WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3: Tasmanian Owen Kelly's impressive debut in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship three weeks ago has led to him securing additional sponsorship to contest the final two rounds of the 2000-2001 series.
Kelly, a former Holden Racing Team 'Young Lions' V8 driver, confirmed today he would race a Thermo King BMW 320i in round seven at Wakefield Park near Goulburn on January 28 and in the championship finale at Sydney's Oran Park on February 11.
The 23-year-old from Devonport made his championship debut in the sixth round at Symmons Plains near Launceston on December 10 and finished second in both races behind Queenslander Paul Morris, who clinched the title for the fourth time in Tasmania.
Kelly said his ex-BMW Motorsport rear-drive car would continue to be prepared for the Wakefield Park and Oran Park rounds by Morris' Gold Coast-based Mount Cotton Estate Winery team, as at Symmons Plains.
"Originally I was only going to race Symmons Plains, but my sponsors Thermo King were pleased with my results and they've agreed to back me for the last couple of rounds in the championship," said Kelly.
"I couldn't be happier because the BMW is very competitive and I know Paul (Morris) and his team will prepare a car that gives me the best possible chance of doing well."
Kelly, who finished less than a 0.5-secs behind Morris' BMW 320i in both races at Symmons Plains, said his aim in the final two rounds would be to end the four-time Super Touring champion's 13-race winning streak in the championship.
"I'd never raced a left-hand drive car or used a sequential gearbox before Symmons Plains, so I think I can improve with more experience in the BMW," said Kelly.
Morris said there would be no team orders between himself and Kelly at Wakefield Park or Oran Park if the pair were battling for the lead.
"Owen showed at Symmons Plains he is close to race-winning speed, and if he's good enough to beat me then that's fair enough," said Morris.
"I think Owen has shown that if you're a good driver in a well-prepared car then I can be beaten, but I'm keen to keep winning so there won't be any team orders."
Kelly, who was the official test driver in Morris' Big Kev Racing V8 Supercar team in 2000, said he had only limited experience on the 2.2km Wakefield Park circuit, which had more than $500,000 spent on improvements to the track and other facilities in the past six months.
"I've done a few laps at Wakefield in a Formula Ford before they made the changes to the track, but I'm confident of getting up to speed," said Kelly.
"The track is tricky in a couple of places, especially in the downhill middle section where the sweeper tightens up."
Morris won both races in previous championship round at Wakefield Park on October 29. He leads the championship with an unbeatable tally of 206 points, followed by Sydney policeman John Henderson on 118 in a Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra on 118, and Queenslander David Auger on 92 in a Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo.
Tasmanian Tim Shaw holds first place in the V8 Future Tourers class in the championship with 140 points in a ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore, and Victorian Jason Domaschenz is second on 103 in an APS Racing Holden Commodore.
- Mike Porter