fifth position, however he ended up going down the escape road at Honda corner, plonking him back right amongst the aforementioned battle with Mitchell and co as they found themselves now fighting for ninth, with Howe behind Mitchell, Marriner and Doherty with Andreevski right on his tail as the group rounded Siberia corner.

As the halfway point was reached it was Beller with Jamie Westaway up front, with an increasing gap back to Watson, and then Winter who began to slowly shrink the gap between the two. Michael Westaway and Petrusic were next as they started pulling a gap on Jackman in seventh position. Taubitz was next as he looked to chase down Jackman and pull away from the battle behind him.

Howe quickly made his way to the front of that pack as he moved ahead of Doherty first through Hayshed corner, followed by a move on Marriner under brakes for MG, and then past Mitchell on the inside of the final corner and he set his sights on Taubitz up ahead. Mitchell was then tenth, with Marriner and Andreevski next having past Doherty down the straight to move up to twelfth, with Vainoras in fourteenth a small distance behind.

Beller wasn’t getting any rest with Westaway right behind him in the most exciting battle on track, while Andreevski was re-passed for the twelfth position by Doherty when he returned the favour played on him from the previous lap by getting a superior run onto the straight to move ahead.

Lap 5 and for the first time this year, Bellers’ name wasn’t on the top of the lap scoring as Westaway made his move past to lead across the line to commence the final lap. Beller though was able to play the race back to his advantage as he retook the lead on the final circuit to take a narrow victory, crossing the line less than two tenths of a second ahead of the younger Westaway, with Watson rounding out the podium finishers, a little over a second ahead of the closing Brad Winter.

Michael Westaway was able to hold out Tim Petrusic to round out the top 5, with Andrew Jackman having to deal with Taubitz who closed on him on the final circuit to challenge for the spot, ultimately falling just short as Jackman crossed the line .05 of a second ahead in seventh position, with Taubitz eighth. Dick Howe was ninth a further five seconds ahead in a lonely second half of the race, with Jim Mitchell able to hold onto the tenth position ahead of Keith Marriner and Peter Doherty.

Thirteenth place went the way of John Vainoras, passing Toni Andreevski for the position after the latter began suffering with a misfire on the penultimate lap, though he was able to limp home to complete the race distance in fourteenth position.

That wasn’t the worst part for Andreevski though, as smoke filled the cabin of the car on the return to the pits after the race, a wiring short the culprit. Damage was fortunately minimised, apart from to the wiring inside the car, which would rule Toni out for the final race of the weekend.

The challenge to Beller was getting stronger, could he continue his winning streak in the last race, or could Westaway (or someone else) be able to bring it to an end in the final race?

        

Round 2. Phillip Island – Race 1

Race 1 commenced just after lunch and it was an even start by the front row combatants Cameron Beller and Jamie Westaway running side by side through Turn 1 before Beller edged ahead into Southern Loop corner.

Mark Taubitz got the jump ahead of Brad Winter to slot into third, with Dick Howe also getting a great start to slot into fourth position, with Lyndon Watson moving into fifth position ahead of Winter dropping back to sixth spot. Tim Petrusic was seventh in line with Michael Westaway in eighth position.

Keith Marriner was ninth into Turn 1, with Andrew Jackman alongside – and Jim Mitchell in his mirrors as both got a good start behind him, as did John Vainoras who jumped up to twelfth at the expense of Peter Doherty – who bogged down off the start, and Toni Andreevski who was slow away and rounded out the 944 field into the first corner.

Exiting Southern Loop corner, Westaway was able to get the better run on Beller and pulled alongside as the pair braked for Honda corner. Westaway went in a little too deep however, and drifted through the corner, skillfully controlling the car, though allowed Beller to move back past, with Taubitz also capitalising and moving ahead into the second position as they raced towards Siberia corner.

Behind the leading trio, Winter moved back around Watson on the outside on the exit from Southern Loop corner to move back to fifth position, while it was a three wide battle into the corner for ninth position, with Jackman prevailing and moving into the spot, though Mitchell was fighting him hard for it, with Marriner slipping behind the duo. Doherty also moved ahead of Vainoras, with Andreevski doing the same around the outside of Southern Loop. Mitchell then was able to power past Jackman on the run to Honda corner, and moved into the ninth position.

