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Round 5. Mallala – Race 4

Race 4 was the final race for the weekend, and 11 cars fronted for the race start with Marius Catrina packing up early unable to make the last race.

The two key protagonists for the round in Cameron Beller and Chris Lewis-Williams were even off the start as they went side-by-side through turn 1, with Beller edging ahead through turn 2. Lewis-Williams was able to get a good exit though and put himself in a good position on the run to turn 3, as the two cars were neck and neck all the way down the back sweeper on the way to the hairpin.

Lewis-Williams prevailed with the inside line through the hairpin to emerge in the lead, with Beller slotting into second position. Tony Westaway was third, from Ken Rowland and Michael Westaway in fourth and fifth positions. The top two ran neck and neck down the back straight, but Lewis-Williams cleared Beller with the inside run to the hairpin corner.

Ryan Woods and Dick Howe resumed their race 3 battle, with Howe initially moving to sixth as the pair were again side by side for sixth position.  Toni Andreevski was up to eighth position, after rounding up Mark Taubitz who initially jumped well, but the car jumped out of gear, and he dropped back to ninth from his sixth position on the grid. In behind Taubitz was John Vainoras, moving ahead of Keith Marriner who was baulked by Taubitz on the run to turn one.

As the field rounded turn three, Rowland had a slide on cold tyres which allowed Michael Westaway through to fourth position, while Howe also got a run on him and nosed ahead down the back straight. Being on the outside of the track however, he wasn’t able to hold the position, and his compromised exit from the hairpin allowed Woods to range alongside and pull off the pass for sixth under brakes for turn seven.

Behind them, Marriner made a move on Vainoras for tenth position under brakes for the hairpin, while Taubitz passed Andreevski for eighth spot under brakes for the turn seven hairpin, puling the move off through the final two corners.

Beller was determined to make up for his race 2 and 3 issues and was looking for a way past Lewis-Williams, the pair not separated by more than a few tenths of a second the entire race as they pulled out a comfortable lead on the Westaways, with Tony forced to defend his third position quite against Michael right behind him in fourth. Rowland was being kept company by Ryan Woods in the early running having to keep the #17 at bay.

Marriner moved up to ninth position on lap two as he repeated his pass from the previous lap, this time on Toni Andreevski, while Dick Howe was struggling with some gear issues, as Taubitz moved around him as they crossed the line to complete the second lap.

Taubitz was closing on the battle in front of him between Rowland and Woods, and ranged onto the back of Woods, looking for a way past before encountering issues as the duo exited the hairpin on lap 7, with the #74 car coming to a halt on the infield where he would spectate the second half of the race.

Lewis-Williams was able to resist the relentless pressure from Beller to hold on and take the victory at the end of the 12 laps – which,  while tying with Beller for points, would award him the round victory by virtue of his win in the final feature race for the round.

Beller couldn’t find a way through to snatch victory, and had to settle for second position, though retained his points lead exiting the round with two rounds remaining for the 2017 season.

Monopolising the third position placings for the entire weekend was Tony Westaway, although he found himself facing the biggest challenge for the position that he had for the entire weekend in the closing stages of this race, from his brother Michael Westaway, Tony was able to hold on for the spot.

Michael Westaway had great pace in this final race and closed right onto Tony in the latter stages of the race, but didn’t find away to get himself onto the podium and settled for fourth position.

Fifth position for both the race, and the weekend was Ken Rowland.  Ken wasn’t quite able to keep pace with the Westaways in front, and once he was able to move away from the early challenge from behind courtesy of Ryan Woods he consolidated for the fifth spot, with Ryan securing sixth position for both the race, and also for the weekend with a solid performance in his first weekend back in the 944 Challenge.

Seventh for the race, and again – for the weekend, was Dick Howe. Dick moved back up to seventh and managed to sort his vehicle issues following Taubitz’ retirement, but he was unable to close the gap to Woods in front.

