After a strong showing at Oran Park Raceway last month, Protecnica Racing and Chris Alajajian head to South Australia this weekend, for Round 5 of the 2006 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series at Mallala Motorsport Park, accompanied by a little bit of added confidence.

In just their second round in the series, the Sydneysiders starred at Oran Park. Alajajian qualified inside the Top 10, and was on-course for a podium finish in Race 3, before being caught out on a patch of oil. He dropped from third place to finish a still-credible seventh aboard the Jack Hillermans / Elf Lubricants Commodore.

"We have shown that we are capable of running at the front," said Alajajian. "It exceeded our expectations of where we thought we would be, but it was a good feeling to be passing cars and running that high in the order.

"It didn't work out unfortunately when I hit the oil late in the race and spun, but the run up until that point gives us some extra confidence to know what we can achieve.

"While we are keen to show that Oran Park wasn't a fluke, we're still looking at the rest of this year as a learning exercise. It's another weekend to gain experience and continue to learn.

"When we get out onto the track, it's a completely new round. It won't matter where you finished or what you did last time, so I'm going to focus on what I need to do this weekend which will give us the most positive outcome."

Alajajian has previously raced twice at Mallala. In 2004, he scored a pair of second-place finishes in the Australian Production Car Championship, and last year finished on the podium in the Australian Formula 3 Championship.

In late April 2006, the 2.6km circuit was also the scene of Alajajian's first handful of laps behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar, when he drove Protecnica Racing's VZ Commodore in a handover session.

"It felt like a boat, when I first got into the car after driving the F3 car," the 19 year-old says," but now I've grown accustomed to it. Looking back on that day, my perspective on the car has obviously changed a lot and I'm learning all the time what it takes to drive a Supercar well.

"The Turn 5 hairpin is particularly important at Mallala. It's at the end the long back straight, so you arrive there with a lot of speed, which means you need to be particularly careful with your braking."

Like Alajajian, Protecnica Racing team owner Scott Anderson is eager for the round to get underway at Mallala, which has played host to some of the teams most memorable moments.

"Mallala has been involved in some of our big milestones as a team," Anderson said. "We'll always look back fondly on the weekend in 2004 when we won the GTP title with Justin Hemmes. It was our first GTP Championship after coming close a couple of times, and it was even sweeter because we had to work for it and rebuild the car on Saturday night because of a crash.

"Then, earlier this year, the handover day was a big milestone for us in this project. We took control of the car and had our first, albeit small, hands-on taste of a V8 Supercar.

"A lot of work was done to get to that day and a lot of work has been done since, and I think Oran Park definitely showed we are making good progress. I'm pleased with how far we've come, and we're looking forward to getting back out there this weekend and keeping it going."

As a stand alone round of the 2006 series, practice and qualifying will be held on Saturday, before three races on Sunday. Races 1 and 2 will be contested across 16 laps, with the second a full reverse-grid, with Race 3 scheduled for 28 laps.

-credit: pr