Across the line for the first time it was Beller from Taubiitz and Jamie Westaway, though the latter was able to draft past and take the second position back down the straight to start the second lap, with Howe sitting in behind in fourth place, and a small gap back to the next quartet of Winter, Watson, Petrusic and Michael Westaway. A gap before the next pack led by Mitchell in ninth, with Jackman, Marriner, Doherty, Andreevski and Vainoras all in tow.

Michael Westaway was the next to make a pass for position, as he passed Petrusic under brakes for Honda corner on the second lap. Jackman was determined to get around Mitchell, and also made the move under brakes for Honda on the inside, taking until the Hayshed to finally clear the Martini liveried racer for ninth position and started to build a gap. Andreevski meanwhile got a better run onto the main straight to end Lap 2 and moved past Doherty for twelfth position.

Beller had worked out a comfortable lead to Westaway who was edging away from Taubitz, while Winter closed in on Howe, and passed for the fourth position, also under brakes for Honda corner on Lap 3. Andreevski also made up a further position as he moved past Marriner exiting Southern Loop, with Doherty also moving past Marriner under brakes for Honda, dropping Marriner to thirteenth position.

At the start of Lap 4, and Howe drafted his way up to and alongside Winter down the straight, and swept in front to take back the fourth spot, with Winter having an issue through Hayshed allowing Watson to move past also to move into fifth position. Doherty also moved back ahead of Andreevski as the pair diced for eleventh position, while trying to find a way past Mitchell in front of them. Doherty was baulked as he tried in vain to get around Mitchell, allowing Andreevski back past under brakes for Turn 1. Both drivers were trying to gain the upper hand to be able to move ahead of Mitchell, and unfortunately for Doherty a spin and some light contact under brakes for Honda on Lap 5 took him out of the battle, though he resumed in thirteenth.

Beller was comfortable out in front as he continued to open up his gap to Westaway, who did the same back to Taubitz in third, who also was easing away from the Howe/Watson/Winter battle. Westaway and Petrusic were circulating together a short distance behind, with Jackman having a lonely race behind them having dispatched of Mitchell. Mitchell was next from Andreevski, Marriner, Doherty and Vainoras.

Lap 6 and with the battle for fourth still on in earnest between Howe, Watson and Winter, Howe had an issue going through Lukey Heights and dropped back all the way to eighth position, allowing Watson, Winter, the Michael flavoured Westaway and Petrusic to all be promoted a spot. Andreevski pulled alongside Mitchell down the front straight as the pair finished the sixth lap, though Mitchell retained the position entering Turn 2. Andreevski continued to fight for the spot, and on the last lap was able to pull alongside Mitchell exiting Southern Loop for the final time.

Side-by-side under brakes though, and Mitchell locked up the rear brakes and gyrated in front of Andreevski as he turned in, the noses of both cars just making slight contact. Andreevski continued on with a nosecone that threatened to come adrift and was flapping about, and he lowered his speed as a result, allowing Marriner to inherit the final position in the top ten, while Mitchell retired.

At the end of the 8 laps it was Beller who took the victory by over four seconds from Westaway, with Taubitz in third securing his first podium finish. Watson closed the gap in the last two laps but ran out of time to mount a challenge and settled for fourth, with Winter rounding out the top 5, a further four seconds off of Watson.

Michael Westaway was sixth, with Petrusic close behind in seventh, and Howe a few seconds back in eighth after his off. Rounding out the Top ten was Andrew Jackman a further 8.5 seconds behind Howe in ninth, and Marriner another fourteen seconds behind Jackman in tenth. Andreevski consolidated to be classified eleventh with his wounded car, with Doherty a few seconds behind in twelfth. Vainoras was the final finisher, with Mitchell not classified after failing to greet the chequered flag.

Two races on the Sunday, would we see some different results play out over the two events?

          

Round 2. Phillip Island – Qualifying

After a Friday Practice Day with four seasons worth of weather at Phillip Island, the rain clouds cleared in time for Saturday as we prepared for Round 2 of the 2018 Victorian State Circuit Racing Championships. With qualifying for the 944 Challenge taking place first up on Saturday morning, with four drivers which were not at Sandown for Round 1 heading out onto the track. An unfortunate absentee was Jim Gallagher, who was unable to make the round after having to cancel his racing plans at the last minute.

The early laps gave a good indication of who would be where on the grid, as Cameron Beller went to the top on the first lap with a 1:50.1551, ahead of Jamie Westaway into second with a 1:50.7059. Brad Winter moved into third position with his first lap of 1:51.7692, with Lyndon Watson fourth quickest after recording a 1:51.9883.

