The rain clouds stayed away on Sunday morning as the field prepared for a quick six lap blast that was Race 2 of the second round of the 944 Challenge at Phillip Island.
Cameron Beller was again quickest off the start and led into turn 1, with Vince Misuraca running in his tyre tracks with a great start to follow him into Turn 1. Brad Winter also got a good start and was third, ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams who didn’t get a good start, and dropped back to fourth place.
Robert Lange was next ahead of the inseparable Westaway brothers, with Michael this time getting the better start and leading Tony through turn 1. Ken Rowland followed in eighth position, ahead of Pedr James in ninth, and Mark Taubitz in tenth after completely missing the start and lucky not to drop further back.
Jim Gallagher was next ahead of a fast starting Ben Raphael, with Rob Holding behind him. Marius Catrina remained in fourteenth with Dick Howe in fifteenth after his rear of grid start. Peter Doherty was in sixteenth after being forced to start off the rear and had Lyndon Watson behind him in seventeenth position with Jim Mitchell and John Vainoras behind them.
Gallagher locked a brake into Honda corner and lost two spots to Raphael who moved up to eleventh, and Holding up to twelfth while Lewis-Williams moved back up to third position with a pass on Winter under brakes into MG corner.
At the front of the field, the positions were status quo as Beller was able to slowly increase his gap to Misuraca and Lewis-Williams while Winter also just slipped off the tail of the top 3. Meanwhile, all of the position changes were happening in the second half of the field!
Gallagher was able to get back to twelfth position with a pass on Holding as they crested the top of Lukey Heights, and then back to eleventh with a pass on Raphael into turn 1 at the start of lap 2, and Catrina moved up to thirteenth with a pass on Holding under brakes for Honda corner. although he left the circuit just after and dropped back to seventeenth position again behind Holding, Howe, Watson and Doherty, while Howe then passed Holding and Raphael down the front straight to end the second lap.
Catrina moved back ahead of Doherty for sixteenth before Taubitz – who was battling a very loose car, spun entering Honda corner, dropping him back to seventeenth position. This elevated Gallagher to tenth and Howe into eleventh position, while Raphael was now twelfth with Holding still on his tail, and Watson in fourteenth ahead of Catrina and Doherty. Watson would have a moment in turn 11 however, dropping to seventeenth position behind Catrina, Doherty and Taubitz.
Lap 4 and Pedr James was able to make a move for eighth position on Ken Rowland, while Howe moved himself into the top ten with a pass on Gallagher.
The following lap and Lewis-Williams was able to get back to the second position with a pass on Misuraca, and there was further action at Honda corner, as Michael Westaway made a move on Lange which unfortunately ended in a spin for both cars. This elevated Tony Westaway to fifth position, with James now up to sixth with Rowland seventh.
Unfortunately for the latter two, their race – and weekend came to a close a few corners later. As Rowland was attempting to retake the position from James his car slipped off the track on the outside of Lukey heights as they crested the hill. With the wet grass from the rain across the weekend the car slid down the hill and entered the track again on the exit to MG corner – backwards.
As James rounded MG, he was struck in the rear by the rear of the sliding car of Rowland, putting both out on the spot as the two right rear corners of their 944’s made contact. A testament to the strength of the cars is that both will be repaired and expected on the grid at Winton for Round 3.
This elevated Michael Westaway back into the sixth position that he started the lap in, with Lange seventh, Howe to eighth position, with the rest of the field also moving up two positions also.
Beller was able to hold station out front and take a strong second victory for the weekend, with Lewis-Williams and Misuraca rounding out the Race 2 podium in a repeat of the Race 1 results.
Winter was again fourth, from Tony Westaway, Michael Westaway, Lange, and Gallagher, able to move back into eighth after Howe encountered some shifting issues on the final lap, but recovered to finish ninth just behind him.
Holding moved up to tenth position as he started the last lap dropping Raphael to eleventh, which became twelfth when Catrina also made a move past Raphael on the run to Honda corner. Holding unfortunately made a mistake at Honda and spun off, dropping him back to fourteenth position behind Taubitz, which moved Catrina up into the tenth position which he was able to hold to the end.
Doherty was able to capitalise when Holding had his moment also, and moved past Raphael into eleventh position into Siberia, pushing car #29 back to twelfth, where he finished the race.
Thirteenth was Taubitz, who was not able to run to his usual pace in the race with some car stability issues, with Holding and Watson crossing the line in fourteenth and fifteenth.
Sixteenth was Mitchell, crossing the line a few seconds clear of John Vainoras, both drivers improving substantially on their Race 1 laps times as they continue to find pace aroung the fast Phillip Island layout.
Beller had now won four races in a row – would he be able to make it five in a row at Race 3?