All was dry for the final race of the weekend at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon after the unexpected moisture for race 2 – and all 22 cars that qualified on Saturday morning lined up to take the starters orders for the final race on Sunday afternoon.
It was even-stevens off the line amongst the front two rows on the race to turn 1 from the start, with Cameron Beller able to hold position as the leaders entered the corner, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams. Vince Misuraca and Brad Winter rounded turn 1 side-by-side with Misuraca able to take the third position with the inside line for turn 2.
Behind them in fifth position was Robert Lange, ahead of Dick Howe, Tony Westaway and Paul Crocitti in eighth position. Getting a great start from thirteenth on the grid was Michael Westaway, who took the ninth position ahead of Mark Taubitz in tenth.
Slotted into eleventh was Pedr James, with Ken Rowland in twelfth as they rounded turn 1, with a slow starting Jim Gallagher side-by-side with a fast starting Ross Millar through the corner. Marius Catrina was next from Peter Doherty, Keith Marriner, Rob Holding, Ben Raphael, Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras. Paul Greer again made a strong start but pulled off very quickly, with his mechanical issues still not solved, he retired the #14 car.
On the short run to turn 2 there was some action mid pack as Ross Millar, Jim Gallagher and Ken Rowland were three wide on the approach to the corner, though Millar braked latest and with the inside line, took the twelfth position with Gallagher sweeping around the outside to move into thirteenth ahead of Rowland. Down the back straight, Gallagher then rounded up Millar with a bold move around the outside at the end of the back straight to move into 12th position, and began the chase of the cars in front of him.
Across the line the first time it was Beller, Lewis-Williams, Misuraca, Winter, Lange, Howe, T Westaway, Crocitti, M Westaway, Taubitz, James, Gallagher, Millar, Rowland, Catrina, Doherty, Marriner, Holding, Raphael, Mitchell and Vainoras.
The top 3 were close as the other cars found a bit of space as they settled in for the 10 lap race – up to the battle for eighth that is, with 7 cars all in close proximity. Behind that battle, Doherty was able to pass Catrina on lap 2 to move up to fifteenth position.
Michael Westway made a move to the head of the train when he passed Crocitti under brakes into turn 1 to start lap 3, and then began to scoot away from his pursuers.
The following lap, Lange made a move past Winter to move up into the fourth position, meanwhile Tony Westaway passed Howe for sixth position under brakes for turn 1. Just behind them, Taubitz repeated the move Westaway made on the previous lap and passed Crocitti into turn 1 to move into ninth place.
On the run to turn 2 both James and Gallagher had visions of capitalising on Crocitti’s compromised exit from turn 1 and 3 cars went into turn 2! 3 into (turn) 2 doesn’t go however, and Gallagher on the inside of the corner couldn’t hold the sharp line and bounced across the turn 3 infield grass, with Pedr James following him to cleverly avoid contact with the about to be airbourne #13 944. Gallagher rejoined the track having gained two positions in tenth, with Crocitti back to eleventh and James twelfth, with Millar and Rowland watching and waiting to capitalise behind them.
Down the back straight Crocitti pulled out and re-took tenth position from Gallagher, as Gallagher lifted from the throttle down the front straight as it appeared his grassy excursion had caused some further dramas, and he retired the car.
Up front and Beller was eking out a small gap to Lewis-Williams, while Lange was starting to close on the battle for second between Lewis-Williams and Misuraca, while Tony Westaway started making inroads on the gap up front of him to Winter.
Taubitz had closed back up to Michael Westaway, and made a lunge under brakes for turn 1. The two cars ran side-by-side through 1 and in the approach to 2 before Taubitz yielded, and Westaway held onto the position. Crocitti meanwhile, being harassed by James behind him, made a small error with a locked brake into Dandenong Road corner on lap 5, and allowed James to move alongside in the drag race to the final corners. James held tough on the outside of turn 11 which gave him the inside for turn 12, and secured the tenth position.
Two laps later it was deja vu, although this time the drivers roles were reversed – James going wide at Dandy Rd, Crocitti taking the left line and moving back to tenth position after going around the outside of turn 11 to get the inside run onto the main straight. James though, was now mechanically wounded, and the Millar/Rowland battle quickly caught and passed him in the run to turn 2, as did Catrina and Doherty, with Catrina having retaken the position he lost to Doherty on lap 2. Further back, Holding was experiencing some dramas and he lost the nineteenth position to Mitchell on lap 8.
Howe was trying hard to retake the sixth position back from Westaway but had a brake lock up into Dandenong Road corner and ventured across the gravel – fortunately he was able to continue, but lost a chance of taking the sixth position. What this did do though, was put him back into the clutches of Michael Westaway, who was still being relentlessly pursued by Taubitz.
James’ struggles saw him lose two further positions to Marriner and Raphael on lap 9, with Mitchell dropping him back to eighteenth on the final lap.
It was Cameron Beller though who took a lights to flag victory over Chris Lewis-Williams with a three second margin. Following close behind were Vince Misuraca and Robert Lange in fourth, a good recovery after dropping to last in the first race, but he was no doubt ruing the mistake.
Crossing the line fifth was Brad Winter, another solid round of results placing him fourth overall for the weekend, ahead of Tony Westaway who closed right onto his bumper at the finish, and who also had a strong weekend in which he was classified fifth outright.
The battle for seventh went right to the wire, as Michael Westaway and Taubitz were right behind Howe the last lap. Westaway made a move under brakes for turn 11, which he was able to pull off to take the seventh position. As Howes’ exit onto the main straight was then compromised, Taubitz was able to optimise his run out of the final corner and pulled alongside Howe as they approached the finish line, and crossed a mere .002 ahead of Howe to steal the eighth position at the finish.
Tenth across the line was Crocitti, narrowly ahead of Millar in eleventh position, with Rowland a couple of seconds further back in twelfth. Thirteenth and fourteenth positions went to Catrina and Doherty, separated by half a second across the line.
Fifteenth was a good result for Marriner, a could of seconds clear of Raphael in sixteenth position. Some way back was Mitchell in seventeenth, ahead of the ailing James, who managed to just hold out Holding as they ran to the line, with Vainoras being the final finisher. Only two DNF’s were Jim Gallagher after his off road expedition brought him unstuck, and the luckless Paul Greer, who will hopefully solve his car gremlins soon, as once they are sorted, the car will be a definite contender for top 10 results.
So Round 1 for 2017 is run and won, congrats to ALL entrants on a great clean and fun weekend of racing, now a chance to regroup and plan for Round 2 at Phillip Island in two months time!