19 cars gridded up for the 10 lap final race of Round 5 for the 2016 944 Challenge, with Dick Howe able to cure the various gremlins in his #8 Porsche 944 and joined the rear of the field for his first official session for the weekend.
Up front Chris Lewiws-Williams again got a great start to lead the run into turn 1 – but one car who didn’t get a great start – and in fact didn’t start at all – was Cameron Beller who went nowhere as the lights went out and the rest of the field ducked and dived to miss the stricken #55 car.
Partridge was able to again get a great start, but this time unable to edge his way past Misuraca into turn 1. Tony Westaway moved to fourth as Jason Miller and Mark Taubitz followed him into turn 1, with Michael Westaway diving around Beller’s car at the start and losing a couple of spots as a result to fall back to 7th behind Taubitz. The midfield retained their starting order, and all benefitted from Beller’s problems to move up one position, with the exception of Howe, who got a demon start to move himself up to 13th, while Millar moved past Jackman and Doherty passed Marriner. Jason Miller moved himself up to 4th passing Westaway under brakes into turn 3 before the safety car lights and boards came out as the field exited Nissan corner to retrieve Beller’s stranded car from the starting grid.
The order behind the safety car thus was Lewis-Williams from Misuraca, Partridge, Miller, Tony Westaway, Taubitz, Michael Westaway, Rowland, James, Knight, Wood, Catrina, Howe, Millar, Jackman, Raphael, Doherty & Marriner.
At the end of lap 2 the safety car returned to pit lane as the field resumed racing, and Jason Miller was on the hunt immediately, again making another move into Honda corner to move up to third with a pass on Partridge. Howe also moved up a position, passing Catrina for 12th, but Michael Westaway dropped a couple of spost as he went wide on the exit of turn 10, allowing Rowland and James to pass.
On Lap 4 Westaway was able to regain one of his lost positions getting back past James, as Howe plucked off another position to move ahead of Wood to go to 11th, as Millar also made another spot rounding up Catrina.
Lap 5 and Howe was into the top 10, getting around Knight, and Jackman was able to get past Catrina, however exiting turn 10 there was contact as Jackman and the unsighted Catrina made contact down Falken straight, with KJackmans car spinning off into the grass and making a glancing blow with the outside wall – thankfully without major damage – but the race was over with the car bogged in the mud where it would remain for the rest of the race.
The front two cars of Lewis-Williams and Misuraca were nose-to-tail up front, as Misuraca tried to stop Lewis-Williams replicating his achievement of a weekend sweep from earlier in the year. They were pulling away from the next battle group as Miller was defending hard from Partridge, Tony Westaway and Taubitz in a tight little group, before there was gap back to the battle for 7th as Westaway tried to move his way back ahead of Rowland, which he managed to do on lap 6. Greg Wood also encoutered some problems as the car slowed and dropped to the back before ultimately retiring the #19 Porsche.
On Lap 7 and Partridge made a move under brakes on Miller into turn 1, the two were side by side through 1& 2 before some wheel to wheel contact as the two cars collected themselves up. This was to the benefit of the following Westaway and Taubitz, who pounced on Partridge to move to 4th & 5th as Partridge recovered to sit onto Taubitz’s bumper.
Moving back into the picture as a result was the recovering Michael Westaway, who was able to make up a large amount of ground due to the fracas in front of him – while Miller just held Tony Westaway off without losing the third spot. Compounding his frustration, Partridge made an error coming out of Penrite corner and lost further spots, dropping him down into 10th position behind Howe.
Tony Westaway made a number of attempts to get past Miller, who was determined to hold onto the podium position, with Taubitz and Michael Westaway both right behind. Michael Westaway was able to make a pass into Penrite corner to move past Taubitz, and then got a free kick into fourth position when Tony Westaway looped his car exiting turn 9 as he tried to find a way past Miller – which ultimately dropped him back to 13th position. Partridge was able to benefit from this as well as a pass on Howe to get himself back up to the 8th position.
Up front it was Lewis-Williams and Misuraca all the way, both running their fastest laps in the last two laps of the race, Misuraca getting the edge with a 1:34.4216 to record the fastest lap of the race as he attempted to find a way into the lead, but ultimately fell short, and crossed the line right behind Lewis-Williams who took a hat trick of wins to clean sweep the weekend.
Miller was now getting harassed by his third challenger for the race for the third position in the form of Michael Westaway, but he ultimately ran out of time by the time he got onto the back bumper of the white 944, as Miller held on for a fantastic podium finish – after starting race 1 from the Pit Lane after missing qualifying – a super effort.
Fifth across the line was Taubitz after a consistent weekend that saw him also finish the weekend in fifth overall, with Michael Westaway’s trio of great results earning him fourth outright for the weekend.
A strong sixth position for Pedr James was a good finish to the weekend, and moved him to 7th in the series points – crossing the line ahead of Partridge, who was able to get past Rowland on the last lap, which also enabled him to finish the weekend third overall, with one point more than Michael Westaway.
Rowland was 8th in what was his breakout weekend for him with some great speed in his new car, and recorded the fifth fastest lap of the race to prove it. Behind him and finishing the race in 9th, and validating the decision to repair and return to the track with the car, was Dick Howe – a great effort!
Ken Knight finished off the race in 10th, capping off a great weekend for him with two 10ths and an 11th place to show for it which earnt him 10th outright for the weekend. 11th and just missing out on the top 10 was Ross Millar, a good result after his race 1 DNF.
12th position was Marius Catrina, which netted him 12th outright for the weekend also, he crossed the line ahead of Tony Westaway who was ruing his late race spin which cost him a third place result for the weekend.
14th was Ben Raphael, a good weekend as he finds his feet with his 944, benefitting from the extra running with the Sports Cars category for the weekend, managing to hold off Peter Doherty who finished in 15th, with Keith Marriner just behind the two of them in 16th.
DNF’s were for Greg Wood and Andrew Jackman, as well as Cameron Beller.
With one round left in the Vic State Series, Vince Misuraca finds himself in the box seat on points, while with two rounds remaining in the 944 series, the points battle is extremely tight with Beller, Misuraca and Lewis-Williams only separated by 8 points after each driver drops their worst round points!
The fast and flowing Phillip Island layout threw up a mix of results earlier in the year, what would happen in October in the the deciding round for the Vic State Series? Come on down October 29/30 to find out!