The 944 Challenge series returned to Winton, in what was a round of the Vic State Race Series for the first time in 10 years, and after the resurfacing of the track earlier in the year, some cooler weather than in March meant the lap record times were set to tumble further as the field headed out for qualifying.
Chris Lewis-Williams immediately jumped outand was on the pace, with a 1:35.7871 onhis first flying lap, with Cameron Beller just behind with a 1:35.8440. Vince Misuraca went to third with a 1:36.4922, with Mark Taubitz 4th with a 1:37.4784. Lee Partridge was 5th with a 1:38.4266, and Greg Wood straight into 6th with a 1:39.4014 ahead of Jim Gallagher with a 1:39.5988 and Ken Rowland with a 1:39.6565 in 8th.
Tony Westaway was 9th with 1:40.1140 with Marius Catrina 10th on a 1:40.7562 ahead of Pedr James on 1:40.9962. Michael Westaway was 12th on is first lap for the weekend with 1:41.2213 with Andrew Jackman 13th on his first visit to Winton with a 1:41.5132.
Ross Millar was 14th on a 1:42.5060, 15th was Ken Kinght on 1:43.0506, then Ben Raphael on 1:44.0427, Peter Doherty with 1:44.3836 and Keith Marriner on 1:47.3606.
On the second lap and Vince Misuraca vaulted to the top of the timesheets with a 1:35.3365 second lap, as Partridge also moved himself onto the second row with a 1:36.5114, displacing Taubitz who also dipped into the 36’s with a 1:36.8690. Pedr James moved to 6th with a 1:37.8165 ahead of Wood who also moved down into the 37’s with a 1:37.9926.
Tony Westaway set about finding his groove as he moved to 8th with a 1:38.3869 ahead of Gallagher now on a 1:38.4719, and Michael Westaway in 10th with 1:39.4339.
Marius Catrina now in 11th as he lowered his time to 1:39.4931 in what would be his fastest time for the session before encountering some further engine heating issues on board car #12, which ultimately caused a spin with water pumping out and onto the rear wheels.
Andrew Jackman and Ross Millar maintained their positions in 13th and 14th but lowered their times to 1:40.4493 and 1:41.2449 respectively, with Peter Doherty up to 15th with a 1:41.4765, Ben Raphael down to 1:42.2774 ahead of Ken Kinght now on a 1:42.7919 and Keith Marriner down to 1:45.2398.
Lewis-Williams didn’t like the idea of second so then found some more speed as he cracked into the 34’s, with a fantastic 1:34.8844 ahead of Misuraca who was just behind now on a 1:35.0323 as they completed their third laps.
Michael Westaway moved into 6th position behind Beller, Partridge and Taubitz with a 1:36.9996, with James setting what would behis fastest time of the session to move him into 7th with a 1:37.3265, just ahead of Rowland who was now 8th with a 1:37.3820.
Greg Wood also set what would be his fastest time in the session with a 1:37.8458 in 9th, dropping Tony Westaway to 10th as he moved his marker down to 1:37.9207.
Jim Gallagher kept chipping away at his times and recorded a 1:38.2732, as Ken Knight jumped up to 12th fastest with a 1:39.0434, and Peter Doherty recording his fastest time for the session, a 1:39.9145 to move up to 14th behind Catrina.
The Millar/Jackman battle continued in earnest, with Jackman holding out Millar in the battle for 15th fastest by one thousandth of a second, a 1:40.2839 versus a 1:40.2849. Marriner lowered his fastest time to 1:42.1507 as he moved to 17th ahead of Raphael.
Status quo at the pointy end as the only car to improve was Taubitz who shaved half a tenth from his fastest time on a 1:36.8126 – with Ken Knight also improving by half a second to a 1:38.4906 although maintaining his 12th position, and Raphael moving back to 17th with a 1:41.0964.
Lap 5 and Lewis-Williams played his trump card and recorded a 1:34.6471, with Beller and Misuraca also dipping into the 34s, with Beller just edging Misuraca to move back to 2nd with a 1:34.8931 against Misuracas 1:34.9094.
Partridge also lowered his time into the 35s, with a 1:35.7468, and Michael Westaway improved slightly to a 1:36.8267, just behind Taubitz.
Jim Gallagher also lowered his marker slightly, now down to 1:38.1340, as Millar improved by a tenth to 1:40.1507, enough to sneak ahead of Jackman for 15th.
Lap 6 and Misuraca moved back ahead of Beller improving by a tenth to a 1:34.8027 to go back to 2nd, as Tony Westaway moved up a spot to 9th ahead of Wood, recording a 1:37.6995 lap, and Jim Gallagher also dipping into the 37s with a 1:37.8635, still in 11th position.
The following lap and Misuraca went slightly faster again, narrowing the gap to he and Lewis-WIlliams to .08 of a second with a 1:34.7265, as Taubitz found another half a second to a 1:36.3547 to receord his fastest time for the session, just holding out Tony Westaway who moved up to 6th with a 1:36.4191.
Ken Knight also moved to the 37’s with a 1:37.8746, though he remained in 12th though now only .01s behind Gallagher, while Raphael finding another couple of tenths to record his fastest lap for the session, a 1:40.9164.
Partridge found the limit of the speed he could extract the next lap, another half a tenth of a second netted him a 1:35.6982 lap, while Jackman moved ahead of Millar again – as well as Doherty, recording a 1:39.8678 to put him into 14th place, as Marriner lowered his marker to 1:41.7542
Lap 9 and Beller threw everything at his quest for Pole, but fell just short, a 1:34.7861 the best he could muster. Michael Westaway found another tenth and recorded a 1:36.6900, as Ken Knight also found another tenth of a second for his fastest lap, although his 1:37.7598 was enough to move him ahead of Gallagher and Wood to jump into the Top 10. Jackman also moved his time down by a couple of tenths to a 1:39.6546.
Michael Westaway managed to slice another half a second from his time to move into 5th position recording a 1:36.1916, as Millar also delved under the 1:40 bracket and into 15th position ahead of Doherty with a 1:39.9139, and Marriner gained another three tenths recording a 1:41.4375.
As the session neared its finish, Tony Westaway managed to get himself onto the third row alongside brother Tony recording a 1:36.1158 lap, pushing Taubitz back to 7th. Jim Gallagher also improved to a 1:37.5988 which moved him back ahead of Knight and also Wood to move into the Top 10.
Jackman meanwhile moved up to 13th with a 1:39.2749, with Millar recording a 1:39.4888, pushing him to 14th – at the expense of Catrina who dropped back from 13th to 15th just behind the pair, as Marriner slashed 8 tenths of a second from his best on the last lap to record a 1:40.6135 and put him back up to 17th ahead of Raphael.
The final improvement would come from Michael Westaway who would knock another four tenths off – a great time continuing his love affair with Winton, and only .15 away from snaring a second row starting spot away from Partridge.
Not making it onto the track for qualifying would be Dick Howe, after some alternator issues befell the series veteran in practice which he was unable to solve, and the car was on the trailer to go back to Melbourne. Also not on track was Jason Miller, his car was in the garage, but he was in transit all the way from Queensland in an atttempt to make it to the track for a rear of grid start for race 1!
So Chris Lewis-Williams held out for pole from Misuraca and Beller, with a small gap back to Partridge, Michael & Tony Westaway and Taubitz. Another small gap back to James, Rowland, Gallagher, Knight and Wood who are all close together, with another small gap ahead of Jackman, Millar, Catrina, Doherty, Marriner and Raphael.
Race 1 was at 2:40. Could Chris hold out Vince, Cam, Lee and others to take the win?