A 9 lap race would be the duration for the first of three races for Round 5 of the 2016 944 Challenge series on Saturday afternoon, and Chris Lewis-Williams made the most of his pole position to lead into turn 1 after making a nice clean start ahead of Cameron Beller, who was able to jump ahead of Vince Misuraca from the second row of the grid to be into second place. Vince slotted into third but he was vulnerable to Lee Partridge, and the #27 machine moved into third under brakes for turn 3, which relegated Vince back to 4th.
In fifth position was Tony Westaway, who got the better start off of row three alongside Michael Westaway, who missed a gear on the run to turn 1 and narrowly held off the advances of Mark Taubitz going through the first few corners as the two of them diced for 6th position.
Pedr James and Ken Rowland retained their starting positions in 8th and 9th respectively, ahead of Greg Woods who jumped up two spots from the start to slot into tenth.
Ken Knight was in 11th ahead of Ross Millar who also moved up two spots from his starting position, with Andrew Jackman hot on his tail. Marius Catrina was 14th ahead of Jim Gallagher who dropped a bunch of spots at the start from 10th on the grid to be back in 15th. Peter Doherty was 16th ahead of Ben Raphael and Keith Marriner, with Jason Miller in 19th – an amazing effort to travel from the northern most part of the country to get to the track with seconds to spare, as he jumped into the race car as it was being taken to pit lane to start the race!
Lewis-Williams was on a charge, but Beller was hot on his heels, as the two front runners pulled a gap on the following battle for third between Partridge and Misuraca, which Misuraca was able to take advantage of with a return-of-serve move back on Partridge down the inside of turn 3 on lap 2 to reclaim third position. Rowland also moved up to 8th at the expense of James on lap 2 as he was starting to come to grips with his new car.
On lap 3, Vince Misuraca set a new lap record as he set about closing the gap to the front two with a 1:35.1716 second lap, as Jim Gallagher started his recovery from his bad start, and moved ahead of Catrina for fourteenth on lap 3.
Drama on lap 4 for Ross Millar, as the little blue car rotated entering the turn 5 left hand sweeper, through the waterlogged Winton infield before coming to a boggy rest where it was not getting out of without the help of the rescue crews. His demise was to the benefit of those behind him who were gifted a spot, with Jim Gallagher also moving ahead of Andrew Jackman to be into 12th position by laps end.
That would all come undone for Gallagher on the next lap, as he himself left the circuit exiting turn 4 the and was into the outfield. This would be the end of Gallaghers weekend as other commitments forced him to miss Sundays race proceedings. While this was happening, Beller lowered the lap record to a 1:35.1044 in his pursuit to find a way past Lewis-Williams for the lead – his glory was short-lived however, as Lewis-Williams reset the lap record again on the next lap with a 1:35.0349
Jason Miller closed onto the back of the pack, and moved his was up to 16th on lap 6, and into 15th a lap later to try to maximise his starting spot for Race 2.
Tragedy struck for Beller on the penultimate lap, as the #55 slowed, and then rolled around the circuit while the rest of the field raced on, dropping him down the order. Miller was able to benefit also by moving ahead of Doherty as well as the crawling Beller to move into the 13th position.
This left Lewis-Williams able to cruise through the last two laps for a comfortabel 6 second victory from Misuraca, with Partridge back into the final podium position after closing the gap back up to Misuraca over the final three laps.
Right behind, and just off the podium was another solid result from Tony Westaway, with a small gap back to Michael Westaway in fifth position. In sixth was Taubitz, ahead of a great 7th position for Rowland, with James, Wood and Knight rounding out the top ten in a collection of good results for this group.
Just outside the top ten was Jackman, narrowly ahead of Catrina. Miller finished in 13th with Doherty, Raphael and Marriner behind him.
The final finisher was to be Beller, who crawled around slowly and cleverly timed his last lap so that he could cross the line just after the leaders finished the race, collecting some valuable points as the final classified finisher in 17th. These points could prove to be valuable in the final pointscore… but he would have his work cut out for him coming from the back of the pack in race 2!