ASTC: Owen Kelly to race at Symmons

Tasmania's former Holden Racing Team 'Young Lions' V8 driver Owen Kelly will make his debut in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Symmons Plains near Launceston this Sunday (December 10). The 23-year-old from Devonport...

Tasmania's former Holden Racing Team 'Young Lions' V8 driver Owen Kelly will make his debut in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Symmons Plains near Launceston this Sunday (December 10).

The 23-year-old from Devonport will contest the sixth round of the championship in an ex-BMW Motorsport 318i prepared by the all-conquering Queensland-based Mount Cotton Estate Winery team of series leader Paul Morris.

Kelly has been the test driver for Morris' Big Kev Racing V8 Supercar team this year, and the pair will make a two-car BMW assault on Symmons Plains.

The BMW that Kelly will drive in the two 28-lap races in Tasmania was raced in the Super Touring championship in 1997 by former Le Mans 24-hour champion Geoff Brabham, after previously being campaigned by the European-based works Bigazzi team.

Kelly, a Holden 'Young Lions' team member in 1998 alongside the unrelated Todd Kelly and Queenslander Steven Ellery, will have his first drive in the BMW in Friday's (December 8) opening practice session on the 2.4km Symmons Plains circuit.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for me with a top team and I'm keen to do well, especially since Symmons Plains is my 'home' track," said Kelly.

"I've never raced a Super Touring car before so there are some new things to learn, such as the sequential gearbox. The BMW is a proven package in this category and I'm aiming to work my way up to speed in practice and qualifying and be competitive on race day."

Morris, who has won all 11 races in this year's championship and leads the series by 76 points, said he expected Kelly to challenge for a top-three podium result at Symmons Plains.

"Owen has done a good job as our test driver this year with the V8, and I'm sure he will be right on the pace this weekend," said Morris. "His car is a year older than mine, but it's still got plenty of straight-line speed and it's good under brakes which is what you need at Symmons."

Kelly raced karts in Tasmania as a teenager, and made his debut at Symmons Plains in 1994 in an HQ Holden event, before switching to Porsche Cup racing. In the past three years he has raced in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, and won the Phillip Island round of this year's series.

He said he hoped to secure additional sponsorship funding after the Symmons Plains Super Touring meeting to drive the BMW in the final two championship rounds at Wakefield Park near Goulburn over Australia Day weekend in January and at Oran Park in NSW in February.

The Symmons Plains round marks the return of the Super Touring championship to Tasmania for the first time since 1995, when the two races were won by Morris and Brabham in works BMWs. Morris is the only driver who raced at the circuit five years ago who will be on the grid this weekend.

Main opposition for Morris and Kelly at Symmons Plains is expected from Sydney policeman John Henderson, who is second in the championship in a Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra, NSW teenager Alan Gurr, and Peter Hills in a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo.

Henderson has finished second to Morris six times this year, while Hills has been on the podium in the past six championship races.

Tasmania's Tim Shaw leads the V8 Future Tourers class with 114 points, followed by fellow-Holden Commodore driver Jason Domaschenz of Victoria on 79.

CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS BRIEFS

Sydney teenager ALAN GURR, who is third in the Super Touring championship, is switching from a Ford Mondeo to a Peugeot 406 at Symmons Plains. The 18-year-old will drive the TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 owned and usually raced by Sydney-based New Zealander TONY NEWMAN. Newman missed the previous round at Mallala near Adelaide on November 12 because of illness and is still not fit to race. Gurr drove a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo in the opening five rounds, as part of a two-car team with Sydney's PETER HILLS. While driving the Ford, Gurr recorded five top-three podium finishes from 11 starts. Hills will retain a two-car team at Symmons Plains after recruiting Canberra's MARK ZONNEVELD to race the Mondeo previously driven by Gurr. Zonneveld raced at Mallala in Newman's Peugeot 406, and has driven for Hills' team in previous years.

ALAN GURR was among a group of drivers invited by CAMS to attend a three-day course at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra from November 29-December 1. The course included lectures in psychology, conditioning, nutrition, handling pressure situations, and drugs in sport. Each driver underwent testing for general fitness levels, reaction timing, vision, skin folds, and body fat.

Tasmania's V8 Future Tourers driver TIM SHAW will debut a new sponsor at Symmons Plains. The sponsor is international car care product company Carplan. Shaw's VS Holden Commodore will have Carplan signage on the bonnet and rear panels. The 30-year-old Launceston driver's new deal provides additional backing to his other main sponsor, ISASO Vehicle Compliance Centre. Shaw said the Carplan sponsorship was for the final three rounds of the championship. He also said he hoped to upgrade to a VT Commodore for the 2001-2002 series.

