A few hours after Practice completed, the 944 Challenge Cars were back on track in the heat of the midday Benalla sun.
Vince Misuraca started qualifying in the same way as practice – he headed the field onto the track, benefitting from clean air and immediately set the fastest time with a 1;35.71 on his first timed lap, followed by Chris Lewis-Williams following him around the track and recording a 1:35.95.
Cam Beller immediately went to P3 with a 1.36.04 on his first lap, employing a different strategy by being the last runner to join the track to get some fresh air. Tony Westaway slotted into 4th on a 1.37.34 from brother Michael 5th with a 1:38.18. Paul Crocitti went 6th fastest on his first lap in what would be his fastest lap of the session at 1:38.53, with Brad Winter a fraction slower with a 1:38.55 that he set on his first lap also being his fastest for the session. Graham Smith was 8th after lap 1 with a 1:38.68 from Jim Gallagher on 1:38.77, then Pedr James in 10th with a 1:39.02. Jason Miller was 11th on his first lap with a 1:39.23, from Marius Catrina who set a 1:40.22 which was also his fastest time for the session.
Vince raised the bar further on lap 2 with a 1:35.31 while Lewis-Williams ran a cool down lap, Cam Beller took the second fastest time with a 1:35.87 pushing CLW onto the second row by less than a tenth of a second. Graham Smith elevated himself to 6th with a 1:38.31, Pedr James jumped to 7th with his fastest time of 1:38.36, just ahead of Jim Gallagher up to 8th with his fastest time of 1:38.49, relegating Crocitti to 9th and Winter to 10th.
Misuraca wasn’t finished however, and cemented the pole position by putting it out of reach on his third lap with a stunning 1:34.93 – by far the fastest lap set by a 944 Challenge car around Winton by well over a second on the grippy new surface. He tried to go faster and got close on two occasions setting a 1:35.00 and 1:34.97 in ominous news for his chief rivals – with all three of Vince’s fastest laps over 6 tenths of a second faster than his closest rival. This then became Chris Lewis-Williams who took the front row spot back from Beller, with a 1:35.73 and then a 1:35.64 securing a HTP front row lockout for Race 1. Beller couldn’t get a clean run to mount a challenge to take the front row spot and fell half a second short on his next two laps before his tyres – along with everyone elses – succumbing to the punishing track temperatures as the times fell away.
Graham Smith managed to leapfrog ahead of the Westaway brothers on his third lap however, a 1:36.89 able to secure a second row starting spot alongside Beller for the first race. Tony Westaway set his fastest lap for the session on lap 3 also, but a 1:37.18 not enough to keep Smith behind him, and would start 5th alongside brother Michael, who also joined Tony in the 1:37 second category with a 1:37.32 on his fourth lap.
The second half of the field weren’t able to improve after their second laps, with the exception of Jason Miller who jumped into the 38’s with a 1:38.62 on his fourth and final lap of the session, just behind Winter, but unfortunately still trying to drive around a number of problems the team were trying to overcome in the white #3. It would be very close in this part of the field, with a quarter of a second covering the 5 drivers in positions 7 through to 11.
A thrilling Race 1 was on the cards in the afternoon – could anyone stick with the flying Vince Misuraca??