ASTC: Volvo Expands to Two Car Super Touring Team

VOLVO EXPANDS TO TWO-CAR SUPER TOURING TEAM WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Volvo is expanding to a two-car works team in Australia this year in a bid to win the BOC Gases Super Touring Championship motor racing title for the first time. Multiple ...

VOLVO EXPANDS TO TWO-CAR SUPER TOURING TEAM

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Volvo is expanding to a two-car works team in Australia this year in a bid to win the BOC Gases Super Touring Championship motor racing title for the first time.

Multiple Bathurst 1000 champion Jim Richards will drive for the Swedish manufacturer for a third successive year, and his new team-mate will be NSW's Mark Williamson. They will contest the eight-round championship in a pair of front-drive Volvo S40 cars. Volvo enjoyed massive international Super Touring success in 1998, with Swede Rickard Rydell winning the British Touring Car Championship, and then he teamed with Richards to win the 36th annual Bathurst 1000. Volvo has contested the Australian championship each year since 1995 with one car, but is yet to win the title. German manufacturers Audi and BMW have shared the title since the series began in 1994 with two-car teams.

Volvo Car Australia Managing Director Mr Jan Eriksson announced the two-car team today, and Richards believes it will improve their chances of winning the championship title and repeating their Bathurst success.

"History shows two-car teams have won the Australian championship every year so this should be Volvo's best chance," said Richards.

"The competition will be tough, as it always is, but if you look at what Volvo did in the Britain championship and at Bathurst last year the car (S40) is good enough if our team and drivers are good enough. Our aim is to win the championship and Bathurst again."

The Volvo that 51-year-old Richards will race in Australia this year was driven by Rydell in the 1998 BTCC. Williamson, 34, will race in the S40 which Richards drove to third place in the 1998 Australian championship.

Team manager George Shepheard said Richards' car was expected to arrive in Australia from Britain in the near future. He said both of the team's cars would feature updated components.

Williamson, from the Blue Mountains of NSW, raced in the Australian Formula Ford Championship from 1985-87, and then had four successive years in Great Britain driving in the Toyota Formula Three and Formula Vauxhall open-wheeler categories. After returning to Australia he raced some production events, before driving in the 1998 Bathurst 1000 with New Zealander Tony Newman in a ex-BTCC works Peugeot 406.

"Racing at Bathurst renewed my enthusiasm for racing, and joining Volvo team is a tremendous opportunity to prove myself in a good car with the best possible support," said Williamson.

"Obviously I need 'test miles' before the season starts to get familiar with the car, but once things settle down I hope to run at the front and win some races. I'm fortunate to have Jim Richards as my team-mate."

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, welcomed Volvo's decision to expand to a two-car team in 1999.

"Volvo are long-time supporters of Super Touring in Australia and they're in an excellent position to take advantage of the commercial opportunities available through their increased involvement," said O'Reilly.

SUPER TOURING BRIEFS:

New Zealander TONY NEWMAN has confirmed he will drive his Peugeot 406 in the 1999 championship and in the Bathurst 1000. The 42-year-old Fastways Couriers company director said he expected to be more competitive this year than in 1998. "We were on a steep learning curve last year because the car was new to us, but we had it working much better toward the end of the season and we're now confident of running near the top five," said Newman.

Queenslanders DAVID AUGER and MALCOLM REA have also declared themselves as certain starters in the 1999 championship. Auger has updated engine parts for his Gun Racing Alfa Romeo 155 after visiting the headquarters of the works Nordauto team in Italy. The 37-year-old from Brisbane previously contested the championship in 1997 and 1998. Rea will again drive an ex-BTCC Toyota Carina. He drove the car in the final three rounds of the 1998 championship. Rea said his car would be fitted with 19-inch wheels this year, replacing the 18-inch wheels he used in 1998.

TOCA Australia Chief Executive KELVIN O'REILLY has announced that the points format for this year's championship will remain unchanged from 1998. Points in the Drivers, Manufacturers, and Teams championships, and in the Independents Cup will again be awarded to the top 10 - allocated in the order of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. There will be a further point awarded to the pole position winners in each of the two qualifying sessions in the Drivers championship and in the Independents Cup. Points in the Teams championship are awarded only in the second race.

NOTE TO MEDIA: High resolution photographs of Volvo Dealer Team Australia drivers JIM RICHARDS and MARK WILLIAMSON are on the TOCA Australia website: www.toca.com.au

FURTHER ENQUIRES: Contact Mike Porter, Publicist TOCA Australia. Tel: (07) 5591-1773, (0417) 311-997. Fax: (07) 5591-4955. E-Mail: mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Jim Richards , Mark Williamson , Rickard Rydell
Teams Williams