Mark Taubitz was fifth fastest with a 1:52.6618, with Dick Howe into sixth on a 1:52.7375 lap. Andrew Jackman was in seventh after recording a 1:55.7570 on his first, and what would turn out to be only fast lap as he pulled off track on the next lap, and would slide down the order as others got quicker throughout the session.

Keith Marriner was next in eighth with a 1:56.1450, with the returning Tim Petrusic in ninth position on a 1:56.3385, fractionally ahead of Peter Doherty with a 1:56.3440.

Easing into his first laps of 2018 was Michael Westaway as he moved into the eleventh position as he ran a 1:57.6794, with Toni Andreevski twelfth on his first lap after running a 2:00.3810. Rounding out the order after lap 1 was John Vainoras with a 2:08.8259, and Jim Mitchell with a 2:15.6991.

Lap 2 saw most of the field lower their times as Beller dropped right into the 1:48s with a 1:48.9806 lap, with Jamie Westaway recording a 1:49.9128, while Winter also improved with a 1:50.5777.

Taubitz and Howe both jumped ahead of Watson as they moved up to 4th and 5th with a 1:51.4452 and 1:51.5935 respectively, with Watson improving but now down to sixth with a 1:51.7891

Michael Westaway jumped up to seventh fastest with a 1:53.3098 lap, with Marriner and Doherty also improving with 1:54.2642 and 1:55.2223 laps, dropping Jackman back to tenth position.

Mitchell ran his first competitive lap with a 1:57.7081 to move up to twelfth, with Andreevski improving with a 1:58.7758, and Vainoras going faster with a 2:05.5069.

On Lap 3 and Westaway went faster with a 1:49.2930 lap, but he was not able to improve further on that lap in the remainder of the session. Michael Westaway also improved with a 1:52.7439 lap, while Petrusic jumped up to eighth fastest with a 1:53.1394. Toni Andreevski also went quicker with a 1:57.3762 to move him into twelfth fastest, with Vainoras running a 2:04.6462.

Brad Winter improved on the following lap with a 1:50.2891, a lap he was unable to better in the rest of the session, with Taubitz moving his benchmark down with a 1:50.9123. Marriner improved slightly with a 1:54.2551 in ninth place, with Doherty also going marginally quicker with a 1:55.1640 in tenth.

Toni Andreevski moved up to eleventh fastest with the fastest lap he would run in the session, a 1:55.4570, while Jim Mitchell also ran his fastest lap in a 1:56.6305, as Vainoras lowered his best time again with a 2:03.3045.

Taubitz ran his fastest lap for the session on the following circuit, a 1:50.5997, with Dick Howe also running his best lap just behind Taubitz, a 1:50.6642 for the pair to remain in 4th and 5th position, with Watson also running his best lap for the session that lap, a 1:50.9181 to remain in sixth spot.

Michael Westaway ran a 1:51.8812, as Petrusic also improved with a 1:52.6620 with both remaining seventh and eighth fastest respectively, while Marriner and Doherty ran their fastest laps for the session, a 1:54.0042 for Marriner in ninth position, and Doherty just behind in tenth with a 1:54.2406. Vainoras again improved with a 2:03.0790.

Beller ensured no one would be able to snatch pole position from him as he lowered the benchmark time with a 1:48.7935, and he then proceeded to park the #1 Porsche, his job done. Michael Westaway improved his time again as he ran his fastest time with a 1:51.5502 to lock in seventh position, ahead of Petrusic who ran his quickest time with a 1:52.5399 to be eighth fastest.

And with that, the field was set with Beller ahead of Jamie Westaway, with Winter and Taubitz both recording their best qualifying results in third and fourth respectively. Howe was next from Watson, Michael Westaway, Petrusic, Marriner and Doherty. Andreevski was next in eleventh, with Jackman, Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the lineup after he was the last one to improve his times as he ran a 2:01.3598 on his final lap.

The 8 lap Race 1 was the first race of the weekend after lunch – there were some surprises in store!

   

Round 1. Sandown – Race 3

A slightly depleted field of twelve cars fronted for the final 10 lap Race of the weekend, after the demise of Jim Gallagher’s #13 car in Race 2. Returning in time for the race having repaired his car, was Dick Howe – and he would start on the back row of the grid.

