After a week of cold, wet and dreary weather, entrants were surprised to be greeted by blue skies over Sandown at Round 4 of the Porsche 944 Challenge. Beller made the best of the good conditions, picking up where he left off last round, posting a scorching 1:24.1 in qualifying. The rest of the pack were almost a second down the road, with Mills, CLW and Partridge all split by 3 tenths of a second. Newcomer Jason Miller impressed on his debut, qualifying 5th.
Beller got a good start from pole in Race 1, but Mills locked up and ran wide on lap one, losing two places. CLW capitalised and passed Partridge to finish 2nd place, not far behind Beller who took the first win of the weekend. Behind them Miller and Howe came together at Dandenong Road, ending both their races, bringing out the safety car.
In Race 2, Partridge got a good start from the 2nd row and challenged Beller for the lead of the race throughout the first lap. Behind, CLW got away slowly off the line and found himself behind Mills in 4th. After an argument between the two teammates over the same piece of track, CLW took to the kerb between turns 2 and 3 to avoid contact, unfortunately the landing on the other side was enough to damage his engine, forcing him to retire. The oil from his stricken engine spewed out onto the track on turn 4, and Smith found it first, sliding into Mills, sending them both off. Suspension damage ended Smith’s race, while Mills set about chasing down the pack after suffering cosmetic damage.
Beller powered through, winning by over 10 seconds from Partridge in 2nd, Tony Westaway got himself onto the podium in 3rd, and Mark Taubitz did a stellar job to finish 4th. Mills recovered from the early mishap by finishing 5th.
After the problems several of his main competitors suffered earlier in the weekend, it was on the cards for Beller to complete a clean sweep of victories. However, after getting a good start and taking the lead off the line, a lock up into Dandenong saw Beller run wide, making a victory a lot more difficult for himself. He emerged from the gravel trap behind Mills in 3rd, going from 1st to 4th in one corner. This gave Partridge the lead of the race by some margin, but after some tussling, Mills and Beller got past Westaway and started reeling Partridge in. Mills got there first, and after some side by side action for several laps, made a move up the inside stick into the esses.
Beller also caught and passed Partridge, and set about chasing down Mills for the lead of the race, breaking the race lap record while doing so with a 1:24.0. Beller was all over the back of Mills, but try as he might, couldn’t find a way past. Mills held his nerve, and held on for the final few laps and took the win. Beller 2nd, Partridge 3rd, Howe recovered from his earlier difficulties with 4th place, while rookie Miller finished the weekend strongly in 5th.
The good weekend result saw Beller increase his championship lead, and Partridge consolidated his 3rd position, but after a difficult weekend, CLW has his work cut out for him to get back into contention for the championship. See you all next round when the story will continue!