NZ: New Zealand round two Centennial Park preview

Teams Play Catch-Up At Taupo After a blistering start to the 2001/02 season the Wynn's New Zealand Touring Cars Championship moves south this weekend to Centennial Park, Taupo to contest Round Two of the six round series. The return of Toyota...

Teams Play Catch-Up At Taupo

After a blistering start to the 2001/02 season the Wynn's New Zealand Touring Cars Championship moves south this weekend to Centennial Park, Taupo to contest Round Two of the six round series.

The return of Toyota New Zealand to New Zealand's premier circuit racing class is further recognition of how the Championship provides an opportunity for marquees to showcase their brands. And the Toyota Altezzas piloted by Barrie Thomlinson and Phil Hellebrekers stormed into the Championship for Toyota, signalling their intention to extinguish Nissan and BMWs stranglehold on the Drivers and Manufacturers titles.

Barrie Thomlinson never looked under pressure in the immaculately prepared Toyota Altezza, going on to set a new Pukekohe Park track record (1m 05.7431sec), a record that had not been broken since Toyota last contested the Championship in 1995.

Centennial Park is about balance and manoeuvrability more than outright speed. The Toyotas have shown they are blindingly fast in a straight line, but Taupo's layout lends itself to a kart driving style and the racing dynamics of front wheel drive cars. It should help the other teams play catch-up.

Taupo will see the welcome return of popular driver Angus Fogg to the Championship after piloting Team Kiwis second V8 Supercar at Pukekohe. The Team Kiwi Nissan Primeras will be a major threat to Toyota's dominance. The track record (42.12 sec) set in the Nissan by reigning NZ Touring Car Champion Jason Richards underlines the cars competitiveness. Always the bridesmaid instead of the bride, Fogg will push hard to have his name join Baird, Riley and Richards on the Championship Trophy. Watch out too for the battle between Team Kiwi's Drivesafe 500 winners, John McIntyre and Rhys McKay as they share a car, hoping that their performances will impress team boss David John and technical director Martin Collins enough to secure a full time drive next season.

Lyall Williamson's International Motorsport have been on a rollercoaster this season. From the highs of coming so close to winning the Drivesafe 500 out of the box in the impressively built BMW E46, to the lows of pilot Kevin Bell's disappointing results at Pukekohe. Williamson acknowledges that the team will have to lift their game if they are to stem the tide and regain control of the Championship.

The hard work and determination of Aaron Harris and his dedicated privateers has finally started to pay off, with Harris propelling the team into second place in the championship. "We intend to give those with factory support a real run for their money", enthused team principle Rex Harris. "Having established a highly competitive team we are looking forward to securing top flight results and expanding the number of cars in the team".

The BMWs are the dark horses in the Championship, with the potential to reel the Toyotas in due to their sheer drivability. With Richards very successfully stepping up to a full time V8 Supercar drive, Toyotas re-entry to the Championship and new cars (and the controversy over technical regulations that is brewing as a result) the New Zealand Touring Car Championship for 2001/02 will be as exciting, fascinating and entertaining as ever.

- www.nztouringcars.co.nz

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Series General
Drivers Jason Richards , Barrie Thomlinson , John McIntyre , Kevin Bell , Rhys McKay , David John , Aaron Harris
Teams Williams