As it was in Races 1 & 2, Cameron Beller was able to get a good start to lead into the first corner, this time with Lyndon Watson in behind him, with Jamie Westaway and Mark Taubitz following through in third and fourth positions, with Andrew Jackman slotting into fifth spot.

Behind him was Jim Mitchell, from Marius Catrina and the fast starting Dick Howe coming off the back of the grid after his race 2 DNF. Rob Holding was next, with Keith Marriner in tenth, followed by Pedr James and John Vainoras. Howe moved past Catrina down the back straight and into seventh and set his sights on Mitchell.

Beller again started opening up his lead as he pulled away from the battle for second between Watson and Westaway, with Taubitz slowly dropping off of the battle for second, at the same time as pulling away from Jackman. A small mistake from Jackman into Dandenong Road corner on lap two allowed Mitchell and Howe to close right up to his bumper and make it a three way battle for fifth position.

Howe got the best run onto the straight to start lap 3 and was up to fifth position, with Mitchell also moving past Jackman, dropping him to seventh spot. Rob Holding meanwhile moved past Catrina into eighth position on lap 3.

Beller again was comfortable out front and continued to open up his gap on the battle for second position, with Westaway shadowing the second placed Watson, with Taubitz a few seconds adrift, with Howe also a few seconds back behind Taubitz in fifth. Mitchell was in sixth and defending from Jackman, Holding, Catrina and Marriner who was rounding out the top ten, with James right behind, with a small gap back to Vainoras.

On lap 6, Catrina was able to move past Holding to go back into eighth position, while James also moved ahead of Marriner and into the top ten.

One lap later, and dramas for Watson as he spun exiting the first corner with heavy pressure from Westaway, dropping him back to fourth as Taubitz flew past while Watson recovered to rejoin behind him. This left Beller with a 4 second gap back to Westaway, with Taubitz a further 7 seconds back in third, with Watson resuming 4 seconds behind Taubitz in fourth, with another 5 second back to Howe in fifth.

Behind them, Holding made his way back in front of Catrina again to move back into eighth position, with no one seemingly able to make their way past Mitchell.

The final few laps played out without any surprises, with Beller taking the win and a clean sweep of the weekend ahead of Westaway, with Taubitz crossing the line third, a few seconds ahead of Watson. A cruel blow for Taubitz however, who received a 5 second post race penalty for lining up outside of his grid box, relegating him back to fourth in the final results behind Watson. Howe was a lonely fifth position, with Mitchell holding on for sixth position.

Behind him though, dramas on the final lap for Jackman as he had a major moment which also caught out Catrina. This allowed Holding through to seventh position, with Jackman crossing the line in eighth – although Jackman would suffer the same fate as Taubitz, and received a 5 second post race penalty for being outside of his grid box also, which pushed him back two positions to tenth in the final classification.

This benefitted James, who after crossing the line ninth right on Jackman’s bumper, inherited the position post race, and also Marriner – who moved up from tenth to ninth position in the finals results. Catrina was fortunate to recover from his moment avoiding Jackman and to avoid any damage, and crossed the line in eleventh, with John Vainoras rounding out the finishers in twelfth position, after running his fastest times of the weekend in the final race.

So a perfect first round for Beller as he scored three wins from three races. Will Jamie Westaway be able to step up in future rounds as he familiarises himself more with his car? Or will Watson, Howe or Taubitz be able to find a little bit of speed to give Beller a cause for concern?

Combined with the upcoming return to the track of others missing at Round 1 including Tony & Michael Westaway, Brad Winter and the returning Tim Petrusic – there should be a good field of 944’s on track for Round 2 @ Phillip Island in two months time!

            

Round 1 Meeting Points*

*Vic State Series Points shown above

Round 1. Sandown – Race 2

Sunday morning brought cooler temperatures as the 944 Challenge field set off for their second race for the weekend on Sunday morning for the second 8 lap shootout.

The battle off the front row was a carbon copy of race 1 with Cameron Beller and Jamie Westaway side by side on the run to turn 1, with Beller again holding the lead as the field entered the corner. Lyndon Watson held on to third position behind them, with Dick Howe initially getting a good start before slowing on the run to Turn 1, and actually pulling off the circuit instead of taking the first corner. The car was back on the trailer and off for some quick exhaust repairs before returning in time for Race 3.

