ASTC: Oran Park practice

Newcastle driver Luke Searle escaped unscathed in a high-speed spin at Oran Park today to emerge fastest in the opening practice sessions for Sunday's eighth and final round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship. The...

Newcastle driver Luke Searle escaped unscathed in a high-speed spin at Oran Park today to emerge fastest in the opening practice sessions for Sunday's eighth and final round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship.

The 24-year-old consultant lost control of his Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i at 180km/h in the opening stages of the second of the two practice sessions, both held in hot conditions. He slid backwards off the track in the downhill section at the end of the back straight. Searle managed to avoid nearby concrete walls and tyre barriers and was able to drive his car back to the pits. He then had a new set of tyres fitted to the BMW and returned to the track to set the quickest lap time of 45.64-secs around the 1.9km circuit.

Searle finished 0.49-secs clear of Sydney Policeman John Henderson, who was second fastest in a Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra, followed by Queenslander David Auger in a Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo. Queensland's Paul Morris, who has already clinched the championship title, was not on the track today, but will participate in qualifying tomorrow in his Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i.

Tasmanian Tim Shaw and Victorian Andrew Gillespie both exceeded the 95-dba noise limit in practice in their V8 Future Tourers cars. Shaw said the muffler on his ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore would be modified before qualifying tomorrow to ensure his car complied with the regulations. Gillespie will do likewise.

Sydney's Greg East gave the new Drive.com.au V8 Mitsubishi Magna a satisfactory championship debut by finishing 10th fastest in practice. Jamie Miller of NSW drove both his Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry cars in practice, and will not make a decision until tomorrow on which vehicle he will race. Newcastle's Kiel Johnston withdrew from the Oran Park round today after doctors advised him he was suffering from glandular fever.

LUKE SEARLE (Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i): "This is the first time we've had a championship race at Oran Park in Summer, and the hot conditions are making the track incredibly slippery. The tar is coming to the surface in the heat, and you can't keep the car straight under brakes. It was a big scare when I slid off the track. You're virtually a passenger in those situations, but fortunately we didn't hit anything. It could have been much worse."

TIM SHAW (ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore): "We haven't had a problem with the noise anywhere this year. I can't work it out because we're not running a different configuration this weekend. This is the third year in a row it's happened to me at Oran Park. The other two times were when I was racing Commodore Cup. Maybe the noise monitor is where I change gears. We'll make the necessary changes to the muffler so the noise goes under the limit."

GREG EAST (Drive.com.au Mitsubishi Magna): "We did close to 50 laps and we had no problems with the mechanical aspects of the car. That's pretty good considering this was the Magna's first day on the track. The car is very easy to drive, and we're now working on making the brakes and steering better. This was also the first time I've been back in a race car for almost five laps so I'm still getting back into the swing of things" <pre> PRACTICE LAP TIMES (Friday): POS DRIVER CAR TIME 1. Luke Searle (NSW) Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i 45.64-secs 2. John Henderson (NSW) Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra 46.13 3. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 46.19 4. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 46.20 5. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 46.85 6. Tim Shaw (Tas) ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore 46.85 7. Mark Zonneveld (A.C.T.) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 46.85 8. Ray Sidebottom (Vic) APS Racing Holden Commodore 47.56 9. Sam Dale (NSW) Mumbo Racing Ford Mondeo 47.95 10. Greg East (NSW) Drive.com.au Mitsubishi Magna 47.95 11. Kerry Wade (WA) Kerry Wade Racing Ford Falcon 48.60 12. Andrew Gillespie (Vic) Gillespie Motorsport Ford Falcon 49.88 13. Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 50.86

-Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Andrew Gillespie , Luke Searle , David Auger , Peter Hill , Kerry Wade