The 944 challenge field rolled out for qualifying on Saturday morning for the Shannon’s Nationals round, and proving he hasn’t lost his speed despite not turning a wheel in the past ten months was Chris Lewis-Williams who set the fastest lap first up with a 1:36.2726. Mark Taubitz was second quickest with a 1:37.5693 on his first fast lap, ahead of Cameron Beller third with a 1:38.7129 in third, with Tony Westaway fourth with a 1:39.4822.
Dick Howe was fifth fastest with a 1:40.3904 from Paul Crocitti on a 1:41.5013, with Peter Doherty seventh fastest with a 1:42.6179 and Michael Westaway just behind with a 1:42.6892. Jim Mitchell was ninth with a first lap of 1:45.4529 from Manny Mezzasalma, tenth quickest with a 1:46.2730 with Pedr James, Keith Marriner and Rob Holding rounding out the runners with all three not running a representative time on their first laps.
Beller moved himself into second position on his next lap when he ran a 1:36..7372 on his next lap, while Tony Westaway improved his best time with a 1:39.0906. Howe improved in fifth with a 1:39.1899 , as did Crocitti behind him with a 1:39.5737. Doherty also improved with a 1:40.7660 lap to remain in seventh position. Mitchell also improved his time with a 1:43.6399 while James moved to tenth quickest with a 1:44.3737 and Holding up to eleventh with a 1:46.0733 moving Mazzasalma back to twelfth ahead of Marriner with a 1:48.6943.
Beller improved again next time around with a 1:36.1396, while Holding leapt up to fourth fastest with a 1:38.0625. Howe also improved with a 1:38.2680 in what would be his best time for the session though remained in fifth position. Crocitti remained sixth with a 1:38.8707, with Michael Westaway also displacing his brother with a 1:38.9504 to go to seventh, dropping Tony to eighth.
Mitchell was still tenth, now with a 1:41.8584 ahead of Marriner with a 1:42.1178, James on a 1:42.9105 and Mezzasalma in thirteenth.
Beller took the top spot on the next lap with a 1:35.4449, with Lewis-Williams also improving with a 1:36.0622 though slipped back to second fastest. Crocitti moved to third fastest with a 1:37.5224 pushing Taubitz, Holding and Howe back down the order, with Tony Westaway moving back ahead of Michael with a 1:38.2698, just behind Howe. James moved up to ninth with a 1:39.8623 ahead of Mitchell who again improved with a 1:40.2257, while Doherty again improved also, though slipped back to eleventh with a 1:40.5616. Marriner also improved slightly with a 1:41.8950 in twelfth position.
Beller continued his streak of improving his lap times, and his next 1:34.9431 put himself safely at the top, as Lewis-Williams improved again with a 1:35.8562 next time around. Tony Westaway leapt up the order with a 1:37.2345 to move up to third fastest, while Michael Westaway also went quicker with a 1:38.0569 which put him into seventh position ahead of Howe – a time he wouldn’t improve on. Mitchell also improved again, thought just slightly with a 1:40.1124, while Mezzasalma improved his time with a 1:44.4233.
Beller ran one more lap, and went quicker again with a 1:34.7701 – and then parked it – confident that his one second advantage would secure the pole position for him. Holding improved his time with a 1:37.9509 to remain in sixth position, while James also went faster with a 1:39.0975 in ninth position, his fastest time for the session. Marriner moved up to eleventh with a 1:40.1328, while Doherty ran a 1:40.3861 though he slipped to twelfth position.
Rob Holding raised eyebrows as he ran a blistering 1:36.5544 to vault him into third position, while Tony Westaway moved to fourth as he ran a 1:36.8942. Taubitz put a lap together as he improved on his early time with a 1:37.0346 though was now fifth, Marriner dipped under the 1 minute 40s as he ran a 1:39.6276 in his fastest lap to move him into tenth position ahead of Mitchell and Doherty, while Mezzasalma also started to turn some quicker laps as he grew comfortable with the car, running a 1:42.1414.
Tony Westaway pulled out one last quick lap to displace Holding with a 1:36.4920 for third fastest, displacing Holding who went within half a tenth of a second of his best lap, but slipped to fourth. Taubitz ran his best lap on the last tour with a 1:36.9136 to stay fifth, ahead of Crocitti who also improved with a 1:37.3120 but remained in sixth.
Doherty pulled one out of the bag as he went over a second quicker to vault him up to ninth position with a 1:38.9869 on his final lap, pushing James back to tenth ahead of Marriner and Mitchell who also dipped under the 1:40’s on his last lap with a 1:39.8636. Mezzasalma also improved again on his last lap with a 1:41.8898 lap, a good effort in his first 944 challenge session.
The last lap was run by Lewis-Williams, who improved in a last ditch effort at pole, but a 1:35.3785 wasn’t able to do it, though cemented his spot on the front row of the grid alongside Beller for Race 1.
9 Laps would follow later in the day – who would take first blood for the weekend??