Behind Watson therefore was Mark Taubitz after getting a good start from sixth position, with Jim Mitchell and Marius Catrina side by side on the run to Turn 2, with Mitchell emerging in front with the fifth position. Behind them there were dramas as Pedr James, eager to make up from his Race 1 issues got a great start from twelfth on the grid, but then looped the #98 car on entry to turn 1, causing the field to scatter around him. Andrew Jackman was next in line once everyone recovered, ahead of Jim Gallagher, Keith Marriner, John Vainoras and Rob Holding in eleventh, with James resuming at the back of the pack. Holding moved his way around Vainoras during the first lap to move into tenth position.

Beller was able to pull a gap up front, while Watson was able to stay in touch with Westaway in the battle for second. Taubitz was next in fourth position and begun pulling away from the battle for fifth between Mitchell and Catrina, while Gallagher passed Jackman and moved into seventh position.

The weekend ended for Jim Gallagher on lap 2, as the #13 car lost an engine down the back straight, a big smokescreen making things interesting for the cars behind him! A large hole in the engine block ended proceedings, with a missed gearshift the cause of the failure, a disappointing end to the weekend for the team.

Up front Beller continued to open his gap to Westaway, who had Watson hanging with him, while Taubitz settled in for a lonely race in fourth position, with a large gap developing behind him to Mitchell, with Catrina unable to find a way past him. On lap 3, Holding was able to move up to eighth position with a pass on Marriner, while James moved into the top ten when he caught onto the back of Vainoras and made the pass for position.

The cars battling for seventh managed to catch the fifth and sixth placed cars of Mitchell and Catrina, with Jackman moving past Catrina for sixth on Lap 4, with Holding making his way past Catrina the next lap to move up to seventh.

Beller had an even larger gap this race as Westaway had to concentrate more on looking in his mirrors than out of his windshield with Watson taking up his attention behind. Watson shadowed Westaway until the last lap when he successfully pulled off a pass for the second position under brakes for Turn 1, which he held to end of the race with Westaway crossing the line in third. A gap back to Taubitz who cruised around for fourth position, with a huge gap back to Mitchell, who held on for a fantastic fifth position.

Crossing the line behind him was Andrew Jackman for sixth on the final lap, with Rob Holding filling up the mirrors of the Poolmaster Bayside car as he crossed the line in seventh position, with Catrina right behind Holding in eighth.

Keith Marriner was a couple of seconds behind the battle in front as he crossed the line in ninth position, with Pedr James rounding out the top ten, ahead of the final finisher in John Vainoras.

Beller’s pace would be difficult to overcome, could someone throw a challenge down to him for the last, longer 10 lap race?

            

Round 1. Sandown – Race 1

The mercury had risen by the time the 944 Challenge field lined up for Race 1 of the 2018 season, and 13 cars lined up for the first 8 lap race. The front row starters of Cameron Beller and Jamie Westaway were even as they raced down to the first corner, with Dick Howe moving into third position ahead of Lyndon Watson and Mark Taubitz. Beller took the inside line to move into the lead through turn 1 ahead of Westaway, with Howe, Watson and Taubitz close behind.

In sixth position was Rob Holding, with Marius Catrina geting a great start to move up to eighth ahead of Andrew Jackman, Jim Gallagher and Jim Mitchell rounding out the top ten. Keith Marriner was next ahead of John Vainoras and Pedr James – who dropped to the back of the pack immediately off the start of the race, and struggled with the car after repairs from his qualifying incident.

Onto the back straight for the first time, and Dick Howe missed a gear change, allowing Watson to move comfortably past. Taubitz also had the momentum but was forced to take the inside line to the back esses with Howe holding his line but ultimately having to concede the position, though this allowed the front three to create a gap back to the next three with Holding on the back of Howe on the brakes for Dandenong Road corner.

So it was Beller, from Westaway, Watson, Taubitz, Howe, Holding, Catrina, Jackman, Gallagher and Mitchell the top ten across the line the first time, with Marriner just behind with a gap to Vainoras, with James struggling with his car at the back of the field.

Under brakes for Turn 1 at the start of Lap 2 and Howe had a look underneath Taubitz under brakes, but was unable to get through, and had to be careful not to lose the fifth position to Holding who was also right in the mix. Howe was able to get the run on Taubitz down the back straight, and reversed the move pulled on him the previous lap, and retook the fourth position. Gallagher meanwhile also moved up a position down the back straight, taking eighth from Jackman.