Finishing in eighth position (again, for the weekend also) was Keith Marriner. Marriner also benefitted from Taubitz’ retirement to move into eighth position, and then was able to focus on keeping Toni Andreevski behind him to the end of the race.

Toni Andreevski ran a strong race and finished off his first race weekend commendably – and managed to improve his best laptime for the weekend by a full second in the final race. He was impressive with his improvement in pace over the four races – with more clearly to be unlocked in the races ahead.

John Vainoras was tenth and the final finisher for the race as he maintained his 100% finishing record. Proving how important consistancy and finishing races is in the points tally, John finds himself sitting in seventh position in the 944 Points at present after 5 rounds – a fantastic achievement.

The only DNF in the the final race was Mark Taubitz, in what has been a forgettable few rounds for him. Initial reports was that something letting go in the driveline of the car causing a huge racket and vibration which left him unable to continue.

So two rounds remain for 2017, and we head to Phillip Island at the end of September for Round 6, which is also the final round of the Vic State Series. Cameron Beller is the favourite to secure the Vic State Series Title for 2017 as he enters with a 35 point advantage.

The battle is wide open in the 944 Series Title with the top 5 drivers in with a chance at securing the title if things fall their way. Strange things have happened in the final rounds in previous years! Head down to Phillip Island on Grand Final weekend!

         

Round 5. Mallala – Race 3

Race 3 of the Mallala race weekend was a 10 lap event held at 10:30 on the Sunday morning, with Cameron Beller and Chris Lewis-Williams on a win apiece after the two Saturdays races.

Sadly there would be only 12 cars taking the start, as Paul Crocitti encountered engine issues during his morning warm up, which would prevent his from taking the start from his well earnt fourth starting spot – a cruel blow.

Cameron Beller yet again led into the first corner with Chris Lewis-Williams behind, ahead of Tony Westaway, with Ken Rowland jumping up to fourth position, aided by the empty grid slot in front of him thanks to Crocitti. Ryan Woods was next through ahead of Dick Howe, Michael Westaway, Mark Taubitz who slipped back after missing the start, Marius Catrina, Keith Marriner, Toni Andreevski and John Vainoras.

Howe moved up to fifth position with a pass on Woods down the back straight, Woods clearly suffering from a shortage of horsepower onboard car #17.

The top two yet again pulled a gap on the third place Tony Westaway who himself pulled a small gap of Rowland in fourth, who also found himself comfortable ahead of fifth placed Howe.

The battle for fifth is where all the excitement was, as Woods was trying every trick in the book to move back ahead of Howe, while Taubitz managed to take the seventh position from Michael Westaway under brakes for the final hairpin on lap 3, and set about after Howe and Woods.

Woods made a move on the inside of Howe at turn three on lap 4, but Howe was able to power past down the back straight to hold the position. The following lap Howe suffered the same fate though this time went off at the exit of the corner, allowing Woods, Taubitz and Westaway to all pass. Westaway was looking for a way through to move past either Woods or Taubitz as the pair battled, which left him compromised against Howe who made a pass back for position into the final hairpin corner to close lap five.

Taubitz had his sights set on Woods, and got a great run onto the back straight and pulled alongside under brakes on the outside of the corner. He was able to hold position with Woods and completed the pass as the pair ran side-by-side through the fast left hand sweeper. A small mistake in turn two on lap seven allowed Woods to nose ahead on the run to turn three. The two cars ran side by side through turn three before Taubitz was able to pull ahead down the straight, while behind them, Westaway made the pass back against Howe into turn three to take back seventh position.

As the pack came to cross the line for the seventh time, Woods had a moment and drifted into the Mallala dust, regaining control but the loss of momentum costing him two positions as Westaway and Howe both moved through for sixth and seventh respectively. The battle with Woods and Howe continued on in earnest, as Howe would exploit the speed advantage and move clear, only for Woods to close up under brakes, as the pair diced for the entire lap before Woods got ahead at the final hairpin to end lap 7.

