The 944 Challenge was fortunate to be invited to attend the Historic Sandown Round in November, in a combined race with the competitors of the BMW E30 series and Super Tourer fields. Unfortunately there was only one Super Touring car competing, but it happened to be the 1992 BTCC winning BMW raced that year by Tim Harvey and Steve Soper, this weekend being driven by Chris Oxley.
Qualifying was held under sunny Melbourne skies, and as the combined field completed their first flying laps it was Cameron Beller who was quickest straight up with a 1:28.1664. Mark Taubitz was second quickest with a 1:29.7957, followed by Chris Oxley’s Super Tourer with a 1:29.8189. Jamie Westaway was fourth in his father Tony’s 944 with a 1:30.9023 with Pedr James fifth quickest on 1:31.3814. Michael Holdcroft was the first of theE30 BMW’s in sixth with a 1:33.6091, ahead of Dick Howe’s 1:33.6108.
Peter Doherty was eighth with a 1:34.0356 with Tim Freeman next in the second E30 with a 1:35.0391. Jim Mitchell rounded out the top 10 with a 1:35.2717, ahead of Brian Bourke’s E30 with a 1:35.5921 and John Vainoras twelfth with a 1:35.9296. Thirteenth quickest, but only managing an out lap was Rory Plant in an E30, recording a 1:50.8375 he would finish the session in thirteenth, with Alex Jory in his E30 not eventuring out for qualifying.
Beller recorded a 1:27.6135 on his second lap, while Taubitz closed the gap with a 1:28.3539 on his lap to remain second quickest. Westaway moved into third with a 1:28.9084, with Michael Holdcroft up to fourth with a 1:29.2658. James inproved with a 1:30.6921 but slipped down to sixth spot, with Howe up to seventh with a 1:31.4939.
Beller went faster again the next lap with a 1:27.0065, a time he wouldn’t beat for the remainder of the session. Jumping up to second quickest was Oxley with a 1:27.6371, with Holdcroft moving to third with a 1:27.7285, besting Taubitz by half a hundredth of a second with a 1:27.7339 slipping back to fourth. Westaway also improved further with a 1:28.0084 but dropped back to fifth in the order. Dick Howe recorded a 1:29.4416 to move up to sixth, swapping spots with James who ran a 1:30.1411.
Peter Doherty remained eighth with a 1:31.2585, just ahead of Tim Freeman who recorded a 1:31.2842 which would be his fastest time for the session. Brian Bourke was just behind in tenth with a 1:31.3177, with Mitchell in eleventh improving to a 1:32.8689.
Oxley closed on Beller’s fastest time next lap around with a 1:27.1058, with Westaway moving up to third with a 1:27.3019. Holdcroft and Taubitz both ran faster, with the gap between them closing to only three ten thousandths of a second, a 1:27.4578 to a 1:27.4581 in what would be the fastest times for both drivers. Howe continued to improve as he recorded a 1:28.8946 while James also ran his fastest time for qualifying in a 1:29.9850. Bourke ran a 1:30.4965 to move up to eighth ahead of Doherty who improved slightly with a 1:30.9781. Mitchell went faster with a 1:31.5343, while Vainoras ran a 1:32.6021 which he wouldn’tbe able to improve on.
Oxley recorded the fastest time to move to provisional pole the next lap with a 1:26.9889, while Howe also improved again, a 1:28.1695 this time. Jim Mitchell jumped up to seventh position with a 1:29.6715, just ahead of Bourke who was up to eighth with a 1:29.7720. Doherty also ran his fastest time with a 1:30.2502 which moved him to tenth position behind James.
Westaway impressed as he jumped to the top of the timesheets the next lap with a 1:26.5489, a great performance in his first competitive outing in the car, as Howe also continued to lower his times, now into the 27’s with a 1:27.8073, before running his best time the following lap in a 1:27.4614, but remaining sixth behind Holdcroft and Taubitz – only .0036 of a second covering these three cars.
Bourke improved by a tiny margin with a 1:29.7459 but stayed in eighth, and it appeared the field was set – thatwas until Oxley gained over six tenths of a second on his final lap to take pole with a 1:26.3444, demoting Westaway to second on the grid.
Beller wouldlineup third alongside Holdcroft in the first of the E30 Bimmers. Taubitz and Howe were on the third row, with Mitchell on Row 4 alongside Bourke in the second E30. James and Doherty would fill Row 5, with Freeman in the third E30 filling the sixth row with Vainoras. Plantand Jory would line up on the final row of the grid.
As this wasn’t a points round, the 944 Challenge rules didn’t apply, therefore some cars used the opportunity to experiment with their cars and setups a fraction! An exciting race was promised to come!