AUS: 2006 season preview

PRESEASON PUZZLE ALMOST COMPLETE IN WRIGHT PATTON SHAKESPEARE CARRERA CUP The AFL (Australian Rules), NFL (Gridiron) and NBA (Basketball) have their preseason draft and trade periods. The English Premier League (Soccer) has its player ...

PRESEASON PUZZLE ALMOST COMPLETE IN WRIGHT PATTON SHAKESPEARE CARRERA CUP

The AFL (Australian Rules), NFL (Gridiron) and NBA (Basketball) have their preseason draft and trade periods. The English Premier League (Soccer) has its player transfer window. With the pending movement of professional sporting talent comes plenty of rumour and innuendo known as "silly season".

It is no different in Australian motorsport with plenty of interest in the movement of drivers in the V8 Supercar Championship Series, and plenty of activity in its premier support category, the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia.

As the first round of the all-Porsche Australian Championship looms in six weeks time at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, 19 of the 25 available driver's seats have been secured and most team sponsorships confirmed.

The 2006 season will pit an exciting troupe of new talent against many of the drivers that have ignited interest in the Carrera Cup since its introduction in Australia in 2003.

The rookies include 22-year-old Dean Fiore fresh from a fourth placing in last year's Australian Formula Ford Championship, 25-year-old reigning Australian Formula 3 champion Aaron Caratti, runner-up in last year's Porsche Driver's Challenge John Kaias, former Sports Sedan and GT driver David Wall and ex-V8 Supercar Development Series driver David Russell.

Making a welcome return to the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia is 2004 champion Alex Davison, after a one-year stint in the V8 Supercar Championship Series.

The 26-year-old Melbournian will start one of the favourites for the overall championship honours after a dominating year in 2004, as well as the previous four years driving Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars successfully in Carrera Cup Germany and the Porsche Michelin Supercup worldwide.

Davison is a prized recruit for Paul Cruickshank Racing who will also campaign Wall and last year's championship third placegetter and Michelin Porsche Driver to Europe winner Jonathon Webb from Sydney.

The Gold Coast-based team is expected to announce its sponsorship arrangements in the next few weeks, as it increases its Carrera Cup program from two to three cars.

All three drivers had fastest laps within half a second of eachother at Calder Raceway in January impressing team management. Webb also scored invaluable experience testing the new 997 in Germany late last year with Lechner Racing School, one of the premier teams in the Porsche Michelin Supercup.

Fiore will join another expanding team in Sonic Motor Racing who will also up the ante from two to three cars.

He will join last year's series fifth placegetter and 2004 Formula Ford national champion David Reynolds as well as experienced Porsche racer Rodney Jane under the Sonic banner.

Fiore will be backed principally by Landscape Developments, while Jane and Reynolds will continue their Bob Jane T-Marts backing.

Reynolds is on the road to recovery after undergoing a shoulder arthroscopy late last year due to a tear in his right shoulder's rotator cuff. The young star who many tout as the one to watch in 2006 is aiming to have at least two test days before round one.

Fitzgerald Racing is also expanding its program by running two of the new Type 997 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.

Fourth season series driver Peter Fitzgerald will be one of the front-of-the-field contenders, sporting major sponsorship from Acer, Leading Solutions and Hitachi Data Systems. He will also service the Porsche of Kaias, whose principal 2006 backer will be Abcor.

Also increasing its cars will be Sherrin Motorsport which will campaign David Russell with sponsorship stemming from Boom Logistics and Sherrin Hire, and a second driver to be announced this week.

Three other leading teams are showcasing plenty of stability leading into the 2006 championship.

Inaugural series champion and the runner-up for the past two years Jim Richards is back and as determined and enthusiastic as ever. Richards will continue with OAMPS Insurance Brokers as his major sponsor.

The Jim Richards Racing stable will continue to service the Porsche of two-time TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge champion Dean Grant, who announced his major backer in a PR stunt pitting his 400-horsepower car against a Queensland harness racing pacer at Moonee Valley Racecourse recently.

Team VIP Petfoods will also go into the championship with the same line-up as last year. Young guns Luke Youlden and Klark Quinn should consistently vie for podium positions, while Tony Quinn is a strong contender to wrest the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge away from Grant. The team will have extra support in 2006 from RS Components, Stihl and Powerbuilt.

