Sydney policeman John Henderson believes he can become the first driver to beat all-conquering BMW racer Paul Morris in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship when the series resumes at Mallala near Adelaide this Sunday (November 12).
Morris, chasing his fourth Super Touring title, has won all nine races in the previous four rounds in his rear-drive Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i and leads the championship at the halfway stage with 142 points.
Henderson is second in the championship on 76 points after finishing runner-up to Morris in six races this year, and he claims his front-drive Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra will be suited to the 2.6km Mallala track.
"The Vectra was quick at Mallala last season, and I think this weekend is our best chance of knocking off the BMW," said Henderson.
"Mallala is hard on brakes which is one of the strong points of the Vectra, and our car also has good acceleration out of the 'stop-go' corners, but the BMW still has a little more top-end speed."
"My aim is to qualify on the front row and put as much pressure on Paul (Morris) as I can. We've made some big improvements this year with the car and I feel we have the momentum to win."
Morris, who made his championship debut in 1994, did not record a championship victory at Mallala until 1999, when he won both races, and admitted the BMW had struggled on the circuit in the past.
"Our biggest problem with the BMW at Mallala over the years has been getting the tyres up to operating temperature and a lack of grip going into the corners at the end of the long straights," said Morris.
"It's going to be important for me to get a good start because if you can win the race to the first corner then it makes things much easier. That's the main reason I was able to win there last year."
Morris said a crucial factor in his domination of this year's championship was the support and expertise of his team, and the consistency of the BMW and Yokohama control tyre
"We're doing the basic things right and getting the most our of the car performance-wise, and with the tyres, and we haven't made as many mistakes as the others," he said.
Apart from Henderson, Morris said he expected his main opposition in the two 24-lap races at Mallala to come from Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo team-mates Allan Gurr and Peter Hills, both from Sydney.
Gurr is third in the championship on 73 points, and Hills finished third, behind Morris and Henderson, in both races in the previous round at Wakefield Park near Goulburn in NSW on October 29.
Queenslander David Auger leads the Independents Cup with 126 points in his Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo, followed by improving Newcastle driver Luke Searle on 69 in his SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i.
Tasmanian Tim Shaw, driving a Holden Commodore, is first in the Future Tourers category for modified V8s, now being managed by championship organisers TOCA Australia. Shaw has 95 points, with Victorians Christian D'Agostin second on 67 and Jason Domaschenz third on 52, both driving Commodores.
Support categories in the 15-race program at Mallala are Commodore Cup, the Logical Mirage one-make series, HQ Holdens, Club/Saloon Cars, and Formula Vee. Practice begins on Friday, with qualifying the following day.
CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS BRIEFS
Sydney's JIM CORNISH will be on the grid at Mallala in his Visit Your Vet Honda Accord after a rush trip to Britain to source new engine parts. The Honda engine was damaged in practice at Wakefield Park. Cornish and team manager NIGEL BARCLAY travelled to Britain immediately after and secured replacement components from Neil Brown Engineering in Milton Keyes. After returning to Australia Cornish's team rebuilt the engine for Mallala.
PAUL LEABEATER, also forced out of the Wakefield Park round by engine problems, is another confirmed starter for Mallala. The 38-year-old from Sydney said he had a new engine block for his Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra, and other required parts. Leabeater has never raced at Mallala before. After missing the races at Wakefield Park, he honed his driving skills by driving his HQ Holden race car at Eastern Creek on November 3.
MIKE FITZGERALD expects to make his championship comeback at Mallala. He drove his MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 in the championship opener at Oran Park in Sydney on May 28, but struggled with mechanical problems and missed the following three rounds. The Sydney driver made his championship debut at Amaroo Park in 1997 when his Peugeot was badly damaged in a spectacular crash.
Canberra's MATTHEW FOX, fresh from his championship debut at Wakefield Park, has entered the Mallala round in the Hi-Tech Motorsport Nissan Primera. The John Pachos-prepared Nissan was purchased in Macau, and Fox said initially he struggled at Wakefield Park because he could not control the rear of the car. He said he felt more comfortable in the second race after the spring ratios were changed. Fox will be making his debut at Mallala this weekend.
