ASTC: Oran Park preview

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 2 PREVIEW: Oran Park, NSW, Sunday, April 26 McCONVILLE EXPECTS BATTLE WITH VOLVO All-conquering Audi driver CAMERON McCONVILLE is bracing himself for an attack from rival works Volvo ...

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 2 PREVIEW: Oran Park, NSW, Sunday, April 26

McCONVILLE EXPECTS BATTLE WITH VOLVO

All-conquering Audi driver CAMERON McCONVILLE is bracing himself for an attack from rival works Volvo veteran JIM RICHARDS in the second round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Oran Park in Sydney this Sunday (April 26).

McConville goes to Oran Park with a 100-percent winning record in his Audi Sport Australia A4 quattro this year. He won both Super Touring events at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in March, and leads the championship with 30 points after winning the two races in round one at Calder Park on April 5.

The 24-year-old Melbourne racer said he expected strong opposition on the 1.9km short-circuit at Oran Park from Richards, the five-times Bathurst 1000 champion who won pole position as fastest qualifier for both races at Calder Park in his front-drive S40. McConville recalled a previous battle with 50-year-old Richards at Oran Park on the way to clinching the Australian GT Production Car Championship title in 1996.

"The Volvo is a fast car and you'd have to say Jim (Richards) is the favourite for pole position again," said McConville. "I won't be surprised if we end up racing bumper-to-bumper again - in fact it seems like most of the close races I've had have been against Jim. He's a hard guy to race against because you know he's never going to back off, but it's a situation I've become accustomed to."

Assessing Oran Park, Richards said he aimed to repeat his qualifying form of round one, but said he hoped to improve on his Calder Park race results of two fourth places in the Tom Walkinshaw Racing-built S40.

"Our biggest problem is the starts," said Richards. "When you let the clutch out with a front-drive car like the Volvo the weight transfers to the back and it wheelspins at the front. It seems the four-wheel-drive Audi is usually going to win the race to the first corner. Having said that, Oran Park suits the Volvo more than Calder and the signs are there we have the car speed to win. The obvious place to pass the Audis is at the end of the front straight under brakes."

Another driver with justifiable claims for victory at Oran Park is McConville's 38-year-old team-mate BRAD JONES. The Albury-based racer won both races in the previous Super Touring championship round on the circuit in 1996. Those victories enabled him to claim the title. Jones is equal second in this year's series with 22 points, after finishing second and third in the two races at Calder Park.

"When I won the championship (at Oran Park) it was one of the highlights of my career," said Jones. "The (Audi) quattro traditionally goes well at Oran Park. I need to win again to close the points gap on Cameron (McConville). Then again, the most important thing for our team is to make sure Audi wins both races, regardless of which driver finishes first. Our aim is to run one-two in both races."

A field of 20 cars are entered for Oran Park. Practice will be held on Thursday and Friday, with qualifying on Saturday, and two races on Sunday. The second race will feature a compulsory pit-stop for all cars.

INDEPENDENTS CUP UPDATE

McLEAN SET TO CHANGE PIT-STOP STRATEGY

Reigning Independents Cup champion CAMERON McLEAN said he would only change two tyres in the compulsory pit-stop in the second race at Oran Park, after a disastrous attempt to replace four tyres in the championship opener at Calder Park. The Greenfield Mowers Racing BMW team took 31-secs to change four wheels at Calder Park, double the time of the Audi and Volvo teams who changed the minimum requirement of two wheels.

"We outsmarted ourselves at Calder," said McLean. "We thought if we changed four wheels in 23-secs then we'd make up more time with the extra fresh rubber. Unfortunately our pitstop went longer than expected, and having four new tyres didn't make up as much time as we'd hoped. We'll now be changing two wheels like everyone else."

KAPLAN TO RACE PRIMERA AT ORAN PARK

Former open-wheeler racer ADAM KAPLAN of Sydney has taken delivery of the ex-Steven Richards Nissan Primera and is a confirmed starter for Oran Park. The Primera, originally a works test car in Britain, had been stranded on a Sydney wharf after a trip to New Zealand because of Australia's waterfront crisis. Kaplan, who operates two Hunter Holden dealerships, was one of Australia's top Formula Holden drivers in 1995-96. His previous touring car experience includes driving a Holden Commodore in the Bathurst 1000 in 1996, and a Toyota MR2 in the GT Production Three-Hour event at Mount Panorama in 1997. Kaplan will have his first drive in the Primera in the opening practice session at Oran Park on Thursday.