Taubitz wasn’t keen to let the fourth position go without a challenge, and looked to get a run on Howe onto the main straight, though a mistake throught the corner saw the black 944 loop around, with the rest of the field doing a great job to go either side of the #74 that was now facing the wrong way. This gave Howe some clear space behind him with Hoding and Catrina in fifth and sixth position, with Jackman up to seventh with Mitchell hot on his heels. Marriner moved up to ninth at the expense of Gallagher who lost all momentum swerving around Taubitz, who dropped to twelfth position behind Vainoras as he flicked the car around and resumed his race.

Mitchell was able to move his way into the seventh position ahead of Jackman on lap 3, while Gallagher moved back ahead of Marriner also, and then up to eighth position ahead of Jackman as the pack started lap 4. Taubitz was beginning his recovery as he passed Vainoras for eleventh position at the end of the back straight on Lap 4 and started chasing the 4 car battle in front of him.

Up front meanwhile, Beller was eking out his gap over Westaway, with Watson dropping off the tail of the two in front of him. Howe was in a similar position, though Holding in fifth began closing the gap up on him before a cruel blow for Holding, the exhaust detaching itself from the car and Rob having to retire at the end of lap 5.

His bad luck benefitted those behind, especially Marius Catrina who found himself in fifth position! This put Mitchell into sixth, ahead of Gallagher, Jackman, Marriner, Taubitz, with Vainoras eleventh and James in twelfth.

Gallagher made a mistake on lap 5 leading onto the back straight, mounting the exit kerb, which allowed Jackman, Marriner and Taubitz to all get past him, dropping him back to tenth position again!

With Beller now enjoying a 3 second lead to Westaway, and about 5 further seconds to Watson, the top three positions looked like they were set, as were fourth and fifth positions with Howe and Catrina both about six seconds behind the car in front, and Catrina seven seconds clear of the battle for sixth and pulling away.

This meant all the attention was on the battle for sixth, with Mitchell holding off Jackman, and Marriner, with Taubitz and Gallagher trying to find their way back through. Taubitz made his way past Marriner, and then Jackman to move onto the tail of Mitchell, though Jackman wasn’t conceding easily, and made a decisive move under Taubitz under brakes for Turn 2 while Taubitz was busy lining up Mitchell to retake the position. Unfortunately for Jackman he wasn’t able to hold on as Taubitz made his way back past Jackman down the back straight.

Mitchell was benefitting from some excellent straight line handling down the long Sandown straights, and the pack of five were separated by just over a second as they commenced the last lap.

Up front it was all Beller, who took out the first race win of the year, ahead of Westaway and Watson, with Howe and Catrina rounding out the top 5.

Behind them, Taubitz was doing his best to move ahead of Mitchell, and after a great job all race defending, Mitchell made it easy for him on the last corner when he ran wide, allowing Taubitz through for sixth, a good recovery drive. Mitchell recovered for seventh, just holding out Jackman, Marriner and Gallagher – these five crossing the line 1.5 seconds apart! Vainoras held on for eleventh position ahead of James in twelfth, and with some work to do on car #98 to get it back onto its regular pace, but he importantly collected some points for finishing the race…

The only DNF of the race was Rob Holding – after being on track to equal his best race finish to date of fifth position as he sat unchallenged between Howe and Catrina – a cruel blow, but he would fix it and return to the track for Race 2.

Some cooler conditions tomorrow would mean some quicker lap times, would we see a shake up of the results from Race 1?

            

 

Round 1. Sandown – Qualifying

An absolutely spectacular day in Melbourne for Round 1 of the Victorian State Circuit Racing Championships for 2018 – with qualifying for the 944 Challenge taking place early in the morning – with all cars bar one running the new control suspension package for 2018.

Cameron Beller was the favourite for Pole Position, with his recent primary rivals Chris Lewis-Williams, and Vince Misuraca not entering for this round. Jamie Westaway would take the reigns of father Tony’s 944, and look to challenge Beller, with Lyndon Watson the sole representative for the Hi Torque Performace team for this round with Brad Winter sitting out the round. Michael Westaway was another regular who was absent for Round 1,  with regulars Mark Taubitz and Dick Howe setting their eyes on a good result for the round.

Beller jumped to the top of the timesheets from the outset, his first timed lap of 1:25.6153 actually being good enough for pole position. Jamie Westaway confirmed himself as the biggest rival for Beller with a 1:26.1291 on his first lap. Lyndon Watson was third quickest with a 1:27.1577, from Dick Howe in fourth with a 1:28.7082.