Sydney's JAMIE MILLER will not race at Mallala, but he has committed to the final three rounds of this year's championship. The 37-year-old suspension franchise owner originally intended to race the Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry in the three NSW rounds. However, he has expanded his program to six rounds, missing only Lakeside in Queensland in June and Mallala. Miller has qualified third in one race in each of the past two rounds at Sydney's Oran Park and at Wakefield Park.
APS Racing team manager TREVOR THOMAS expects major improvements in the performance of Victorian RAY SIDEBOTTOM'S Future Tourers VT Holden Commodore at Mallala. Sidebottom gave the APS Racing-built VT an encouraging race debut at Wakefield Park by finishing fourth in both races in the Future Tourers class. Thomas predicts the VT will soon be challenging for outright class honours with more development. The team also campaigns a VS Commodore for Victorian JASON DOMASCHENZ. Thomas said the main advantage with the VT model was its double-wishbone suspension, compared to the VS's McPherson strut. Apart from Sidebottom, the only other VT Commodore in the class at present is raced by Victorian James Brock.
Perth-based New Zealander KERRY WADE has had a Harrop rear axle fitted to his EL Ford Falcon Future Tourers car for Mallala. The 26-year-old tyre centre owner was forced out of the opening race at Wakefield Park because of a broken rear axle. Wade's car also features Harrop brakes. The Falcon is based at Mick Webb SVO in Melbourne and is prepared for each round by Wade's father, Graham Wade. After taking delivery of the ex-Gary Rogers Motorsport AUSCAR in late 1999, Wade converted it to Future Tourers specification over a six-month period. Wade faces lengthy trips from Perth and back to compete in each round. His past record includes winning the West Australian Formula Ford and HQ Holden championship titles in 1997.
<pre> MALLALA - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10: Practice, 12.05pm-12.50pm; 2.40pm-3.15pm
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11: Practice, 9.30-9.45am; Qualifying session 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying session 2, 1.40-2.10pm
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29: Race 1, (24 laps) starts 12.45pm; Race 2, (24 laps) starts 3.05pm
MALLALA - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS
CIRCUIT LENGTH: 2.6km
RACE LAP RECORD: 1-min 10.25-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4, 19.7.98
1999 POLE POSITIONS: Race 1: 1-min 12.31-secs, Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 2: 1-min 16.77-secs, Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i
1999 RACE WINNERS: Race 1: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 2: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i
DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): POS DRIVER CAR POINTS 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 142 2. John Henderson (NSW) Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra 76 3. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 73 4. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 67 5. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 53 6. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 32 7. Allan Letcher (WA) McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 31 8. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 22 9. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 18 10. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 14 11 Dwayne Bewley (NSW) TC Motorsports Peugeot 406 10 Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit Your Vet Honda Accord 10 13 Tony Newman (NZ) TC Motorsports Peugeot 406 8 Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 8 15. Anthony Robson (NSW) Grid Motorsport BMW 318i 6 16. Brad Stratton (Qld) Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina 5 17 Sam Dale (A.C.T.) Mumbo Racing Ford Mondeo 4 Matthew Fox (A.C.T.) Hi-Tech Motorsport Nissan Primera 4 19. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Bocoo-Global Express Peugeot 405 3 20. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 2
INDEPENDENTS CUP POINTS (after round 4): Auger 126, Searle 69, Letcher 66, Miller 52, Downard 33, Leabeater 24, Cornish 20, Robson 20, Fox 14, Dale 14, Stratton 8, Rolfo 6, Fitzgerald 6
TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): Knight Racing 185, McGill Motorsport 112, Hi-Tech Motorsport 46, Motorsport Developments 12
FUTURE TOURERS POINTS (after round 3): Shaw 95, D'Agostin 67, Domaschenz 52, Webb 30, Wade 28, Sidebottom 24, Brock 24, Holt 12, Gillespie 6
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