After a bout of hail hit Sandown Raceway following on from the qualifying session for the 944 Challenge, drivers were unsure what changes to make for the wet conditions – however found that the track was drying rapidly, and lap times dropped to within a few seconds of the lap record by the end of the 8 laps.
18 cars lined up on the grid after Catrina was unable to replace the head gasket on car #12 in time, while Pedr James had the car on the trailer and on the way home to do an engine swap on car #98 to return to the track in the morning – a great effort by Pedr and his team to get back on track for the last two races!
As the lights went out Beller made the best start at the front and commanded the lead, while Misuraca also made a great start to move alongside Lange on the run to turn 1. As the field swept through turn 1 however Lange was on the inside line and held onto the 2nd position, while Chris Lewis-Williams followed Lange through to get back into 3rd, relegating Misuraca back to the fourth position he started from. 5th was Tony Westaway who got a great start also and got the jump on Taubitz who was 6th in a Westaway sandwich, with Michael behind him in 7th, with Brad Winter in 8th.
Behind him there was chaos as John Goddard encountered issues in the Plaza Auto Sales 944 exiting turns 2 and 3 as the car slowed and the field behind did a great job to avoid him, bringing the car to a stop on the inside halfway up the back straight.
This left Ross Millar in 9th from Jim Gallagher, Paul Greer who got a great start in 11th, Dick Howe, Andrew Jackman in 13th, Peter Doherty, Keith Marriner, Ken Knight and Ben Raphael.
A drag race down the back straight between Taubitz and Michael Westaway ended in the latters favour and crossed the line in 6th place at the end of the first lap, though they swapped spots again as Michael went wide on turn 1 and allowed Taubitz back through on the short run to turn 2.
Meanwhile, Paul Greers problems continued as issues for car #14 dropped him to the back of the pack, as Peter Doherty moved up to 12th place behind Howe as he passed Jackman down the back straight on lap 2.
Up front Beller was slowly opening his lead over Lange, who was in turn pulling away from Lewis-Williams, in turn pulling away from Misuraca. A large gap was opening back to Westaway who wasn’t quite at ease on the slippery track, then Taubitz and Winter, passing Michael Westaway for 7th at the start of lap 3 as Gallagher also moved up a spot, passing Millar for 9th on lap 3.
Lap 4 and Lange’s pace dropped, allowing Lewis-Williams into 2nd, and then Misuraca into 3rd the lap later. Starting Lap 6, Taubitz was able to pull alongside Tony Westaway and moved into 5th under brakes for Turn 1, as Greer decided to park car #14 after being frustrated by the fuel surge issues in his car.
Lap 7 and Lange’s pace slowed substantially, and he was caught and passed by Taubitz as they started the last lap, which was followed by Westaway, Winter, Michael Westaway, Gallagher and then Millar, to cross the line in 10th place.
Up front it was all Beller, who once Lange dropped back managed to cross the line 5 seconds ahead of Lewis-Williams, with Misuraca a further 10 seconds back. Taubitz was 4th, ahead of Winter who got around Tony Westaway for fifth on the last lap. Tony was 6th with Michael Westaway in 7th, then Gallagher, Millar and Lange rounding out the top ten.
11th was Howe, with Doherty and Jackman right behind – Jackman showing great promise in his first race. Marriner was 14th, with Ken Knight right on his tail – with Raphael in 16th as he came to grips with the slippery track.
Two races tomorrow, with the threat of more rain overnight, anything could come tomorrow!