Lap 9 saw dramas for Beller as he again experienced brake dramas at the turn 5 hairpin, going off and allowing Chris Lewis-Williams through for the lead of the race, with Beller again resuming in front of Westaway, while Howe turned the tables on Woods yet again, and was back through for seventh position.

Lewis-Williams was able to cross the line first at the end of the ten laps, though the celebration was short lived however, as he was deemed to have crept on the grid before the start of the race, and was handed a 5 second post race penalty – giving the win to Beller, and relegating Lewis-Williams to second place points for the race.

Third position yet again went the way of Tony Westaway, who was a lot closer to the front pair this morning crossing the line 4 seconds behind Beller, but not close enough to capitalise and be elevated to second position with Chris’ penalty.

Fourth position went the way of Ken Rowland with a great result although a fairly lonely race ahead of the dicing group behind him.

Making the pass for fifth position was Michael Westaway, who didn’t relent on the pressure and passed Taubitz under brakes for the hairpin on the final lap, dropping Taubitz back to sixth position.

Dick Howe was able to hold on to finish in seventh position, with Ryan Woods right behind him in eighth after some great racing between the four drivers for positions 5 through to 8, with no panel rubbing at all – great to see!

Ninth position went to Marius Catrina, which he held from start to finish of the ten laps. He was kept on his toes for the duration of the race by Keith Marriner who was behind him from the start of the race all the way through to turn 7 on the final lap, where Marriner slipped wide and allowed the following Toni Andreevski through to steal the tenth position, with Marriner recovering to cross the line just behind Toni in eleventh position.

The final finisher was John Vainoras as he was enjoying his most competitive weekend to date on his way to twelfth position, with the lap speed gap to the rest of the field having decreased significantly.

3 down, 1 to go! A final 12 lap race to close out a fun weekend, would it be Beller or Lewis-Williams in the final race?

         

Round 5. Mallala – Race 2

Late on Saturday afternoon, the field rolled out for Race 2 of Round 5 of the 2017 season at Mallala raceway less than two hours after the end of Race 1.

Two cars who did not make it for the start, and were out for the weekend were Pedr James – his engine dramas unfortunately more terminal than what was hoped, and Jim Mitchell – whose clutch dramas put him out for the rest of the weekend also.

Cameron Beller got the jump off the line again to lead into the first few corners, with the next few drivers remaining in grid formation behind him, with Chris Lewis-Williams in second, from Tony Westaway, Paul Crocitti and Michael Westaway in fifth. Ryan Woods jumped up to sixth ahead of Ken Rowland and Dick Howe, followed by Keith Marriner, Toni Andreevski, Marius Catrina, Mark Taubitz and John Vainoras.

How made his way past Rowland under brakes for the hairpin for the first time, while Catrina and Taubitz both pulled the same move on Andreevski, dropping him back to twelfth position, and then thirteenth when Vainoras also passed him for twelfth.

At the close of lap 2 Michael Westaway moved up to fourth position briefly, before some contact between he and Paul Crocitti saw Westaway come off second best and he dropped back to eleventh position behind Taubitz. Behind him, Andreevski made a pass back on Vainoras again to move back to twelfth spot while Howe made his way past Woods for the fifth position on the following lap.

On lap 4, and drama for Beller as the car didn’t pull up as he braked for the hairpin corner, allowing Lewis-Williams through to the lead of the race while Beller recovered to second position. A few seconds later there was deja vu as Dick Howe suffered the same fate, spearing off at the hairpin though he resumed in seventh position, though now found himself with Marriner, Catrina, Taubitz and Michael Westaway surrounding him.

Marriner tried the outside line in the last hairpin which didn’t pay off, while Catrina did the same while Taubitz took the inside line, which gave him the position through the final corner, with Westaway following him past into tenth position.

Howe continued to struggle as he ran wide exiting turn two, with Taubitz attempting a move to pass Marriner as he reacted to Howe rejoining the circuit, but ended up being wrong footed and lost ninth position to Michael Westaway on entry to turn three. Dramas again for Westaway though as he slowed suddenly around the left hand sweeper the following lap, allowing Taubitz and Catrina back through as he found himself in eleventh position again as he returned to pace.

