Round 1. Sandown – Race 2

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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