"The deal to run the Primera was put together only recently, and the hold-up on the wharf has limited our preparation," said Kaplan. "Our aim at Oran Park will be to learn as much as we can about the car, and try and finish both races. Eventually we hope to run with the guys at the front in the Independents Cup."

Richards drove the Primera in the 1997 championship, finishing runner-up in the Independents Cup. He also qualified the car seventh for the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000, one place ahead of the works Audi raced by Brad Jones and Frank Biela.

PEUGEOT 406 AND TOYOTA CAMRY REPAIRED AND READY TO RACE

The Starion Enterprises Peugeot 406 and Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry damaged at Calder Park have been repaired and will race at Oran Park. New Zealander TONY NEWMAN crashed the ex-works Peugeot in a spectacular incident in race one at Calder Park. Team manager Paul Grimm said uprights, trailing arms, and a sub-frame were sourced from Britain as part of the repairs. NSW's RON SEARLE crashed the Camry during qualifying session at Calder Park, and most of the damage was on the left-front of the car. Team manager Mick Quinn said the uprights, bottom wishbone, and steering arm had been repaired, and the driveshaft replaced. A new bonnet, radiator, grill, and front guards had also been fitted.

FIVE DRIVERS TO MAKE CHAMPIONSHIP DEBUT AT ORAN PARK

Adam Kaplan is one of five drivers who will make their championship debut at Oran Park. The others are TREVOR SHEUMACK, TROY SEARLE, CRAIG BRADSHAW, and CARLOS ROLFO, who are all from NSW and will all drive BMWs. Sheumack is known around Australian racetracks as a Michelin tyre technician, and will drive the Faber-Castell BMW at Oran Park. Veteran Bob Holden drove the car at Calder Park. Sheumack, a race engineer with Formula One team Fondmetal in the early 1990s, drove eight laps in the Faber-Castell BMW at Calder Park during practice. It was his first driving experience in a race car with a sequential gearbox.

Searle, from Newcastle, will race at Oran Park in the Roadchill BMW he drove in the 1997 AMP Bathurst. Bradshaw takes over the Grid Motorsport BMW from NSW's Anthony Robson, who drove the car at Calder Park - they are sharing the car in alternate rounds of the championship. Rolfo, a former GT Production car driver, is racing at Oran Park in the ex-works BMW driven by Wayne Wakefield, Jason Richards, and Steven Johnson in the 1997 championship. NSW trio JOHN HENDERSON (Opel Vectra), MIKE FITZGERALD (Peugeot 405), and CLAUDE ELIAS (Hyundai Lantra) return to the championship at Oran Park after missing the Calder Park meeting. All three drove in the final round of the 1997 series at Amaroo Park, where Fitzgerald badly damaged his Peugeot. The car has since been repaired.

ORAN PARK - FAST FACTS (Oran Park has not hosted a championship round since 1996)

CIRCUIT LENGTH : 1.9km RACE LAP RECORD : 43.09-secs, P. Morris (Qld) BMW 318, 9.11.96 1996 POLE POSITIONS: Race 1: 42.86 secs, G. Brabham (Qld) BMW 318 Race 2: 42.77 secs, P. Morris (Qld) BMW 318 1996 RACE WINNERS : Race 1: B. Jones (NSW) Audi A4 Race 2: B. Jones (NSW) Audi A4

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): McConville 30, Jones 22, McLean 22, Richards 18, Adderton 12, Hills 9, Tweedie 9, Auger 6, Pickett 3, Robson 2, Holden 1

MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): Audi 30, Volvo 24

INDEPENDENTS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): McLean 32, Adderton 24, Hills 18, Tweedie 18, Auger 12, Pickett 9, Robson 8, Holden 7

TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): Audi Sport Australia 54, Knight Racing 30, Faber-Castell/IBC Motorsport 28

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Series General
Drivers Steven Johnson , Frank Biela , Brad Jones , Jason Richards , Wayne Wakefield , Anthony Robson , Tom Walkinshaw , Bob Holden , Steven Richards