FOR MANY years in touring car circles, Sandown was always a perfect warm up session for a long distance race at Bathurst. That will definitely be the case next weekend when the GWS Personnel Motorsport team use the Australian Manufacturers Championship grand final as a real life test session for next February's Bathurst 12 Hour.
The team will field a three car attack at the inner Melbourne venue, with the team's lead BMW 130i being shared by Peter O'Donnell and Allan Shephard, with kiwi Bruce Tomlinson teaming with Dave Ryan in the second BMW, while the team's Toyota Celica will be piloted by Canberra based David Giugni.
The format for the weekend will feature a pair of one hour long races with driver changes for the two-driver combinations.
Shephard is brimming with confidence coming into the weekend, his first outing aboard the GWS Personnel BMW since July.
"The last time I drove with Peter was at the Bathurst 12 hour this year where we won our class, so I'm really looking forward to more success together at Sandown," said Shephard.
"This is the first track that we have visited this year that Peter has driven at previously, he has improved his driving enormously over the course of the season, and the crew have done a brilliant job developing the car, so all of the ingredients are coming together nicely.
"We're going to use the weekend as a bit of a sounding board for some ideas that we have been working on in preparation for Bathurst, so it's going to be a very interesting meeting."
O'Donnell comes into the final event of the five round championship a clear second overall in the chase for Class B honours, with a trouble free weekend ensuring just rewards after a season of solid improvement.
"It will be very pleasing to get a strong result for the season, we have been ultra consistent and right there at the end of the races, which is very important," said O'Donnell.
"The entry list for the round looks very good, and in my eyes, the more competition the better.
"Sandown is a high speed track with a couple of long straights, but the BMWs are exceedingly strong on the twisty parts, so we are planning on putting our handling advantage to good use.
"Our smaller cars are very consistent; they do the same lap times at the finish of an hour long race as what they do at the start, whereas the Falcon and Commodore competition tend to run out of tyres and brakes towards the end of the races."
Garry Mennell and his On Track Motorsport crew have been flat out preparing the GWS Personnel Motorsport machines for the weekend, with Tomlinson and Ryan debuting a new BMW 130i, replacing the car extensively damaged at the second round of the championship at Eastern Creek.
Ryan needs no introduction to production car racing, having taken the outright Production Car Championship victory in 2006 aboard his Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo, while Tomlinson raced the GWS Personnel BMW at the corresponding race meeting in 2008.
The duo is looking to pair up once again for the team at Bathurst in February.
GWS Personnel and True Blue Motorsport would like to thank The Shire Conveyancer, Spinifex Australia, Rogue Lager and Briffa Smash Repairs for their continued support in the Australian Manufacturers Championship.