A lovely Winter sunshine greeted the field as they lined up for the final race of Round 3 of the 2017 944 Challenge, after a delay for a clean up through turns one and two after a car from the previous race broke a rear end as they crossed the finish line! This meant that the race line through one and two was still extremely slippery as the field found out on the warmup lap.
At the start it was Cameron Beller who again won the start and led the field through the quickdry mix lining the first corner complex, followed by Vince Misuraca, the Westaway brothers Tony and Michael and Mark Taubitz in fifth position.
Lyndon Watson followed through in sixth position followed by Keith Marriner, Sam Rofe, Pedr James, Dick Howe, Jim Mitchell, John Vainoras, with Codey West dropping to the rear after missing the start.
The field tippy-toed through turns 1 and 2 fine, before it went wrong for Howe and James as the two were side by side through turn 3. The cars slid through the slippery surface, which resulted in Howe being forced off into the weeds on the exit of the corner, resuming in last place.
West and Howe moved quickly back up to tenth and eleventh positions on the next lap disposing of Vainoras and then Mitchell on Lap 2 as the remainder of the field settled into a rhythm for the 10 laps.
Howe continued moving up the field and benefitted from a coming together between West and James as the pair exited Turn 7 which caused James to spin, moving Howe up to ninth, with West remaining tenth ahead of James who dropped to eleventh by the time he resumed.
Howe continued to surge forward moving up to seventh the following lap passing Rofe and then Marriner, and set his sights on Watson up ahead.
Up front Beller held a comfortable small margin over Misuraca, while Tony Westaway had fallen adrift of the top two, and maintained a small gap to Michael Westaway in fourth, who was now under pressure from Taubitz. Watson had fallen off the the battle in front of him as Marriner and Rofe were running together, and then dropped behind West and James on lap 7, with Mitchell and Vainoras rounding out the field.
Howe caught Watson on lap 8 and moved up to the sixth position, but with 18 seconds to the Westaway/Taubitz battle, would have to settle for that position unless dramas befell one of the top 5 runners. On lap 9 James had another drama as he again had an off track excursion, dropping him back to eleventh again behind Marriner and Rofe, where he would ultimately finish the race – but took some consolation in recording a full race distance!
Up front it was Beller who recorded a near perfect weekend with Pole and three wins, only failing to secure the fastest lap for the weekend. Misuraca crossed the line for his third second position with Tony Westaway racking up a hat-trick of thirds for the weekend.
Michael Westaway also had a three-peat of race finishes with his third fourth place finish, this one hard earned to keep Taubitz behind him, who recorded a pair of fifth places from the two races he gridded up for – and ruing missing Saturdays action and a chance to record a stronger result.
Howe was sixth in his only finish for the weekend, another good drive through the field, ahead of Codey West who nabbed the seventh position on the last lap with a pass on Lyndon Watson in an impressive debut weekend for the rookie driver.
Watson had another strong and impressive weekend with eighth in the final race, ahead of Marriner and Rofe who also both had good weekends.
James was an unhappy eleventh in his only race finish – though relieved to put the car on the trailer in better condition than the previous round. Mitchell was twelfth ahead of Vainoras who continued his perfect finishing record with a thirteenth place finish.
So with three wins from three for the weekend, Beller is looking to be the man to beat for 2017 as his win tally goes to 7 – though with 7 podium finishes for Misuraca, one bad result for Beller could throw the points battle wide open again..
5 weeks until the series return to Sandown Raceway – could we see a new name on the top step of the podium??