The final race for the 944 Challenge for the weekend would be the 10 lap race held at 11:20am. A scheduling error with the Winton Raceway had the 944s down for 4 races originally, however this was adjusted back to the usual 3 races to tie in with the rest of the 944 Season. The benefit of this though, was that the cars were able to run their longer race before the peak temperatures of the day would hit in the mid afternoon.
The two HTP cars of Misuraca and Lewis-Williams were on the front row again after being separated by Beller in the second race, with Beller starting from third alongside Michael Westaway.
The top three drivers held position going into turn 1, though Graham Smith got a great start jumping ahead of Crocitti and Michael Westaway to jump into 4th place into turn 1. Michael Westaway’s great weekend came a bit unravelled when he first made a mistake coming onto the back straight, and then went wide coming around the second last corner and looped the Orange Porsche – with paul Crocitti also losing spots as a result of taking avoiding action.
This left Tony Westaway in 5th across the line for the first time, with Jason Miller up to 6th – with a number of tweaks in between races meant that things were finally turning around for the NSW based team with some speed being unlocked on the #3. Pedr James was 7th from Marius Catrina, Jim Gallagher and Brad Winter, with Crocitti and Westaway bringing up the rear after their excursion into the Winton beach..
Miller passed Westaway on the 2nd lap to get into 5th place, whie Crocitti displaced Winter and moved back into the top 10 as he again started another ran back upthrough the field, passing Catrina to move up to 9th, with Gallagher also passing car #12 to move to 8th, moving Marius back to 10th, which became 12th when Westaway and Winter made their way past a lap later, Marius not happy with the performance of his Porsche in the warmer conditions.
While the positions remained the same for the next few laps, the action was still frantic, with the top three drivers recording their fastest laps on laps 5 & 6 – CLW just half a tenth of a second short of stealing Beller’s new lap record with his fastest lap of 1:35.52.
At the completion of lap 6, Crocitti’s great run came to an end – smoke eminating from the rear of the Winton 300 Winning car, and Paul pulled off at the exit of turn 1 and out of harms way, but a disappointing end to a great weekend for him.
Despite the efforts of both Lewis-Williams and Beller shadowing him, Misuraca didn’t put a foot wrong, and the widest 944 at Winton held off for another victory, and a perfect weekend points wise – the only feather missing from his cap was the new lap record which went to Beller – but Vince can still claim the only 1:34 second lap reorded in an official 944 session!
Lewis-Williams and Beller rounded out the podium, with the round results reflecting the race 3 results for the top 3 also. Unfortunately for Smith, a drama on the last lap meant he dropped 14 seconds on that lap, and was rounded up by Miller on the run to the flag despite a 10 second lead at the start of lap 10, though he was still able to coast across for a 5th place finish and some valuable points just ahead of Tony Westaway in 6th. The Miller team, were very happy with a strong finish after a very trying weekend for them.
Pedr James was a couple of seconds behind Tony Westaway in 7th, ahead of Gallagher, Winter, M Westaway and Catrina finishing off the weekend.
So at the completion of the round, Vince Misuraca has the points lead from Lewi-Williams and Beller. Michael Westaway sits 4th as a result of his two 4th place finishes, while Miller is 5th as a result of his 4th place finish in the final race despite the teams challenges for the weekend, and aided by the fact that Smith and Crocitti who had two strong results, were hurt by their respective DNF’s in races 1 & 3.
8 Weeks to go until we arrive at Phillip Island for Round 2 of the 944 Challenge, and Round 1 of the Vic State Series Championship. That brings with it the promise of more close racing, the expected return of a few seasoned competitors, as well as the debut for a few new drivers and cars that have not been seen – the scene is set for a very strong year of racing for the 944 Challenge!