Qualifying for the final round of the 944 challenge was held under beautiful sunny skies, and the three championship rivals again proved why they are the ones fighting for the series title, with all qualifying three drivers immediately jumping into the 1 minute 5 second bracket on their first flying laps.
Cameron Beller was quickest first up with a 1:05.3923, followed by Vince Misuraca on a 1:05.6679 and Chris Lewis-Williams just behind on a 1:05.6747.
Mark Taubitz was 4th fastest with a 1:06.6383 ahead of Brad Winter with a 1:06.8263. There was a gap back to Ken Rowland in 6th, recording a 1:08.2398 on his first lap, just ahead of John Goddard in his farewell round with 1:08.2482, and Paul Crocitti returning to the track for the first time since the first round slotting into 8th position with a 1:08.2877 opening lap.
Pedr James slotted into 9th with a 1:09.2808 ahead of Greg Wood in 10th with a 1:09.3668. Ross Millar was next in the lineup after lap 1 with a 1:09.8880 with Tony Westaway 12th with a 1:09.9434
Peter Doherty was 13th with 1:11.2012, with Ben Raphael behind him (1:11.2781) then Jim Gallagher (1:11.4097) Marius Catrina (1:11.5539) Michael Westaway (1:11.7880) and John Vainoras on a 1:15.1273 as he commenced his first qualifying session.
Misuraca improved his time slightly on lap 2 with a 1:05.5499, as Taubitz also lowered his time to a 1:06.3870, maintaining the 4th fastest spot ahead of Winter who lowered his time to 1:06.4323.
Pedr James moved into 6th fastest with a 1:07.8775 lap ahead of Crocitti who also moved into the 7’s with a 1:07.9407 to move into 7th position. Wood moved into 8th with 1:08.2314, and Gallagher went 9th quickest with a 1:08.2598 – but this would be the end of the session for Jim – as a broken gearbox put car #13 out for the rest of the session – but he would be back out in time for Race 1.
Peter Doherty moved to 12th with a 1:09.7345 ahead of Millar & Westaway, with Catrina recording a 1:10.2268 which moved him to 15th in what would be his fastest lap in a shortened session, Marius feeling extremely under the weather and pulling off the track a couple of laps later, as Vainoras lowered his time with a 1:14.5217.
A number of cars turned up the wick the following lap – Lewis-Williams moved ahead of Misuraca with a 1:05.5291 to get onto the front row, as Brad Winter moved onto the second row with a 1:06.1450 to be 4th fastest as Taubitz and then Misuraca both spun at Penrite corner.
Tony Westaway leapt up to 6th from 14th with a 1:07.0747, James and Crocitti improved with a 1:07.4524 and 1:07.6793 respectively to now share the fourth row of the grid, ahead of Goddard and Millar who now were sharing the fifth row positions after running 1:07.7595 and 1:07.8562 respectively.
Wood & Rowland also improved but were now 11th and 12th with 1:08.1729 and 1:08.2056 laps, with Michael Westaway improving to 14th with a 1:08.8407 to be behind Gallagher who had now slipped to 13th. Ben Raphael up to 16th ahead of Catrina and behind Doherty with a 1:10.2069 as Vainoras continued to acclimatise himself recording a 1:13.0696
Misuraca jumped up to top of the sheets with a 1:05.3665 the following lap, as Lewis-Williams improved marginally with a 1:05. 5088 though was now back to third. Michael Westaway now also put together a representative lap time and jumped into 8th with a 1:07.5088, as Crocitti went slightly quicker with a 1:07.5992 but slipped to 9th behind Westaway.
Immediately behind him, Millar and Goddard both improved their times with Millar staying in 10th with a 1:07.6925 in what would be his fastest time for the session, with Goddard recording a 1:07.7362 but slipping to 11th, while Doherty lowered his time further with a 1:09.4470.
Misuraca further improved his time with a 1:05.1871 the following lap, while Beller ran consecutive laps of 1:05.43, just slower than his fastest time to date, as Lewis-Williams, Winter & Taubitz all pitted to check and adjust tyre pressures. Rowland meanwhile jumped all the way up to 5th from 13th with a fantastic 1:06.2024 lap, as James also improved by three tenths of a second with a 1:07.1487, now sitting in 8th behind Taubitz and Tony Westaway, as Goddard moved into 9th behind him with a 1:07.1896 with Michael Westaway right behind him in 10th.
Rowland continued to improve and impress as he now moved up to 4th displacing Winter with a 1:06.0943, as Goddard jumped up to 7th with a 1:06.6710, both times would be the fastest these drivers would run for the qualifying session Crocitti improved marginally but was still 11th after running a 1:07.5185, as Peter Doherty dropped into the 8’s, running a 1:08.9876.
Lewis-Williams has a spin off into the Winton dust exiting turn 1 of the short circuit the following lap as Beller set his fastest time of 1:05.3228, a time he would be unable to top in the remainder of the session. Brad Winter moved himself back into 4th position with a 1:05.7998 lap, pushing Rowland back to 5th, with Taubitz improving slightly on the next lap with a 1:06.2499 in what would be his fastest lap for the session also.
Crocitti moved back into 10th with a 1:07.2583 ahead of Michael Westaway who also improved with a 1:07.2781, as Raphael lowered his best time into the 9’s with a 1:09.7712.
Lewis-Williams moved back onto the front row with a 1:05.1985, only one hundredth of a second off of Misuraca’s provisional pole time, and pushing Beller back to the second row. Tony Westaway dropped into the 6’s with a 1:06.7996 in what would be his fastest time for the session in 8th, as Ben Raphael also lowered his time by another 4 tenths of a second with a 1:09.3876 in what would be his fastest time for the session also.
Winter set his fastest time on lap 10 to consolidate his 4th position on the grid behind the top three championship protagonists with a 1:05.6119. Paul Crocitti moved up to 8th, displacing Tony Westaway with his fastest lap of 1:06.7240, as Doherty also dropped his best time by a further 3 tenths of a second with a 1:08.6991. John Vainoras also moved his marker down, getting into the 12’s with a 1:12.9406.
Pedr James circulated to record his fastest lap the following tour, a 1:07.0582 was the time he wouldn’t be able to better as the session ran on and had him in 10th position.
Misuraca improved his time slightly on lap 13, a 1:05.1787 – doubling his margin on Lewis-Williams to two hundredths of a second from one hundredth, which would secure him pole position in his quest to secure the 944 Challenge for 2016 to complement his Vic State Title.
Greg Wood and John Vainoras both improved their times, but not their positions with 1:08.0456 for Wood, with Vainoras dropping into the 11’s, with a 1:11.5484, a good showing from his first qualifying session with his new car.
The final change to the order would come from Michael Westaway, who snuck into the top 10 on his last lap, a 1:06.9147 just displacing James for the position.
Three races for points this weekend, and three drivers all with a chance for the title with Beller holding a small points margin from the two drivers who were tied on points starting in front of him.