Jim Gallagher moved into fifth position with a 1:29.5097 ahead of Mark Taubitz on a 1:29.8614 in sixth position. Jim Mitchell was seventh fastest with a 1:30.2898, with Keith Marriner eighth (1:30.4276) Andrew Jackman ninth (1:30.6456) and Pedr James rounding out the top ten with a 1:31.5573. Rob Holding slotted into eleventh with a 1:31.8203, from Marius Catrina on a 1:32.1110, and John Vainoras thirteenth with a 1:39.8231.

Beller dropped the hammer for his next lap and cemented in pole position, recording a 1:25.1748. He wasn’t able to improve on that lap for the rest of the session, but it was enought for a comfortable pole position.

Lyndon Watson moved onto the bumper of Westaway with a 1:26.2059 on his second lap, while Howe bettered his time with a 1:27.3345. Taubitz moved up to fifth position with a 1:28.2807, with Rob Holding jumping into sixth with a 1:28.6391. Jim Gallagher improved his time with a 1:29.2286 but slipped to seventh position, with Jim Mitchell back to eighth with a 1:29.5335 – which he was unable to improve on throughout the rest of the session.

Pedr James moved to ninth with a 1:29.7242, with Jackman squeaking into the 29’s with a 1:29.9672 in tenth fastest, while Catrina recorded a 1:30.4975 tobe behind Marriner who slipped to eleventh fastest, with Vainoras also improving with a 1:35.7594.

Westaway improved marginally with a 1:26.0609 on the next lap, as did Taubitz who recorded a 1:27.4778 though remained in fifth position. Holding improved by a further half a second with a 1:28.1375, as did Jim Gallagher in seventh with a 1:28.5414 in seventh. Keith Marriner jumped up to eighth with a 1:29.0401 in what would be his fastest time for the session, with Andrew Jackman back up to ninth with a 1:29.4332. Pedr James improved marginally with a 1:29.7037 but slipped to eleventh, with Catrina also bettering his time with a 1:30.3082, and Vainoras recording a 1:33.9227.

Westaway dipped into the 25’s the next time around with a 1:25.9296 on his next lap, while Taubitz jumped into fourth with a 1:27.0696, leapfrogging Howe who also improved with a 1:27.1227 though dropped back to fifth. Gallagher ran his fastest lap of the session when he improved by a thousandth of a second, a 1:28.5404, with James jumping up to eighth with a 1:28.6309, with Catrina up to tenth with a 1:29.3855, dropping Jackman to eleventh and Mitchell to twelfth.

The battle for fourth on the grid closed up further, with Howe stealing it back from Taubitz the next lap, his 1:26.8670 just besting Taubitz’s 1:26.8876. Holding improved with a 1:28.0427 also, as did Jackman who moved back to tenth with a 1:29.0689, while Vainoras recorded his best time for the session, a 1:33.5498 which would see him line up in thirteenth, behind Mitchell in twelfth.

Watson wasn’t done with chasing after Westaway, with his next lap on Lap 7 of a 1:26.0672, although he wouldn’t be able to improve on that time for the rest of the session. Holding also ran his best lap for the session of 1:27.6729.

As the session wound down, James turned up the wick and ran a 1:27.8165 to move up to seventh position, dropping Gallagher back to eighth, with Catrina improving with a 1:29.1661 in his fastest lap for the session, but remained in eleventh position behind Marriner.

Westaway improved slightly on his next lap with a 1:25.8688, but he wasn’t able to threaten Beller who secured Pole Position, though he would start alongside him on the front row for Race 1. Howe and Taubitz weren’t finished with their battle, Taubitz taking fourth back with a 1:26.7936, before Howe took it back for good on his final lap with a 1:26.4797 to share the second row with Watson, leaving Taubitz in fifth position.

James improved by a tenth with a 1:27.7026, leaving him only a few hundredths of a second behind Holding. He continued to try to improve on his next lap, but unfortunately got loose on the Turn 1 exit and looped the car, coming into contact with the barrier on the right side of the car. Some quick repairs would see James back on the grid for Race 1 however.

On the final lap the only change was for Jackman, who improved marginally with a 1:29.0296, though it was enough to put him ahead of Marriner in ninth position.

Conditions were warming up for the first race of the year that was held at 1:40pm! Who would take out Race 1?