Qualifying was held in beautiful sunny conditions at Phillip Island at Saturday Lunchtime for Round 2 of the 2016 Porsche 944 Challenge.
After a dominating weekend, Vince Misuraca was hoping to repeat his pole position effort, but the windy conditions meant that there would not be a repeat of a record setting pace as there was at Winton.
After the first flying laps, there was nothing in it up the front – with less than .07 of a second covering the top 3, Cam Beller fastest with a 1.50.7153, followed by Vince Misuraca on a 1:50.7653 and Chris Lewis-Williams with a 1:50.7850. 4th was John Stanic with a 1:52.7446
A big gap to the next runners who were trying to find a spot for a clean run, with Tony Westaway 5th on a 1:53.8015 on his first timed lap, just ahead of Jim Gallagher in 6th, Jason Miller in 7th, Michael Westaway 8th, Dick Howe 9th and Brad Winter 10th. Ryan Woods was 11th from Marius Catrina in 12th on a 1:56.0496, then Pedr James, Ken Rowland, Ben Raphael and Mark Taubitz.
Chris Lewis-Williams leapt to the top of the time sheets on his second lap with a 1:49.8289, just ahead of Beller who also dipped into the 1:49’s, just behind Chris with a 1:49.8542. Vince Misuraca also bettered his time with a 1:50.3811, as did Jason Miller who jumped up to 4th with a 1:51.3906 just ahead of Tony Westaway who also improved to 1:51.4258 and Dick Howe up to 6th on 1:52.3430, dropping Stanic back to 7th.
Jim Gallagher moved to 8th with a 1:53.5905, Woods up to 9th with 1:53.9328 and Winter improving his time to a 1:53.9920, but down to 10th on the timesheets. Pedr James improved to 12th behind Michael Westaway with a 1:54.7263 lap just ahead of Mark Taubitz with his first representative lap just behind on 1:54.7986.
John Stanic jumped up to 3rd ahead of Misuraca on his third times lap with a 1:50.1642, as T. Westaway and Miller both went faster also, but Westaway leapfrogging Miller with his 1:51.1997 displacing Millers 1:51.3650. Michael Westaway dropped into the 51’s with a 1:51.9229 to jump up to 7th ahead of Howe, Winter also improving back up to 9th with a 1:52.6929 with Jim Gallagher now on 1:53.2671. Ken Rowland raced into the sub 2 minute category with 1:57.7260
Beller then displaced Lewis-Williams at the top with a 1:49.4378 on his 4th timed lap, as Miller also jumped ahead of Westaway for 5th again with a 1:51.1128 lap. Dick Howe also went back into 8th place with his 1:51.9866 time, as Jim Gallagher continued to lower his times, down to 1:53.1352. Pedr James went faster with his 1:54.0245 lap, and Ken Rowland also continued coming to grip with his new car, now down to 1:56.2477.
Misuraca went marginally quicker with 1:50.2717 but remained in 4th, as Woods improved with a 1:53.4640, as Taubitz moved ahead of James with a 1:53.9243. Ben Raphael was acclimatising himself to his first qualifying session while being mindful of the track full of experienced 944’s and Saloon cars – and dropped his fastest time down to 2:08.1166
Misuraca then jumped into 2nd with a 1:49.6118 second lap, and Stanic moved to third with 1:49.8172, dropping Lewis-Williams back to 4th. Gallagher continued to chip his time down and down, now into the 1:52’s with 1:52.7051 as Ryan Woods set a 1:53.1498 time in 11th.
Across the line the next time was something you wouldn’t be able to make up – Beller, Misuraca and Stanic – all improved their times and Beller was the man on top – his 1:49.2802 just besting Misuraca’s 1:49.2873 and Stanic’s 1:49.2927 – just .0125 of a second covering the top three – that’s one eighth of a tenth of a second! This would set the top three of the grid, with Lewis-Williams the only other driver in the sub 1 minute 50 mark in 4th place.
Winter also was improving, and ran a 1:52.0697 on lap 7, then went half a second faster on lap 8 with a 1:51.5072 – moving up to the 7th spot on the grid behind Miller and Tony Westaway, dropping Michael Westaway to 8th, Howe to 9th as Gallagher went faster again, now on a 1:52.2871.
Woods secured his 11th place grid spot with a 1:53.1498, while James moved back to 12th with a 1:53.6251
Tony Westaway had a last ditch effort to get back into the top 5 but just fell short, his last lap 1:51.1688 half a tenth shy of Millers 5th fastest time, ahead of Winter in 7th, and Dick Howe, back into 8th with a 1:51.8193. This pushed Michael Westaway into 9th, just ahead of Jim Gallagher, who went faster again and scraped into the 51’s, with a 1:51.9933 lap on his last lap.
Woods was 11th, from Taubitz who jumped back ahead of James with a 1:53.4861. James was 13th from Catrina, Rowland and Raphael.
Extremely close up the front, this would certainly be an exciting race!