Qualifying for Round 3 of the 2016 Porsche 944 Challenge was held early on Saturday morning on a sunny weekend at Sandown Raceway, with our two previous pole sitters from Round 1 & 2 the favourites to snare the number 1 spot again, although there would be threats from Jason Miller, riding high from his first race win at Phillip Island, and Brent Rose – returning behind the wheel of a 944 for the first time since his Round win at this event in 2015.
Beller immediately jumped to the top of the time sheets with a 1:26.4509, as the rest of the field warmed up tyres/brakes and brains – Beller was a massive three seconds clear of the man who went second fastest on the first timed lap, Jim Gallagher. Brent Rose, Brad Winter, Jason Miller and Mark Taubitz were next.
On the second lap the rest of the times started to come down as the field found some space and picked up the pace – though Beller wasn’t slowing down either and moved the mark a further half a second up with a 1:25.9684. Miller moved into 2nd with a 1:26.4505, 4 thousandths faster than Rose with a 1:26.4545. Only another tenth of a second behind was Misuraca with a 1:26.5619. Tony Westaway moved into 5th with a 1:27.0292 ahead of Taubitz on a 1:27.4335, the returning John Goddard in 7th with a 1:27.7777 then Ryan Woods on 1:27.8266.
9th was Jim Gallagher with a 1:28.3745 from Michael Westaway rounding out the 10 with a 1:28.9844. In 11th was Pedr James on 1:24.1470 just ahead of another returnee in Ross Millar on 1:29.1707. Brad Winter was in 13th with a 1:29.3605, with Ken Rowland and Marius Catrina just getting under the 1 minute 30 second bracket, with 1:29.9463 and 1:29.9977 laps respectively to be 14th and 15th. In 16th was Dick Howe, with some issues with the feel of the car hampering his speed with a 1:30.3040 while newcomer Keith Marriner was easing himself into his first qualifying session and ran a 1:34.4066.
On his third lying lap Beller put in a great lap, a 1:24.7389 to separate himself from the field who were also getting quicker, Miller lowering his time to 1:25.3864, Misuraca jumping to third with a 1:25.7381, Rose improving to a 1:26.1561 though dropped behind Misuraca into 4th, with Taubitz up to 5th with a 1:26.4428. Winter vaulted up to 6th with a 1:27.0954, while Goddard went half a second quicker with a 1:27.2372 but was pushed to 8th by Winter, behind the Bradwin Roofing car and also Tony Westaway.
Woods improved to a 1:27.6232 while Gallagher also lowered his time to a 1:28.1807 in 10th behind Woods. Millar elevated himself to 11th with a 1:28.4299, which would be his best time for the session, moving ahead of Pedr James who went quicker but dropped behind Millar, both displacing Michael Westaway who slipped to 13th. Catrina and Rowland both improved, but stayed locked together, less than a hundredth of a second between the two as they completed what would be the fastest time for both for qualifying, 1:29.6164 for Catrina just pipping a 1:29.6247 for Rowland. Marriner also improved to get closer to the field in front with a 1:32.1008.
Misuraca lowered his best to a 1:25.4948, but remained in third, as Rose set his fastest time for the session with a 1:25.7753, which would ultimately lock him into 4th position. Winter moved ahead of Taubitz with a 1:26.3298, as Gallagher dipped into the 27’s with a 1:27.7320 but remained 10th. Jason Miller edged close to Beller with a 1:25.2400 in 2nd, while Woods set his fastest lap for the session with a 1:27.5204 to remain 9th.
The Red Flag flew then, as the problem for Dick Howe culminated with the front right suspension on car #8 failing, Dick fortunately was able to arrest the car and pulled off on the grass on the inside of the Dandenong Road corner with no further damage, but his session was over. The cars returned to pit lane, and waited while Howes car was recovered, with only enough time for one flying lap when the green flag replaced the red – there were some strategies evolving and track position would be crucial!
Vince Misuraca made the most of the last lap, and jumped onto the front row alongside polesitter Beller with a 1:25.1847, just over half a tenth fastest than Miller, who dropped to 3rd alongside Rose in 4th. Winter also lowered his time to a 1:26.0565, Taubitz also going slightly quicker to hold his 6ht position alongside Winter with a 1:26.4232.
John Goddard leapt ahead of Tony Westaway for 7th with a great 1:26.5125, Westaway also running his fastest lap but not as quick as the experienced Goddard, falling a little short in 8th with a 1:26.7759. This ended up being just quicker than brother Michael, who jumped himself up to 9th with a great 1:26.8353 on his last lap, almost 2 seconds quicker than his previous fastest time! Jim Gallagher also turned his fastest time with a 1:27.3545 enabling him to leapfrog Ryan Woods to remain in the top ten.
This pushed Ryan back to 11th position, starting alongside him would be Pedr James, another to go quicker on the last lap with a 1:28.0342. Keith Marriner also rounded out his first session with his fastest lap on the last one, and pushed into the 31’s with a 1:31.1407 to qualify 17th.
So Beller earnt his second Pole Position for the year, alongside Misuraca – the two looking set to continue their intense battle off the startline for Race 1 just after lunchtime on Saturday!