The wet weather had kept away for the afternoon since the first 944 Challenge race of the day came to a close – though some crashes and subsequent red flags in some other categories events pushed the schedule back – and resulted in the final 10 lap race having to be shared with the Saloon Cars.
As the lights went out, Beller got the jump and moved up into the lead from Lewis-Williams and Miller, with Woods dropping back to fourth place from his pole position earned due to his victory in Race 2. Misuraca and Tony Westaway followed, with Michael Westaway in 7th after a demon start rounding up Jim Gallagher and Pedr James who started ahead of him. 8th was Gallagher, then Brad Winter who also got a great start and passed Stanic, James and Taubitz on the run down to Turn 1. Stanic sliced his way into 10th in turns 1 & 2 passing James & Taubitz, with Dick Howe in 13th from Raphael – with Rowland unfortunately encountering some gremlins and retiring without completing a lap.
Tony Westaway put Misuraca between himself and his brother with an inside move into Honda, as Stanic did the same to get ahead of Winter, while Miller tried to do the same to take second from Lewis-Williams, but couldn’t quite make it stick. Across the line for the first time it was Beller, Lewis-Williams, Miller, Woods, T.Westaway, Misuraca, M.Westaway, Gallagher, Stanic, Winter, Taubitz (who overtook James with a run onto the straight) Howe and Raphael.
Lewis-Williams took the lead from Beller while Misuraca retook the spot from Tony Westaway as the top 12 separated into 4 groups of 3 before Woods went wide on the exit of Honda, dropping 3 spots to Misuraca and both of the Westaways, while Stanic latched onto his tail when he passed Gallagher into Honda, but relinquished the spot back again in MG as Gallagher moved back to 8th.
As the leaders entered Honda on lap 3 the Safety Car came out due to a few Saloon Cars that decided to play in the sand… As the field slowed, this brought Michael Westaway and Ryan Woods unstuck as they both passed Tony Westaway who had slowed for the safety car boards and flags around the back of the circuit, earning them both a black flag penalty.
The race resumed at the completion of Lap 4 and unfortunately for Dick Howe his misfire returned and he pulled off and out of the race to retire. Drama also for Woods as he went wide on cold tyres through Southern Loop and drifted his way off the track into the grass and then the gravel dropping back to 12th position. Up front and Beller made his way back in front of Lewis-Williams in turns 1 & 2, while Stanic made his way past Tony Westaway under braking for Honda corner.
With the safety car bunching the field up, the leading saloon cars were able to move through the 944’s – causing dramas for all as they diced for position, with Winter backing out going into Honda which allowed Taubitz and James through, with James also passing Taubitz going through Honda, although Taubitz would retake the spot down the front straight.
Lap 6 and on the run to Honda Lewis-Williams made a move on the inside of Beller under brakes – but he went in a touch too deep and looped the Rocket Digital backed car around – Beller did his best to avoid him but just clipped the rotated Porsche with the left front corner of his car. All this was like Heavens Gate opening for Miller, who was following closely and was able to simply drive through to take the lead ahead of Beller who continued in 2nd place, with Misuraca in 3rd ahead of Stanic who made his was past Westaway who was 5th, but yet to serve his Black Flag penalty. Tony Westaway was now 6th from Gallagher, Taubitz was 8th from James, Woods and Lewis-Williams back in 11th, then Winter and Raphael.
Bellers dramas were not over though, as at the start of lap 7 a small section of bumper that was damaged in the slight contact with Lewis-Williams dislodged and came off under the front wheels sending Beller off the track, and dropping him back to 6th position. Michael Westaway served his Black Flag penalty and subsequently retired, elevating Tony Westaway to 4th with Gallagher in 5th. Lewis-Williams commenced his move back through the field and passed Woods to be up to 9th following Westaways retirement, which became 7th once he moved past first James, and then Taubitz. Ryan Woods pulled off to retire also at the end of the lap – an unfortunate DNF after his great Race 2 victory earlier in the day.
Lap 9 and Gallagher continued his fantastic run by jumping into 4th place displacing Tony Westaway, relegating Westaway to 5th. And that was how they finished – just! Misuraca threw everything he could at Miller including the races fastest lap, but Jason was able to hang on and score his first Race Victory! There was less than a tenth of a second separating the two across the line with Stanic a great comeback drive from 11th on the grid to finish just over a second behind in third, and setting his fastest lap on the last lap in his pursuit of the top two.
Gallagher held out Westaway for fourth place in the race to the line – his career best result, with Beller and Lewis-Williams crossing the line in 6th and 7th. Taubitz was 8th ahead of James at the completion of the 10 laps, with Winter in 10th. Ben Raphael was 11th in a solid race, and couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face afterwards!
That concluded a fantastic weekend of 944 Racing which brought about two first time race winners, and some close, clean and hard racing despite the tricky conditions.
Cameron Beller managed to take 944 Challenge Round honours by 1 point from Miller, closing the gap to Misuraca who leads the point score after 2 rounds from Lewis-Williams, Miller and Tony Westaway.
Jason Miller won the Vic State Round honours by virtue of his Race 3 win, and as a result leads the State Series Pointscore, with Beller 2nd from Misuraca, Lewis-Williams and John Stanic and Tony Westaway tied for fifth.
Only 3 weeks to the next Round at Sandown, where the great racing will no doubt continue!