Taubitz now resumed hostilities with Marriner, who had a huge tank slapper exiting turn 1 which he somehow regained control of, thought left him vulnerable and was passed by Taubitz for position under brakes for turn 3. Marriner was struggling with the handling as he then understeered of the track exiting the last corner later in the lap, making slight contact with the outside wall and dropping to twelfth position behind Andreevski, though he was able to continue on.

Beller was able to make some small gains on Lewis-Williams at the front, though it was a comfortable 3.5 second victory at the end, with Tony Westaway a small amount further behind in another third position. Paul Crocitti was again fourth, just over a second behind Westaway, with Woods crossing the line in fifth a few seconds further adrift.

Rowland was sixth not far behind Woods, with a gap back to Howe, who was able to keep Taubitz at bay across the final lap, with Michael Westaway not far behind the duo in ninth position, with Catrina rounding out the top ten.

Toni Andreevski crossed the line in eleventh position, with Marriner surviving to finish twelfth, ahead of Vainoras in thirteenth position.

So at the end of the first days racing, it was 1 win each to Beller & Lewis-Williams – who would take the weekend spoils after two more races on Sunday?

         

Round 5. Mallala – Race 1

Race 1 of the 4 races that made up Round 5 of the 944 Challenge was a quick 6 lap screamer held mid Saturday afternoon at Mallala Motorsport Park, the first race in 6 and a half years for the 944’s in South Australia. Unable to effect repairs in time for the race start was Pedr James, but the team hoped to line up for Race 2.

Cameron Beller led away from pole position to jump into the lead ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams, with Tony Westaway next from Michael Westaway and Paul Crocitti in fifth. Slow to get away from fifth on the grid was Mark Taubitz, moving away slowly and rolling straight into pit entry instead of taking the first corner to retire after he began experiencing a misfire on the warmup lap.

This moved Ken Rowland and Dick Howe up to sixth and seventh positions, ahead of Keith Marriner, and Ryan Woods who burst through from his start at the rear of the field. John Vainoras was next through in tenth position, ahead of Jim Mitchell and Toni Andreevski, while resuming at the back after stalling off the grid was Marius Catrina.

Crocitti moved up to fourth position with a pass on Michael Westaway when the latter missed a gear, while Howe moved his way past Rowland and up to sixth position, and Mitchell moved past Vainoras for tenth spot.

Up front Beller and Lewis-Williams started building a gap, while Tony Westaway focussed on keeping Crocitti behind him, while Michael Westaway was trying to find a way back past for fourth position. Jim Mitchell meanwhile experienced some clutch issues and dropped to the back of the pack, before pulling off to retire on lap 3.

Woods worked his way past Marriner on lap 3 and moved up to the eighth position and chased after the battle for sixth position between Howe and Rowland, while Andreevski passed Vainoras on lap 4 to move himself into the top 10.

Up front Chris Lewis-Williams set the races fastest lap, and a new lap record on lap 5 as he tried to pass Beller, but had to settle for second as Beller took the victory with Tony Westaway in third, still with Paul Crocitti in a Westaway sandwich in fourth position, with Michael Westaway in fifth.

Dick Howe was able to hold on for sixth position, with Ken Roland and Ryan Woods right behind, with Keith Marriner less than two seconds behind in ninth position.

Toni Andreevski held on to secure a top ten in his first race start, ahead of John Vainoras and Marius Catrina rounding out the finishers in twelfth.

Two DNF’s in this race with Mitchell retiring on lap 3, with Taubitz not making it past the first corner, hopefully both would return for Race 2 along with Pedr James.

A quick turn around before Race 2 which was only a couple hours later!

         

Round 5. Mallala – Qualifying

Qualifying for Round 5 of the 2017 944 Challenge held at Mallala Raceway was going to be an unknown quantity with no recent form to go by at the Mallala circuit.

