Volvo Car Australia today announced it would not continue racing in the Super Touring category in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship series.

However, Managing Director Jan Eriksson informed championship organisers TOCA Australia it would consider remaining in the series to contest the international Super Production class, which is being introduced to the championship this year.

"Volvo is interested to explore possibilities in the newly-created Super Production class," he said.

Volvo entered the championship in 1995 and competed as an official Super Touring manugfacturer for five successive years with the Estate wagon, the 850, and S40 cars. In 1999 Volvo campaigned two S40s in the championship, with Jim Richards finishing runner-up in the series and it claimed the Manufacturers Championship title.

Eriksson said the decision to withdraw from Australian Super Touring racing was in line with a similar move by Volvo Car Corporation of Sweden not to compete in the British Touring Car Championship in 2000.

"With Volvo out of the BTCC, we would have been without vital overseas infrastructure support in maintaining and developing our S40s at the level needed to continue winning races," he said.

TOCA Australia Chief Executive Kelvin O'Reilly said Volvo had made an important contribution to the development of the Super Touring championship, and he hoped that it would continue to compete in the Super Production category.

"Volvo have been fantastic supporters of Super Touring in Australia and our championship, and we hope they stay involved through Super Production," said O'Reilly.

"From my discussions with Jan Eriksson it seems Volvo are keen to consider and evaluate a program in the Super Production class."

The Volvo S40 is one of 49 cars spread across 25 manufacturers eligible to race in the Super Production class of the championship.

O'Reilly said that despite Volvo's decision, it was expected there would be up to 10 different makes of Super Touring cars in the championship, including BMW, Ford, Audi, Peugeot, Honda, Nissan, Holden, Hyundai, Alfa Romeo, Toyota, and Opel.

"The Super Touring championship will still have a wide diversity of cars," said O'Reilly. "With the addition of the Super Production category we are going to see more cars on the grid so there are many positive new aspects to look forward to in this year's championship, including the switch to Summer racing."

The 2000-2001 championship comprises eight rounds and begins at the Oran Park circuit in Sydney on May 28. The final four rounds of the series will be in Summer, from November this year through to February, 2001.

All eight rounds of the championship will be televised over 16 hours on the Seven Network.

Mike Porter -