The younger member of the Quinn family has already had a celebration in 2006, with Klark getting married in January. While father Tony has been busy racing with a runner-up finish in the Porsche Mt Buller Sprint behind Jim Richards, and is preparing for the Rally of Tasmania this coming weekend.

Youlden has been driving in the New Zealand V8s Championship and scored his first round podium (3rd) at the most recent round at Timaru in January.

ADRAD Racing's Bryce Washington will fly the flag for South Australia once again and continues to build experience racing Porsches. The 22-year-old who won the Porsche Driver's Challenge last year has been racing in the New Zealand GT3 Cup Challenge throughout the summer including impressive fourth, second and third place race finishes at Ruapuna Park in January.

Washington was also one of the first to test the new 997 racing machine with a 45-lap shakedown at Mallala in January with track temperatures exceeding 60 degrees Celsius.

ROOCK Racing will be a new team in the championship this year campaigning third-year driver Ash Samadi.

During its impressive European racing career, including the Carrera Cup Germany and Porsche Michelin Supercup, ROOCK Racing claimed five championships and over 30 individual victories before basing its operation in the United States in 1999 to run the American Le Mans Series.

Another first-year team will be Caratti Motorsport after a victorious campaign in the Australian Formula 3 Championship last year with driver Aaron Caratti. The rising star has already taken steps in learning the features and intricacies of his new car with a test session last week at Wakefield Park, in addition to other days at Oran Park and Eastern Creek.

TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge podium contender Marc Cini will continue with Hallmarc sponsorship this year, and recently tested the 997 for the first time with Dean Grant at Phillip Island in a experience-building shakedown.

Two-time championship winning team Greg Murphy Racing is currently confirming its three-car driver and sponsor line-up for 2006.

Round one of the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia will be the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide from March 23 to 26.

ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP --

Twenty-five drivers from Australia and New Zealand in 25 brand new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 997) cars will be vying for prestigious championship acclaim in 2006. Exhibiting innovation, emotion, aspiration and fascination, the marque is Porsche and the championship is the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia.

The Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia is the primary support category to the V8 Supercar Championship Series. The championship, now in its fourth season in Australia, will travel to nine events (eight official championship rounds) in five states in 2006 and exhilarate crowds of more than 1.3 million people.

All cars in the 2006 Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia were developed and built by Porsche's racing headquarters in Weissach, Germany. With a top speed in excess of 300 kilometres per hour, the lightweight, high performance vehicles have a 400 horsepower, 6 cylinder Boxer engine which revs to 8000 RPM, producing a sound that is distinctly Porsche.

Drivers will vie for the prestigious Overall Championship in 2006, as well as a host of other awards including the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge for the leading privateer driver 30 years of age or older; the Wright Patton Shakespeare Michelin Driver to Europe for the leading driver under 30 years of age who has not previously driven in a Porsche Michelin Supercup or International Carrera Cup round; the Michelin Rookie of the Year for the leading driver who has not competed in more than six rounds of a Porsche racing series prior to 2006; and the Mobil Hard Charger for the driver who makes up the most number of grid positions in points-scoring races over the eight rounds.

The championship is proudly sponsored by Wright Patton Shakespeare which offers a full range of financial services products from superannuation and insurance through to home loans and investment property. Wright Patton Shakespeare consists of four specialist companies -- Finance, Realty, Financial Services and Law.

Porsche is the Official Racing Vehicle, Michelin is the Official Tyre Supplier and Mobil 1 is the Official Automotive Lubricant Supplier.

Network 10 will telecast all rounds of the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup Australia in a regular Sunday afternoon timeslot.

-www.cupcar.com.au

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Greg Murphy , Jim Richards , Rodney Jane , Alex Davison , Luke Youlden , Bob Jane , Tony Quinn , Peter Fitzgerald , Ash Samadi , Jonathon Webb , Bryce Washington , David Wall , John Kaias , David Reynolds , Marc Cini , Aaron Caratti , Dean Grant , Dean Fiore , Paul Cruickshank , David Russell