It was Chris Lewis-Williams jumped to the top of the time sheets early on with a 1:20.7648, just edging out Cameron Beller with a 1:20.8520. Tony Westaway moved into third quickest with a 1:21.3722 ahead of Paul Crocitti with a 1:22.0231. Michael Westaway was fifth fastest with a 1:22.5203, with Mark Taubitz sixth on a 1:22.6499. Ken Rowland was seventh (1:23.5848) just ahead of Keith Marriner (1:23.5964)

Marius Catrina was next with a 1:23.8525 ahead of Dick Howe with a 1:24.2414. Jim Mitchell was next (1:26.8225) followed by John Vainoras (1:26.8375) with Pedr James next with a 1:27.2440.

Beller jumped to the top of the time sheets as he dipped into the 19’s with a 1:19.9278, as Crocitti improved with a 1:21.6777, which he would not beat for the remainder of the session. Ken Rowland jumped up to fifth with a 1:21.8418, ahead of Taubitz who improved with a 1:21.9136 but remained sixth, ahead of Michael Westaway who slipped to seventh despite improving with a 1:21.9620.

Marius Catrina moved up to eighth with a 1:22.7783, with James up to tenth with a 1:23.7488, just ahead of Howe who set a 1:23.7740. Mitchell also improved in twelfth with a 1:25.9727.

Beller improved marginally with a 1:19.9004, as did Lewis-Williams with a 1:20.5021, with Tony Westaway setting a fantastic 1:20.5432 for his fastest time for the session to be just behind Lewis-Williams. Howe improved to ninth with a 1:23.5349, just ahead of James who improved with a 1:23.5595.

Lewis-Williams lowered the gap to Beller as he set a 1:20.2902, but he was unable to improve on that and would settle for second on the grid behind Beller. Rowland improved further with a 121.7839, a time he was unable to improve on also. Howe lowered his time by half a second as he ran a 1:22.9285 though would remain ninth, while Vainoras improved with a 1:26.4561.

Taubitz moved up to fourth on the next lap as he recorded a 1:21.1775, ahead of Michael Westaway who moved up to fifth with a 1:21.5144. Howe moved up to eighth with a 1:22.5526, with Marriner into tenth with a 1:23.5147, just ahead of James who set his best lap of 1:23.5349 – as he struggled with a lack of power onboard car #98.

Taubitz lowered his time slightly with a 1:21.0912 on the next lap which would stand as his fastest time, as Howe did the same and with a 1:22.1434 Keith Marriner moved up to ninth with a 1:22.6850, as Mitchell improved slightly with a 1:25.9371

Howe and Marriner both improved the next lap with a 1:21.9250 and 1:22.6460, but they would remain in eighth and ninth positions respectively, while Mitchell improved again with a 1:25.1516.

Beller wasn’t finished up front however as he found a further two tenths of a second to underline his pole position with a 1 :19.7068. Michael Westaway found some time with a 1:21.3278, as Mitchell again improved with a 1:24.5734, as did Vainoras with a 1:25.7447.

The grid seemed set until Michael Westaway improved on his very last lap to run a 1:20.6957, up onto the second row of the grid again beside Tony Westaway, pushing Taubitz back to fifth position.

Not mentioned throughout, were the cars of the returning Ryan Woods and rookie Toni Andreevski.- both cars ran well in qualifying, with Woods actually running a time that was quick enough for fifth on the grid – however both cars were found to be underweight following qualifying – and their times were disallowed, and they would be starting from the rear of the grid for race 1.

Race 1 of 4 coming up – a quick 6 lap blast scheduled for 1:50pm!

   

Round 4. Sandown – Qualifying

Qualifying for Round 4 of the 2017 944 Challenge was held late in the morning with 16 cars taking to the track, after the #4 of Ken Rowland unable to complete car preparation to be able to compete on the weekend.

