Race 2 of the Phillip Island weekend Round 6 was first up again on Sunday morning on a dry track, but under threatening skies..
Cameron Beller got the best jump as the lights went out to lead going into Turn 1, with Chris Lewis-Williams slotting in behind him in second position. Tony Westaway was behind them in third, with Dick Howe squeezing behind the Westaway brothers to move up to fourth, with Lyndon Watson following him through, relegating Michael Westaway back to sixth going into Turn 1.
Mark Taubitz leapt forward with a good start to move up to seventh, ahead of Codey West who followed him into Turn 1 with Andrew Jackman in tow in ninth spot. Jim Gallagher got a terrible start and dropped back as far as thirteenth on the run down the front straight, but a brave late braking move into Turn 1 moved him back into tenth after moving past Holding on the inside of 1, and scything between Keith Marriner and Marius Catrina.
Catrina followed Holding through, with Marriner and another fast starter in Jim Mitchell being baulked behind Catrina, which allowed Ken Rowland up to thirteenth after rounding the pair up on the outside after their entry was compromised. Getting the best view of all the action was John Vainoras who was following the jostling pack through the corner.
Gallagher set himself up to move inside Jackman for Southern Loop corner and moved back into ninth position, while Catrina and Mitchell found plenty of grip on the outside line, Catrina passing Holding to move up to eleventh, while Mitchell drove around Rowland, and then pulled alongside Holding on the run to Stoner corner. Mutchell backed out throught the fast left hander thought while Rowland took the highline and out braked Mitchell and Holding to Honda corner and moved up to twelfth position, and then moved ahead of Catrina as the pair ran side by side through Hayshed.
Across the line for the first time it was Beller, Lewis-Williams, T.Westaway, Howe, Watson, M.Westaway, Taubitz, West, Gallagher, Jackman, Rowland, Catrina, Holding, Mitchell, Vainoras and Marriner – Keith was on the tail of Jim Mitchell coming on to the main straight to end Lap 1 when he went wide and had a heart stopping spin down the front straight – fortunately, without coming to grief against the unforgiving concrete wall. Keith was able to resume and kept going at the back of the pack, but with tyres that had massive flat spots in them as a result, had a large battle on his hands to keep going – let alone catch up to those in front of him!
West pulled out of the slipstream and ahead of Taubitz as the pair entered Turn 1 for the second time, West sweeing around the outside up to seventh, while Rowland pulled off a great move under brakes to slice underneath Jackman, moving up to tenth spot.
Dramas befell Lyndon Watson, as smoke started pouring out of the front wheelwell of the fifth placed car, as he slowed and dropped down the order before pulling into pit lane to retire at the end of the lap. Taubitz was baulked slightly as he was careful overtaking the ailing Watson Transport car, and then outbraked himself into MG corner, allowing Gallagher to sneak in front on corner exit.
Behind them, there was contact between Catrina and Jackman into MG corner, dropping both down the order and elevating Holding to tenth, and Mitchell to eleventh, with Catrina resuming ahead of Jackman in twelfth and thirteenth respectively.
As Lap 3 started the clouds began to open up as the windscreens showed evidence of the rain beginning to fall. Howe was able to move past Tony Westaway into third position, while Gallagher was the first to fall foul of the slippery track as he spun at Honda corner. This allowed Rowland to move up two spots as he took the inside line while Taubitz took the outside line through Honda as Gallagher rotated, with Holding also getting past before Gallagher resumed behind him in tenth position.
John Vainoras meanwhile retired from the race without completing the third lap with overheating issues on his car, choosing not to risk any damage to the engine, and recording his first DNF.
Gallagher began his second recovery and made his way back past Holding, moving to the inside line under braking for MG on Lap 4 to recover the ninth position. Behind him there was plenty of action as Jim Mitchell got sideways under brakes for Honda corner, unfortunately Andrew Jackman was alongside trying to take the position, and found the front of the #46 car in his left hand side door. Jackman continued on, but it was the end of the race, and the weekend for Mitchell with the resulting damage too great for him to race on.
One corner later and Jackman gained another spot after a spin by Catrina on the inside of Siberia corner ended his race after he got bogged in the muddy grass on the inside of the circuit.
Up front and Beller was comfortable inthe worsening conditions, as he began pulling a gap on Lewis-Williams, with Howe and Westaway battling away, with Westaway moving back into third position on Lap 5. Michael Westaway had latched back onto the tail of the pair also, with West slightly adrift with a further small gap to Rowland who was closing.
Ken Rowland had a big moment though as the rain intensified as he began lap 5, with the car sliding through Turn 1 causing Ken to leave the circuit and tour the grass, fortunately without losing a position as he rejoined the track and resumed his chase of Codey West, with a much bigger gap to have to peg back.
If anyone thought the race was a foregone conclusion however, they were sadly mistaken as Beller, with a 6 second lead got crossed up as the rain reached its heaviest entering Southern Loop corner. This sent car #1 off into the grass, and then the gravel. Beller kept his wits about him however, and kept the boot in to the throttle, and powered out of the gravel and back onto the track as Lewis-Williams sliced past him on the run to Stoner corner to take the lead.
Beller was not about to admit defeat however, and with a car that was on rubber better suited to the slippery conditions, quickly caught and was back past Lewis-Williams as the two ran side by side through Hayshed, with Beller appearing back in front as they crested Lukey Heights.
Jackman was the man on the move further back in the pack, as he overtook Rob Holding to move into tenth, and then rounded up Gallagher under brakes for Honda corner. With confidence on good tyres, Jackman continued his move forward and was up to eighth with a pass on Taubitz over the outside of Lukey Heights.
As the rain eased the lap times began to improved again, with Beller holding a small lead from Lewis-Williams, with the two of them holding a large gap back to the third placed Tony Westaway who edged away from the battle for fourth between Howe and Michael Westaway. West was in sixth a few seconds adrift, ahead of the fast closing Ken Rowland, who was the third fastest car on the circuit on the closing laps as the track started to dry. Jackman was in eighth a fair way adrift, though found himself stuck behind one of the slower MG’s as he came to lap him in a yellow flag section of the circuit at Turn 11 on the penultimate lap – the drop of momentum allowing Taubitz to overtake him down the straight into Turn 1 for the final time.
Jackman shadowed Taubitz through the lap, with Gallagher and Holding lying in wait before Jackman was able to successfully make an inside pass into MG corner for the last time. Taubitz closed on the run to the flag but came up just short as Jackman took the eighth position, with the quartet of cars including Gallagher and Holding crossing the line all separated by only 0.6 of a second!
The battle for fourth place was even closer, as Howe held out Michael Westaway for fourth place by less than half a tenth of a second at the finish!
So yet again, it was Beller and Lewis-Williams with one win apiece as we went to the final race for the weekend – who would prevail to take the round glory?