ASTC: Yokohama Control Tyre for Series

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19: A Yokohama control tyre will be introduced to the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series this year under new regulations announced today. This follows the appointment of Yokohama Tyre Australia...

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19: A Yokohama control tyre will be introduced to the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series this year under new regulations announced today.

This follows the appointment of Yokohama Tyre Australia as the first official Tyre Supplier to the championship since it began in 1994.

The move to a control tyre for the first time in the championship's history was announced by Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of series organisers TOCA Australia, and Mr Alan Bradshaw, Sales Planning Manager of Yokohama Tyre Australia.

O'Reilly said the decision meant all works and Independents Cup teams and drivers would compete with the same Yokohama tyres in the eight-round 1999 championship, which starts at Lakeside in Queensland on April 18. He said the move would equalise performance and save competitors up to $150 per tyre in costs.

"A major benefit with the control tyre is everyone will be on a level playing field, regardless of whether they are a works team or not," said O'Reilly. "The Independents drivers will now be in a position to be more competitive, and all teams will save thousands of dollars over the season."

O'Reilly said negotiations with Yokohama to become the control tyre supplier in Super Touring began in November, 1998, and were completed after a successful evaluation of its rubber during a test at Sydney's Oran Park circuit on January 8.

Brad Jones, the 1996 and 1998 Australian Super Touring champion, and Independents drivers Peter Hills and John Henderson drove test laps at Oran Park, while Yokohama was represented at the track by Mr Bradshaw, Motorsport Manager Keith McCormack, and Managing Director Mr Terry Fushimi.

Yokohama has supplied tyres to selected teams every year since the championship began in 1994, competing against rival brands Michelin, Dunlop, and Pirelli.

In 1994 and 1995 Yokohama-shod BMWs won the drivers and manufacturers championship titles, and the Japanese company has claimed a total of 28 race victories with Queensland trio Paul Morris, Geoff Brabham, and Tony Longhurst (driving BMWs), and Victorian Steven Richards (Honda Accord).

Mr Bradshaw said the Super Touring control tyre was an exciting new venture for Yokohama in Australian motorsport. He said the company's past experience in Super Touring in Australia and overseas would be an asset in ensuring it produced a quality product.

Yokohama's tyres for the Australian championship have been developed at its Hiratsuka Racing Division plant in Japan. A full team of Yokohama technicians and support staff will attend each round.

"Yokohama has enjoyed a long and successful association with Super Touring in Australia, and overseas," said Bradshaw. "We have the necessary experience required to meet the demands of producing a high-quality tyre. This is a tremendous marketing opportunity for Yokohama to showcase it's products in a professionally run championship with some of Australia's top teams and drivers."

Jones said he was pleased with the performance of the Yokohama tyres he tested at Oran Park, and believes the move to a control tyre is in the best interests of the Super Touring category in Australia.

"The test was the first time I've driven a Super Touring car on Yokohamas, and I came away impressed," said Jones. "I tried three different compounds on short qualifying-type runs, and a 20-lap endurance stint. My lap times only fell away by about a second during the my long run, which shows the tyres are consistent and durable.

O'Reilly said that only six tyres would be available for use on each car for Saturday qualifying sessions and for races on Sunday at all rounds of the 1999 championship, as in past years. He predicts the introduction of control tyres will result in works and leading Independents Cup teams not requiring as much tyre testing during pre-qualifying practice at championship rounds.

"In the past some of the bigger teams faced the expense of buying three sets of different compound tyres at every round of the championship to test what best suited their cars at each particular track," said O'Reilly. "That won't be necessary now because there will only be one compound available at each round."

DATES ADJUSTED FOR BOC GASES CHAMPIONSHIP

Queensland's Lakeside Raceway will now host the opening round of the 1999 BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship after adjustments to the calendar announced today.

The eight-round championship had been scheduled to begin at Oran Park's South Circuit in Sydney on March 14, followed by Lakeside on April 18, and Calder Park in Melbourne on May 2.

Under the changes, Lakeside retains its April 18 date, but becomes the championship opener, while Oran Park replaces Calder Park as round two on May 2. Calder Park will now be the venue for the final round on August 29.

The remaining five rounds at Mallala in South Australia, Winton in Victoria, Eastern Creek in Sydney, Queensland Raceway at Ipswich, and at Oran Park's Grand Prix Circuit remain unchanged.

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, said the adjustments followed requests by teams to delay the start of the series.

"In some instances teams are waiting for new cars and parts to arrive from overseas - for example, some of the works cars headed for Australia aren't here yet because of pre-season testing commitments in Britain," said O'Reilly. "In the circumstances we've put the start of the championship back by a month and we will finish two weeks later than in our original calendar. We started the '97 championship at Lakeside and it's always been a popular venue with Super Touring supporters - we expect a grid of 20 cars for the first round."

REVISED BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR

ROUND        DATE                TRACK                                STATE
1.        April 18        Lakeside                        Queensland
2.        May 2                Oran Park (South Circuit)        NSW
3.        May 30                Mallala                                South Australia
4.        June 20                Winton                                Victoria
5.        July 18                Eastern Creek                        NSW
6.        August 1        Queensland Raceway Ipswich        Queensland
7.        August 15        Oran Park (Grand Prix Circuit)  NSW
8.        August 29        Calder Park                          Victoria

Mike Porter, mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Alan Bradshaw , Peter Hill , Geoff Brabham , Steven Richards