As the field completed their warm up laps and commenced their first flying laps, the red flag waved as the car of Taubitz had gone off at Turn 1 – the car pitched sideways into the guardrail in the braking zone for Turn 1 in a strange accident that would put him out for the weekend with too much front end damage to repair at the track.

The resultant delay caused some delays with the rest of the field with their times, with confusion reigning with the remaining time showing in the session changing, and catching out some of the front runners.

Once the field resumed again once the track opened up it was Cameron Beller who set the fastest first flying lap, a 1:25.5717 ahead of Vince Misuraca who was second fastest with a 1:26.4694.

Paul Crocitti was an impressive third with a 1:27.1913, just ahead of Dick Howe fourth fastest with a 1:27.2760 – with neither driver able to improve on those times in the shortened session.

Fifth quickest was Lyndon Watson on a 1:27.4507, ahead of Codey West in sixth with a a 1:27.6486, with Brad Winter next on a 1:28.2212.

Tony Westaway was eighth fastest with a 1:28.2578, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams with a 1:29.4717, and Michael Westaways 1:30.0790 rounding out the ten fastest times after the first timed laps.

Rob Holding was eleventh quickest on 1:30.8654, ahead of Andrew Jackman with 1:31.5477, Jim Mitchell with 1:36.4692 and John Vainoras’ 1:38.8267.

Beller cemented Pole Position on his next lap as he ran 1:24.9221 to lock down the top spot, while behind him Watson & West both lowered their times with 1:27.3010 and 1:27.4942 respectively, though neither improved on their positions. Chris Lewis-Williams ran a 1:27.6365, but this was his last lap of the session, which left him languishing uncharacteristically back in the pack, while Michael Westaway moved to eighth with a 1:27.9245, Tony Westaway to ninth with a 1:28.1335.

Rob Holding set his fastest time for the session with a 1:28.6136 to go eleventh fastest, as Jackman also improved with a 1:30.0542, as well as Mitchell dropping down to a 1:34.5083 and Vainoras with a 1:35.5675, in what would be his fastest time for the session to land him in fourteenth.

Vince Misuraca lowered his time the following lap but could not get close to Beller, though his 1:26.0399 was enough to earn the second front row start, as Brad Winter moved up to fourth with a 1:27.2296, and Codey West again improved slightly with a 1:27.4425.

Tony Westaway improved with a 1:28.0760, though that was as fast as he would manage in the session down in tenth position, while Andrew Jackman improved with his fastest time for the session with a 1:29.6922 – as did Jim Mitchell with a 1:33.9038.

Disappointment for Crocitti on the final laps as he was pushed back from third on the grid to sixth, as Lyndon Watson (1:26.6121), Codey West (1:27.1344) and Brad Winter (1:27.1848) all eclipsed him on their final laps – in the case of West & Winter, by less than half a tenth of a second!

Michael Westaway was the last of the drivers to improve his speed on the last lap, though it didn’t push him up the order as he ran a 1:27.7015 and remained in ninth.

So it was the #1 car of Cameron Beller who took a commanding pole position by over one second from Vince Misuraca. A pair of rookies on row 2 as Lyndon Watson would line up alongside Codey West, while fifth fastest was Brad Winter  just ahead of Paul Crocitti.

Seventh was Dick Howe who would line up alongside Chris Lewis-Williams, uncharacteristically back in eighth position, while rounding out the top ten were the Westaway brothers, with Michael on this occasion coming out on top over Tony.

Eleventh fastest was Rob Holding, just edging out the returning Andrew Jackman, ahead of Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras in fourteenth position.

Not recording a time was Jim Gallagher who had a major engine issue onboard car #13 and prevented him from turning a lap, and also Mark Taubitz, who brought out the early Red Flag with an incident at Turn 1 on his first timed lap sent the #74 car into the Turn 1 wall – the resulting damage causing him to sit out the rest of the weekend.

Rest assured that the results wouldn’t be quite so one sided in the races as Misuraca would surely mount an attack, while Lewis-Williams and the Westaways would no doubt move through from the back of the top ten! Race 1 @ 3:35pm.