Queenslander DAVE AUGER will claim the Super Touring Independents Cup title for the first time if he scores 22 points in the class at Symmons Plains. The 39-year-old Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo driver leads the Independents Cup with 156 points, and is 75 clear of second-placed Luke Searle of Newcastle in a Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 318i. The maximum score Searle can achieve in the Independents Cup is 177 points, providing he wins the class in the remaining six races in the championship, and scores all six bonus points available for pole positions. Should Searle finish on 177 points it would leave Auger the task of reaching 178 to clinch the title, which is 22 more than his present tally.

The Visit Your Vet Honda Accord raced by Sydney's JIM CORNISH has had its engine repaired and will be on the grid at Symmons Plains. Cornish was forced out of the previous round at Mallala near Adelaide on November 12 because of engine problems in the first race. He had been in fourth place at the time. The bottom-end of the engine was damaged, and Cornish said the block had been reconditioned. He said he expected to be competitive at Symmons Plains.

NSW driver AARON McGILL has had further gearbox problems with his Trinovin Nissan Primera in the lead-up to Symmons Plains. The 37-year-old from Mittagong suffered a gearbox failure in the Nissan during a test at Oran Park in Sydney in the final week of November. McGill said the gearbox had been rebuilt before the Oran Park test after problems in the previous round at Mallala. McGill finished a season-best sixth in race one at Mallala before the Nissan's gearbox failed in race two.

Newcastle's LUKE SEARLE is high on confidence for his first visit to Tasmania after a strong sixth place in the second race of the previous round at Mallala. Searle, who starts from the rear of the grid in race one at each round because religious beliefs prevent him from qualifying on Saturdays, believes his Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 318i is one of the most reliable cars in the championship. His best result in the championship to date is fourth place in round two at Lakeside in Queensland on June 18. Searle is sixth outright in the championship and second in the Independents Cup.

APS Racing driver JASON DOMASCHENZ is now working virtually fulltime at the team's workshop in Numurkah, Victoria, assisting with the preparation of their two V8 Future Tourer Holden Commodores. Domaschenz is from Geelong, but is spending about three weeks in every month at the workshop performing a variety of tasks, including machine and mechanic work, and assembling. Domaschenz is currently second in the V8 Future Tourers class in a VS Commodore, and team-mate RAY SIDEBOTTOM is seventh in a VT model.

<pre> SYMMONS PLAINS - SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8: Practice, 12.05pm-12.50pm; 2.40pm-3.15pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9: Practice, 9.30-9.45am; Qualifying session 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying session 2, 1.40-2.10pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10: Race 1, (28 laps) starts 12.45pm; Race 2, (28 laps) starts 3.05pm

SYMMONS PLAINS - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS

CIRCUIT LENGTH: 2.4km

RACE LAP RECORD: 58.29-secs, Geoff Brabham (Qld) BMW 318i, 7.5.1995

1995 POLE POSITIONS: Race 1: 58.08-secs, Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 318i Race 2: 58.01-secs, Steven Richards (Vic) Alfa Romeo 155

1995 RACE WINNERS: Race 1: Geoff Brabham (Qld) BMW 318i Race 2: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 318i

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2000 DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): POS DRIVER CAR POINTS 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 174 2. John Henderson (NSW) Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra 98 3. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 87 4. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 81 5. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 75 6. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 37 7. Allan Letcher (WA) McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 31 8. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 24 8. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 22 10. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 14 11= Dwayne Bewley (NSW) TC Motorsports Peugeot 406 10 11= Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit Your Vet Honda Accord 10 13. Matthew Fox (A.C.T.) Hi-Tech Motorsport Nissan Primera 9 14= Tony Newman (NZ) TC Motorsports Peugeot 406 8 14= Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 8 16. John Saunders (WA) Kellahan Saunders BMW 318i 7 17. Anthony Robson (NSW) Grid Motorsport BMW 318i 6 18. Brad Stratton (Qld) Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina 5 19= Sam Dale (A.C.T.) Mumbo Racing Ford Mondeo 4 19= Mark Zonneveld (A.C.T) TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 4 21. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Boco-Global Express Peugeot 405 3 22. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 2

2000 INDEPENDENTS CUP POINTS (after round 5): Auger 156, Searle 81, Letcher 66, Miller 52, Downard 33, Fox 32, Leabeater 24, Cornish 22, Saunders 22, Robson 20, Dale 14, Stratton 8, Rolfo 6, Fitzgerald 6

2000 TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): Knight Racing 232, McGill Motorsport 112, Hi-Tech Motorsport 89, Motorsport Developments 12

2000 FUTURE TOURERS POINTS (after round 4): Shaw 114, Domaschenz 79, D'Agostin 67, Wade 55, Brock 40, Webb 30, Sidebottom 24, Gillespie 16, Holt 12

Mike Porter - mikep@qldnet.com.au

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