A lovely sunny Winter’s day to open up Round 4 of the Victorian State Race Series, and the 944 Challenge field hit the track just before noon for qualifying, joined on circuit by the BMW E30 Racing series for the round.
With turn 1 & 2 getting an early coating of fluid due to a failure from one of the E30 BMW’s which pulled off circuit on the outlap keeping everyone on their toes early, it took a while for competitive times to be set.
Not making it out for qualifying after a scrutineering issue was Jim Mitchell, and he would start from the back of the 944 field for Race 1 from position 11.
Jamie Westaway was the fastest on the first flying lap albeit with only a 1:30.1646, ahead of Lyndon Watson with a 1:32.4806, Dick Howe third with a 1:32.7605, Keith Marriner fourth with a 1:33.1695 and Cameron Beller fifth with a 1:33.5138.
Mark Taubitz was sixth with a 1:34.9582 just ahead of Pedr James with a 1:34.9677. Michael Westaway was next with a 1:35.6211, ahead of Toni Andreevski’s 1:35.7306 and John Vainoras with a 1:45.1951.
Westaway remained at the top as the times tumbled as the drivers figured out where the grip was in the early part of the lap, as he ran a 1:27.0489, with Howe second after running a 1:28.9064. Taubitz moved to third with a 1:29.6732 ahead of Watson’s 1:29.7494 and Beller’s 1:29.7728. Michael Westaway moved to sixth with a 1:31.2907 with Marriner now seventh with a 1:31.9739 ahead of Andreevski’s 1:32.8765, James’ 1:33.4190 and Vainoras’ 1:39.8530.
Watson moved to the top of the time sheets on the next lap with a 1:26.3542, just ahead of Beller who ran a 1:26.5595. Taubitz slipped to fourth behind Jamie Westaway with a 1:28.0079 with Howe dropping to fifth position. Michael Westaway improved with a 1:29.4438 while James moved to eighth with a 1:32.7406, as Vainoras chopped five seconds off his best time with a 1:34.4321.
The top three all lowered their times on the following lap as Watson reset the benchmark to a 1:25.0493, with Beller two tenths behind on a 1:25.2550 and Jamie Westaway next with a 1:25.9035. Howe moved back up to fourth with a 1:27.8720 pushing Taubitz back to fifth.
Michael Westaway ran a 1:28.6409 – but then pulled off circuit with fuel delivery issues putting an end to his session as he exited Turn 1 pon the next lap. Marriner improved to a 1:29.1385 with James running a 1:31.4157.
Taubitz moved himself back to fourth on the next lap with a 1:26.8772 putting him back ahead of Howe, with James and Andreevski both improving with 1:30.9470 and 1:30.9765 laps respectively, while Vainoras also improved with a 1:32.3353.
Jamie Westaway moved up to second on the following lap with a 1:25.1820 relegating Beller to third, with Taubitz improving in fourth with a 1:26.5891, with Marriner also improving his time with a 1:28.9708. Andreevski dipped under the 1:30’s with a 1:29.7941 moving him up to eighth position with James down to ninth now with a 1:30.4992.
Dick Howe ran his best lap the following lap with a 1:27.2721 to secure fifth fastest, while Keith Marriner moved ahead of the stranded Michael Westaway when he ran a 1:28.2567 lap to move up to sixth position. Toni Andreevski improved slightly with a 1:29.6928, as did James with a 1:29.9309 and Vainoras with a 1:32.2829, with both Andreevski and Vainoras going quicker again on the next lap with a 1:29.0441 and a 1:31.5761 respectively.
As it looked like there might not be any further changes, Beller pulled out a blinder lap with the aid of a draft down the back straight to snatch pole position with a 1:24.3802, pushing Watson and Westaway down to second and third. With that, the grid was set with James the only other car to improve his time with a 1:29.6247, but unable to better his ninth position.
So it would be Beller on pole for the fourth time, this time with Watson joining him on the front row of the grid, with Jamie Westaway missing out on the front row for the first time with Mark Taubitz joining him on the second row.
Dick Howe was next with Keith Marriner for company on the third row, with Michael Westaway seventh fastest to line him up on the inside of the fourth row alongside Toni Andreevski in his first event at Sandown Raceway in eighth position
Ninth on the grid was Pedr James, great to see Pedr back on the grid after his crash at Winton and gearbox issues in Friday practice, albeit with some temporary panel repairs on the PKJ Rural Fencing car, and struggling with car setup keeping Pedr down in ninth position, while rounding out the top ten was John Vainoras, returning after missing the Winton round.
With the points battle for the front of the 944 series tight after Winton, could Beller close the gap, or would Watson be able to shake things up from his front row starting position? Race 1 was at 3:30pm!