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?