The storm clouds refused to leave for the final race for the 2017 season, as another increase in the severity of the rain while the field waited in pre-grid ensured it would be another slippery affair for the scheduled 10 laps.
Vince Misuraca got the better start off the soaking start line to lead into the first corner from Chris Lewis-Williams and Tony Westaway. Dropping right back at the start was Cameron Beller, who didn’t move off the line as he stalled and bogged down on the grid, allowing most of the field passed while he restarted and got moving. Codey West capitalised moving into fourth, ahead of Brad Winter and Paul Crocitti, who went either side of Jim Gallagher who was also slow to get away and slipped back to seventh position. Peter Doherty got a great start and was up to eighth through the first corner, ahead of Pedr James, Michael Westaway and an extra conservative Mark Taubitz.
Marius Catrina was next in twelfth position, ahead of Ken Rowland, the recovering Beller, Keith Marriner, John Vainoras Dick Howe and Toni Andreevski. Not moving off the start line at all was Jim Mitchell, pulling his car off onto the grass and retiring without crossing the start line.
The field tippy-toed through turns one and two, with Peter Doherty spinning out of eighth position at Southern Loop, into the outside grass where he got bogged, with Marius Catrina also spinning on the inside on the exit of the corner, dropping him back down the order but was able to resume in fourteenth position. Another retirement was that of Howe, who pulled into the pits without completing a lap.
Beller moved his way past Rowland, and then past Taubitz into Turn 1 at the beginning of Lap 2, moving him back into the Top ten, just before the yellow flags waved to signal the safety car was out to help resume the stricken car of Doherty.
As racing resumed at the start of Lap 4 it was Misuraca from Lewis-Williams, Tony Westaway, West, Winter, Crocitti, Gallagher, James, Michael Westaway and Beller in tenth. Taubitz was next from Rowland, Marriner, Catrina, Andreevski and Vainoras.
A heart stopping moment in Turn 1 for West, who while alongside with Westaway, spun and found himself stranded sideways in the middle of the corner as the rest of the field emerged from the spray. The field did a fantastic job to avoid the #77 Porsche, with Taubitz spinning as he went to the inside to try to avoid him, sliding through the grass and to the back of the field, while West was able to resume.
This allowed Winter to move up to third position, behind new leader Lewis-Williams, who passed Misuraca for the top spot. Crocitti and Gallagher moved up before contact between the pair dropped them both down the order.
James was the big mover in the melee and was up to fourth position, with Beller moving up to fifth ahead of Michael Westaway, Rowland, the recovering West, Catrina and Marriner. Tony Westaway was recovering in eleventh position ahead of Crocitti and Gallagher, with Andreevski the next through ahead of Taubitz and Vainoras.
West’s resurgence didn’t last long however, as he slipped off the road at MG corner and slid down the hill on the wet grass into the tyre wall, and into retirement.
Beller moved past James on lap 5 into the fourth position, while Michael Westaway also made his way ahead into fifth. Tony Westaway meanwhile continued his recovery and passed Marriner, and then Catrina into eighth position.
Retirement next befell Jim Gallagher, who after losing his nosecone which flew off and cracked his windscreen, was finding it very difficult to see where he was going, and spun out of twelfth position exiting Honda corner, and also found himself bogged and out of the race.
Paul Crocitti was the next out of the race half a lap later whenhe replicated Codey West’s misfortune, slipping off the track and aquaplaning under brakes for MG corner, sliding down the hill in the grass. The greatest tragedy was that as he replicated West’s slide, that meant that he found West’s car, making contact with the stranded car as West could only look helplessly with the flag marshals as Crocitti’s race also came to an end.
The race came to an early close on as Chris Lewis-Williams crossed the line the next time around at the end of Lap 7, a comfortable 10.5 seconds clear of second placed Misuraca after only 4 green flag laps once the safety car pulled off the circuit.
Brad Winter was a further 7 seconds adrift, a great podium result in his return round after missing the previous events, with another 15 seconds back to Cameron Beller in fourth spot, with Michael Westaway rounding out the top five – a good final result after sitting so strongly in Race 2 earlier in the day.
Sixth position was a great result for Pedr James after what can be described as a trying season with a number of mechanical failures and finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Right on Pedr’s tail was his adversary Ken Rowland, with Tony Westaway catching the pair but unable to mount a challenge to get past as the race came to a close.
Ninth position, and only just behind Westaway was a great result for Marius Catrina, one of his best results of the season, despite his Lap 1 spin! Keith Marriner was a distant tenth position, ahead of Toni Andreevski in twelfth after a sensible race, and Mark Taubitz in thirteenth – ensuring he made it to the finish without further incident, while John Vainoras was the final finisher one lap down.
So at the end of 22 races, it was Cameron Beller who secured the 2017 944 Challenge Triphy for the second time, ultimately securing the title by a mere two points ahead of Chris Lewis-Williams – 452 to 450 with Tony Westaway a great third place after a very strong and consistant season.
Stay tuned for a detailed season review of the 2017 season, and a preview for 2018 as the field look to fitting the new control suspension package for next season!
Thanks to all competitors, teams, crew, officials and supporters for their efforts in 2017! Next season promises to be even better!