Round 4. Sandown – Race 3

Round 4. Sandown – Race 3

The third and final race of the weekend was held in the late afternoon – despite more rain in between races, the 944 drivers were lucky to again have a virtually dry track to race on for this final Sandown race for the year. 17 cars fronted for Race 3, with Marriners car unable to be repaired for the last race, and with Peter Doherty having a repeat of the issue which kept him from Qualifying, a disappointing end to a good showing from the 944 Challenge stalwart who was revelling in some improvements to his car.

Cam Beller again got a great start to lead into Turn 1 ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams, who this time was able to stick in behind car #55 to give him the best chance of challenging Beller that he had all weekend. It was 4 wide down the front straight as Misuraca and Winter got better starts than the Westaway brothers on Row 2. Somehow contact was avoided, and Misuraca was the one who prevailed from Turn 1 in 3rd position, with Tony Westaway, Brad Winter, Michael Westaway following. Behind them was Dick Howe and Mark Taubitz, these two edging ahead of Gallagher and Goddard who didn’t get off the line as well and were down to 10th and 9th respectively.

Ross Millar was next ahead of Pedr James, Marius Catrina, Andrew Jackman, Robert Lange, Ken Knight and Ben Raphael – although Lange would again succumb to his car issues, and would park car #6 without completing the lap.

Down the back straight Taubitz was able to move up to 7th in front of Howe when he seemed to miss a gear entering the back straight kink. Entering the second last corner Tony Westaway went deep into the corner as Brad Winter poked his nose on the inside, with the Yellow Porsche off into the grass and looping back onto the track as Tony tried to stay onto the tarmac. This caused Michael Westaway in 6th to also have a moment as his locked his brakes and dove to the grass to avoid coming together with his brother as Tony spun back onto the track, fortunately facing the right way when he came to a stop!

As a result Winter was able to move off into 4th while Taubitz wove through the gap to be 5th, with Howe behind in 6th from Goddard and the recovering Michael Westaway, ahead of Gallagher and Millar. 11th across the line was James, with Catrina in tow ahead of Jackman, Raphael and Tony Westaway as he got going just ahead of Knight.

Howe returned serve re-passing Taubitz down the back straight the next lap when he messed up his gear changem while Gallagher got past Westaway into turn 1, and then pulled alongside with Goddard on the run onto the main straight to end lap 2. Ben Raphael meanwhile, made a trip to the Dandenong Road Gravel trap, beaching car number 29.

Howe and Taubitz both locked up on the entry to Turn 1, while Howe help onto his 5th place, Taubitz was vulnerable to Gallagher and Goddard who were fighting hard behind him and steered clear as those two fought hard through turn 2 & 3, with Gallagher only just avoiding nosing into the turn 3 outside wall after a slight touch. This allowed Michael Westaway through to 7th – with more contact as the two black cars rubbed as they rounded turn 4 side-by side before racing down the back straight.

More action was behind them with James and Catrina battling hard for 11th place, some contact between the two relegating Catrina behind Jackman and Tony Westaway. The Safety Car boards and flags would allow everyone to catch their breath as the recovery crew got to work extracting Raphael’s car from the gravel to allow him to resume the race, albeit two laps down as a result.

Racing resumed at the end of lap 5, with 3 laps remaining. Goddard and Howe started going at it as Goddard moved past Howe down the back straight, but Howe was not giving up on retaking the position and lunged to the inside of the second last corner, although as the cars danced through the two corners Howe’s car slid wide onto the grass and he slipped back to 9th behind Taubitz as a result.

Up front, and Chris Lewis-Williams made his move -getting past Beller under brakes into turn 1, and made the move stick, elevating car #37 into the lead. Howe was still int the thick of things meanwhile, as Westaway was able to get past Millar into turn 1, and then had another fierce battle with Howe which he was able to benefit from, moving to 9th.

Through Turn 1 for the final time, Goddard and Michael Westaway both went wide, this left Westaway vulnerable to Goddard through the next few corners as Gallagher dove to the inside entering turn 4. The cars rounded the corner side by side but the compromised exit for Gallagher meant Taubitz was able to round him up on the outside as the cars ran down the back straight the final time. Taubitz tried to make a move around Westaway through the esses but slotted in behind Westaway to consolidate the position.

Up front, and Lewis- Williams would take a well deserved and hard fought victory, with Beller following him across the line – the only session that Beller did not finish in Position 1 across the pair of back-to-back Sandown events, a great effort as he attempts to take his first 944 Series Championship.

Third and fourth were Misuraca and Winter, a trouble free run for both to net a solid weekend for both, with Goddard crossing the line 5th, a great come back after his race 1 DNF.

Classified in 6th was Taubitz, after a 5 second penalty was give to Michael Westaway for a jump start, which would drop Michael back to 10th in the standings, and also elevated Gallagher and Tony Westaway to 7th and 8th in the final results.

Ross Millar would benefit also from not only the penalty handed to Westaway, but also of that handed to Dick Howe – meaning car #18 was classified in 9th position for the second race this weekend – Dick’s 5 second penalty meanwhile dropping him back to 13th behind Pedr James and Marius Catrina in 11th and 12th.

14th was Andrew Jackman, a great debut in his first race behind the wheel of the Poolmaster Bayside 944, ahead of Ken Kinght, who also overcome his early weekend dramas to have a solid weekend in his first weekend behind the wheel after a substantial absence, while Ben Raphael was able to complete the race after his ‘off’, crossing the line in 16th.

So Sandown was done for 2016, and would leave a tantalising result as we return to Winton in September. Could Misuraca claw back the points gap to Beller with a replica of his dominating March Winton weekend, or would Lewis-Williams spoil the party? Throw in the prospect of the returning Jason Miller after missing this round, a strong challenge from a number of the 944 regulars such as Howe, the Westaways, Taubitz, Gallagher and others, along with the rumour of a special guest driver who acquired some 944 series silverware last year looking to throw the cat amongst the pigeons – there are many cars and drivers who could be challenging for the podium when we return to central Victoria early in September!

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