After a Friday Practice Day with four seasons worth of weather at Phillip Island, the rain clouds cleared in time for Saturday as we prepared for Round 2 of the 2018 Victorian State Circuit Racing Championships. With qualifying for the 944 Challenge taking place first up on Saturday morning, with four drivers which were not at Sandown for Round 1 heading out onto the track. An unfortunate absentee was Jim Gallagher, who was unable to make the round after having to cancel his racing plans at the last minute.
The early laps gave a good indication of who would be where on the grid, as Cameron Beller went to the top on the first lap with a 1:50.1551, ahead of Jamie Westaway into second with a 1:50.7059. Brad Winter moved into third position with his first lap of 1:51.7692, with Lyndon Watson fourth quickest after recording a 1:51.9883.
Mark Taubitz was fifth fastest with a 1:52.6618, with Dick Howe into sixth on a 1:52.7375 lap. Andrew Jackman was in seventh after recording a 1:55.7570 on his first, and what would turn out to be only fast lap as he pulled off track on the next lap, and would slide down the order as others got quicker throughout the session.
Keith Marriner was next in eighth with a 1:56.1450, with the returning Tim Petrusic in ninth position on a 1:56.3385, fractionally ahead of Peter Doherty with a 1:56.3440.
Easing into his first laps of 2018 was Michael Westaway as he moved into the eleventh position as he ran a 1:57.6794, with Toni Andreevski twelfth on his first lap after running a 2:00.3810. Rounding out the order after lap 1 was John Vainoras with a 2:08.8259, and Jim Mitchell with a 2:15.6991.
Lap 2 saw most of the field lower their times as Beller dropped right into the 1:48s with a 1:48.9806 lap, with Jamie Westaway recording a 1:49.9128, while Winter also improved with a 1:50.5777.
Taubitz and Howe both jumped ahead of Watson as they moved up to 4th and 5th with a 1:51.4452 and 1:51.5935 respectively, with Watson improving but now down to sixth with a 1:51.7891
Michael Westaway jumped up to seventh fastest with a 1:53.3098 lap, with Marriner and Doherty also improving with 1:54.2642 and 1:55.2223 laps, dropping Jackman back to tenth position.
Mitchell ran his first competitive lap with a 1:57.7081 to move up to twelfth, with Andreevski improving with a 1:58.7758, and Vainoras going faster with a 2:05.5069.
On Lap 3 and Westaway went faster with a 1:49.2930 lap, but he was not able to improve further on that lap in the remainder of the session. Michael Westaway also improved with a 1:52.7439 lap, while Petrusic jumped up to eighth fastest with a 1:53.1394. Toni Andreevski also went quicker with a 1:57.3762 to move him into twelfth fastest, with Vainoras running a 2:04.6462.
Brad Winter improved on the following lap with a 1:50.2891, a lap he was unable to better in the rest of the session, with Taubitz moving his benchmark down with a 1:50.9123. Marriner improved slightly with a 1:54.2551 in ninth place, with Doherty also going marginally quicker with a 1:55.1640 in tenth.
Toni Andreevski moved up to eleventh fastest with the fastest lap he would run in the session, a 1:55.4570, while Jim Mitchell also ran his fastest lap in a 1:56.6305, as Vainoras lowered his best time again with a 2:03.3045.
Taubitz ran his fastest lap for the session on the following circuit, a 1:50.5997, with Dick Howe also running his best lap just behind Taubitz, a 1:50.6642 for the pair to remain in 4th and 5th position, with Watson also running his best lap for the session that lap, a 1:50.9181 to remain in sixth spot.
Michael Westaway ran a 1:51.8812, as Petrusic also improved with a 1:52.6620 with both remaining seventh and eighth fastest respectively, while Marriner and Doherty ran their fastest laps for the session, a 1:54.0042 for Marriner in ninth position, and Doherty just behind in tenth with a 1:54.2406. Vainoras again improved with a 2:03.0790.
Beller ensured no one would be able to snatch pole position from him as he lowered the benchmark time with a 1:48.7935, and he then proceeded to park the #1 Porsche, his job done. Michael Westaway improved his time again as he ran his fastest time with a 1:51.5502 to lock in seventh position, ahead of Petrusic who ran his quickest time with a 1:52.5399 to be eighth fastest.
And with that, the field was set with Beller ahead of Jamie Westaway, with Winter and Taubitz both recording their best qualifying results in third and fourth respectively. Howe was next from Watson, Michael Westaway, Petrusic, Marriner and Doherty. Andreevski was next in eleventh, with Jackman, Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the lineup after he was the last one to improve his times as he ran a 2:01.3598 on his final lap.
The 8 lap Race 1 was the first race of the weekend after lunch – there were some surprises in store!