ASTC: Oran Park practice report

Newcastle's Luke Searle recovered from a high-speed spin at Oran Park in Sydney today and emerged fastest in opening practice for Sunday's third round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship. Searle, who is seventh in the ...

Newcastle's Luke Searle recovered from a high-speed spin at Oran Park in Sydney today and emerged fastest in opening practice for Sunday's third round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship.

Searle, who is seventh in the championship, spun his SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i at more than 150-km/h in the first of the two practice sessions in fine and calm conditions. The 24-year-old lost control of his car in the left-hand corner at the end of the main straight, but managed to remain on the track and avoid contact with surrounding sandtraps and tyre barriers.

In the second practice session hours later Searle fitted a set of new Yokohama control tyres on his car and clocked the quickest lap time of 1-min 13.42-secs, finishing 0.62-secs ahead of Sydney's Peter Hills, who was second fastest in a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo.

Despite Searle's practice performance he will not be a contender for pole position in qualifying tomorrow because religious beliefs prevent him from competing on Saturdays. He will start the first of the two 23-lap races on Sunday from the rear of the grid.

Sydney-based New Zealander Dwayne Bewley made an excellent comeback to the championship with the third best time of 1-mins 14.81-secs in the first session. The 26-year-old is driving at Oran Park as a late replacement for New Zealand's Tony Newman in the TC Motorsports Peugeot 406. Newman withdrew from the Oran Park meeting today because of illness. Bewley previously raced in the championship in 1998 in a Peugeot 405, and this year has been contesting the GTP Production Car Championship.

Queensland's David Auger, who is second in the championship in a Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo, finished fourth fastest in practice at Oran Park, and the top five was completed by Sydney's Jamie Miller in a Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry.

Championship leader Paul Morris, who has won all five previous races in this year's series, opted not to drive in either practice sessions. However, the 33-year-old Gold Coast driver will contest both qualifying sessions tomorrow. Sydney policeman John Henderson also elected not to drive his Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra in practice today.

DRIVER QUOTES:

LUKE SEARLE (SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i): "The spin happened after three laps. We were on old tyres without a lot of grip, and when I got into the corner the car didn't pull up in time. It spun around, but luckily I managed to keep it on the 'black stuff' otherwise it could have been a big accident. Once we put a new set of Yokohamas on the car it felt much better. My lap times were quicker and more consistent on the fresh rubber."

PETER HILLS (Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo): "We've put a lot of new parts in the engine and we're getting good speed out of the car. The gearing isn't right as yet, but we will have that fixed for qualifying. I think I'm a realistic chance of getting onto the front row of the grid here."

DWAYNE BEWLEY (TC Motorsports Peugeot 406): "Being third on the timesheets is better than I could have expected on my first day. I've never driven the Peugeot 406 before at Oran Park, and it's a long time since I've been in a Super Touring car. It's taking time to get used to front-wheel-drive again. I'm feeling more confident as I do more laps, although I spun onto the infield once, but it didn't damage the car."

PRACTICE LAP TIMES (Friday): POS DRIVER CAR TIME 1. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 1:13.42 2. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 1:14.04 3. Dwayne Bewley (NZ) TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 1:14.81 4. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 1:15.02 5. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 1:15.29 6. Anthony Robson (NSW) Grid Motorsport BMW 318i 1:15.32 7. Alan Gurr NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 1:15.41 8. Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit You Vet Honda Accord 1:15.52 9. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 1:15.58 10. Allan Letcher (WA) Trinovin Ford Mondeo 1:19.40

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Alan Gurr , Luke Searle , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Peter Hill , Anthony Robson