Round 3. Sandown – Race 3

Round 3. Sandown – Race 3

The third and final race of the weekend was just after lunch, a great weekend so far with lots of clean and fair racing, and all 17 cars entered for the event lining up for this final shoot out.

The inside line drivers at the front got a great start, with Cameron Beller streaking away to the lead, with Tony Westaway and Mark Taubitz moved up to second and third, while Jason Miller struggled with a rogue 4th gear after an OK getaway the car stumbled when he attempted the shift, he would drop right to the back of the field. Taubitz made the run down the inside of Westaway down the front straight but backed out of the move, Westaway then turned in but unfortunately rotated around on cold tyres which put him towards the back with Miller. This left Taubitz in second with Misuraca second ahead of Rose who made a brilliant start, and Brad Winter in 5th, also a great start from car #22.

Up to 6th was John Goddard, then Pedr James, Dick Howe and then Michael Westaway in 9th after getting shuffled out through the first few corners. Jim Gallagher was in 10th, with Ryan Woods, Marius Catrina, Ross Millar and Ken Rowland in behind. Tony Westaway and Jason Miller were back to the back along with Keith Marriner.

Down the back straight the first time, and Misuraca and Rose were able to freight train their way past Taubitz to move into 2nd and 3rd respectively, while Beller was already off in the distance and building on his lead. Lap 2 and Michael Westaway went too deep into turn 1 and dropped back to 13th position just ahead of brother Tony who moved past Rowland into 14th, while Dick Howe moved past James to move into 7th place. The following lap Tony Westaway was able to get past Michael as he started his move back up the field, also passing Millar to be back into 12th by the end of lap 3.

Gallagher moved up to 8th position on lap 4, displacing James, as Tony Westaway moved into the top 10, passing Catrina and benefiting from a DNF for Woods, who retired the number #17, while Michael Westaway passed Millar to move back up to 12th place.

Lap 5 and Winter was able to capitalise on a mistake from Taubitz to get a run on the #74 car down the back straight to take the 4th position, and Jason Miller was overcoming his gear problems and improving his lap times, getting past Rowland to move to 14th position. Jim Gallagher was up to 7th when he got past Howe, as the Westaways continued their move back up, Tony passing James for 9th, as Michael moved back to 11th after passing Catrina.

Disaster yet again for Rose as his misfire returned going through the turn 2-3 complex on lap 7, this allowed Winter through but he was able to recover to just stay ahead of Taubitz. This let an opportunistic Goddard to capitalise and moved into 5th going over the esses at the end of the back straight. Taubitz attempted to retake the spot down the front straight but some shrewd car positioning by Goddard helped him maintain the position. This track position was a big help as the #38 of Rose again faltered through Turn 2 and 3, Goddard dived through into turn 4 and was lucky to maintain control as the car slid on the oil dry on the inside line. Taubitz was baulked as a result and lost time to Goddard as Rose pulled the Green 944 to the inside of the track down the straight. While this was happening, Tony Westaway was up to 8th, passing Dick Howe, while Miller and Millar swapped positions, Jason getting around Ross for 13th.

Taubitzs’ dramas were to get worse, after his slow  run down the back straight after a missed gear dropped him back into the clutches of the 6th place battle between Gallagher and Tony Westaway. Under brakes into Turn 1 there was contact, and the two black cars spun into the gravel, with Tony Westaway able to take the avoiding inside line into an unchallenged 5th position, while Howe took avoiding action unto the turn 1 gravel. Not wishing to get stuck, Howe kept his foot into the throttle, and in the finest ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ moment of the year, performed a 360 degree loop in the gravel and got back onto the track with an impressive rooster tail from the back of car #8, but dropping down to 12th position. Gallagher would rejoin the track behind him in 13th, but Taubitz was out, unable to re-fire the #74 Zantek car.

This altercation left the order as Beller, Misuraca, Winter, Goddard, Tony Westaway, James, Michael Westaway, Catrina, Millar and Miller after swapping spots again, and then Rowland and Marriner.

On the Penultimate lap Miller was able to get past both Millar again, as well as Catrina, elevating him to 8th position, while Howe and Gallagher closed in on Rowland after recovering from their trip to the gravel.

Beller was able to take another commanding win in a perfect weekend – Pole Position, three victories and three fastest laps in an ominous showing for the rest of the 944 field. Misuraca was a solid 2nd in the final to take 2nd overall for the round also. Winter a great third,= his first Podium finish – a great recovery for the weekend after his race 1 DNF, with Goddard a fine 4th, moving forward steadily after his Race 1 spin. Tony Westaway rounded out the top 10 after his unfortunate spin in turn 1, with James in 6th position – a career best race finish. Michael Westaway was another who recovered well after dropping back early in the race – ditto for Jason Miller after his gearbox dramas – but no doubt ruing not being able to take the fight to Beller as a result.

9th for Millar rounded out a great return to the track for car #18, with a bold pass on Catrina in the last couple of corners, while 10th for Marius Catrina was a solid result for car #12 for the weekend. Howe was able to pass Rowland on the last lap to get up to 11th across the line, while Rowland finished just behind in 12th, with Gallagher just behind in 13th, Marriner was 14th and the last classified finisher, with unfortunate DNF’s for Taubitz – lamenting a couple of mistakes in the race, Rose who could not get the misfire issues sorted and for Woods, who was an early DNF after only 3 laps.

With a two month break before the next round of the 944 Challenge, there will be some cars and teams that will be hard at work trying to figure out how to close the gap to the flying #55 of Cameron Beller before the field return to Sandown in July. A big field is expected, and the racing should be even more exciting throughout the field!

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