Sunday morning dawned, with it all to play for in the race for the 2016 944 Challenge Series Title! If Cameron Beller finished second, he would secure the title ahead of Vince Misuraca by one solitary point. However, if Vince could win this race with Beller third, they would finish tied on points.
If this eventuated, there would be 7 wins apiece, so the winner of the series would thus be the driver with the most second place finishes – which would then be Misuraca, with 6 seconds to Bellers’ 5! And if the two of them encountered dramas, Chris Lewis- Williams would be potentially able to capitalise and swoop in to steal the spoils from under their noses…
There would be three cars missing from Sunday’s proceedings, with Ross Millar and Paul Crocitti unable to front for Sunday’s events, and John Goddard’s car suffering a damaged radiator in the Race 2 impact from Saturday keeping him from being able to race on Sunday also.
As the lights went out Beller got a great jump from the front row to sweep into the lead around the outside of turn 1, while Misuraca didn’t get the greatest of starts and had Chris Lewis-Williams and Brad Winter moving alongside to be 3 wide into the braking area for turn 1. Some slight contact on corner entry as Misuraca desperately tried to hold onto second, and Lewis-Williams and Winter eased out of the throttle to let Misuraca into the spot.
What they likely weren’t counting on was the fast starting Mark Taubitz, who followed in the tyre tracks of Misuraca and edged past Winter and alongside Lewis-Williams on the short tun into turn two, taking the position on the preferred line through the corner.
Not getting a good start from the third row was Tony Westaway, starting alongside Taubitz the Westbon Porsche stalled on the grid, and Tony eventually resumed to start chasing after the field.
Rowland also capitalised on the skirmish between those at the front and moved up into 5th past Winter going into turn 2 at the start, behind Winter was Michael Westaway, Jim Gallagher, Pedr James with Greg Wood rounding out the top ten. Peter Doherty was next ahead of Ben Raphael, John Vainoras and Marius Catrina, who also missed the start, then the medical car…. followed by Tony Westaway.
Catrina made his way past Vainoras for thirteenth into Penrite corner, while Winter also made his way back past Rowland coming onto the back straight for the first time.
Misuraca started chasing after Beller in the front as he knew his primary chance at taking the title was to get into the lead. At the start of lap 2, a small mistake by Taubitz into turn 1 allowed Lewis-Williams through to third to chase after his two title rivals in order to capitalise if some drama unfolded, while towards the back Tony Westaway caught and passed Vainoras.
Misuraca made his move on Beller to take the lead into Turn 1 starting lap 3, Beller not defending too hard as he knew that he only had to finish second, but if the two cars had issues and dropped down the order, the title could go to Misuraca or Lewis-Williams. Winter also made his move on Taubitz into Penrite corner to take the fourth position. Further down the field, Raphael dropped two spots to both Catrina and Westaway.
Chris Lewis-Williams began closing on the top 2 with the intention to do what he could to try to get past Beller to help his teammate Misuraca claim the title. The three were nose to tail midway through Lap 5 when the tension reached fever pitch with Vince spinning as the result of touch in the slow turn 6 section. Lewis-Williams took the grass in avoidance and resumed on the back straight behind Beller who was now back in the lead, with Winter now third ahead of Taubitz, Ken Rowland and Misuraca resuming in sixth position.
At the end of lap 5 Taubitz had a wobble through the final left hand corner which allowed Rowland to get a run on him down the front straight and take fourth position under brakes for turn 1. Tony Westaway continued his forward charge, passing Doherty and Catrina to move to 11th position, with Catrina also moving up a position passing himself Doherty also.
Misuraca started recovering ground as he moved back to fifth by passing Taubitz under brakes into turn 1, and then also past Rowland into Kitome corner later in the lap to move back up to fourth by the end of lap 7.
Up front it was Beller from Lewis-Williams, with Winter in third, until the end of the penultimate lap when Winter spun entering the esses to end the lap, dropping him back to sixth position behind Misuraca, Rowland and Taubitz. Jim Gallagher also moved himself up a position, passing Michael Westaway for seventh spot.
At the end of the final lap it was Beller who held on for the win in the race, and as a result, the 944 Series title for 2016, with Chris Lewis-Williams a close second, and also taking the new lap record for 944’s around the short Winton layout in the last race with a 1:05.0137 on the penultimate lap, and finish third in the 2016 pointscore.
Vince Misuraca recovered for third in the race, after doing all he could to try to take both titles for the year with a great consistent run throughout all race weekends during the year, he ultimately fell short in the 944 challenge series and had to settle for the runner-up spot behind Beller.
Fourth was a great result for Ken Rowland, his best race finish in his career to date, and sixth on points for the weekend, ahead of Mark Taubitz who recorded a consistent three fifth places for the weekend to finish the weekend fifth overall. Brad Winter recovered from his spin for sixth position, which was enough to secure fourth on points for the weekend.
Seventh was Jim Gallagher, a good recovery from the bad start to his weekend in qualifying, which helped him to a tenth position outright for the 2016 series points. He finished the race ahead of Michael Westaway who was eighth in both the race, and the points for the weekend, which was enough to secure him fifth place in the outright 944 series points.
Ninth and right on Michaels tail was Pedr James, which helped him secure tenth for the weekend, and eighth for the 2016 outright points. One spot behind in tenth was Tony Westaway, enough to secure seventh for the weekend which helped him to fourth outright in points for 2016.
Eleventh was Marius Catrina, who was 12th for the weekend and finished 2016 twelfth in points, dropping 1 point behind Rowland. Finishing in twelfth was Peter Doherty who was hampered for the weekends points by his DNF in race 1, one spot behind was Ben Raphael who was eleventh for the weekend in a solid result, and showing big improvements throughout the year,
The final finisher was John Vainoras, keeping the car clean and straight throughout the weekend in a successful debut to finish all three races without a drama, and was thirteenth for the weekend in points.
An unfortunate DNF was Greg Wood, who encountered mechanical issues in the last race after breaking an alternator bracket which prevented him from finishing the last lap while he was running in a strong tenth.
So the points for 2016 was settled in the favour of Cameron Beller, who took the 944 series title for 2016 after finishing 2015 as the runner up while securing the State Title. Vince Misuraca replicated Bellers results from 2015 this season, will he continue to replicate Beller’s performance and take the 2017 944 Challenge Championship, or will Beller be able to go back-to-back? There will be a host of other drivers on track to try to stop him!
But for now – there was one more race to go before the cars were packed away for 2016…. the final reverse grid, handicap race to be held for the Dennis O’Keefe Cup!