The Chase for Gentleman Jim Teams and drivers test Eastern Creek on eve of second Carrera Cup round. After taking three wins from three starts in the opening round of the Carrera Cup at Phillip Island earlier this month, Jim Richards ...
The Chase for Gentleman Jim
Teams and drivers test Eastern Creek on eve of second Carrera Cup round.
After taking three wins from three starts in the opening round of the Carrera Cup at Phillip Island earlier this month, Jim Richards is undoubtedly the favourite heading into this weekend's second round at Eastern Creek in Sydney.
However, following a test by numerous teams and drivers at the 3.93- kilometre venue last Tuesday (April 22), there's a number of drivers quietly confident that they can make life difficult for the seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner.
One of those who is keen to turn around a bad opening round in Victoria is Mossimo/Greg Murphy Racing driver Tim Leahey. The 26-year-old from Orange left Phillip Island equal 10th in the series pointscore and feels confident of a turn-around in his luck this weekend.
"We didn't have new tyres to run around on, but I think we'll be on the money," said Leahey.
"I'm looking forward to getting my championship chase back on track. Really, the first year it was always going to be tough to beat Jim. We're still finding our feet, but sure, it'd be great to win the championship, but I'm not really thinking about it - I'm thinking about winning races."
Leahey is the outright lap record holder at Eastern Creek, setting the record in 2000 in a Reynard Formula Holden run by the Murphy Racing team.
"I am too, aren't I? That's pretty good - at least Jim won't be able to beat that one!" he quipped.
Also testing at Eastern Creek was ENJO-backed racer Peter Fitzgerald. The runner-up in round one at Phillip Island, Fitzgerald is also confident that he can take it up to Richards this weekend.
"We couldn't be happier (with how the test went)," said Fitzgerald. "We matched 'The Master' (Richards), so we're pretty happy with that. It depends on whose stopwatch you read, but there was really nothing in it. Both of us ran on new tyres, so we're yet to see the other guys on new rubber."
Both Richards and Fitzgerald clocked times in the high 1m34s bracket, with qualifying times expected to be in the same region.
Also testing at Eastern Creek were Leahey's GMR team-mates Peter Hill and Roger Oakeshott, as well as the Coleman/Dutton Motorsport duo of Matt Coleman and James Dutton, Sydneysider Geoff Morgan (who won the Nations Cup round held at the venue in a Viper in 2001), Andrew Miedecke, Dean Cook, Dean Grant and Andrew Taplin. Absent was the Queensland-based VIP Pet Foods team of Marcus Marshall and Tony Quinn. Marshall finished third at Phillip Island and is looking for another podium result this weekend.
Meanwhile, Grant, a publican from Melbourne, is running a Porsche GT3 Cup car prepared by Richards's team. In his first full season in racing in the #10 Coke/Becks Racing machine, he sits an impressive seventh in the Carrera Cup pointscore.
"It was my first time at the circuit and there's a lot of blind corners," said Grant of the venue.
"It's similar to Phillip Island in a way where there's a very, very fast turn one. It'll be good fun, but there's not many passing opportunities. Having Jim there is great. By nature, he doesn't say a lot, but he's a great help. It's helped my speed and where I am in the championship.
"The preparation of the cars is great - they never risk anything, everything is stripped and spanner-checked before each meeting in a very meticulous way. The aim is to not get one DNF for the year. If we do that, then I feel we can stay in a similar position (in the championship) where I am at the moment."
The Carrera Cup cars hit the circuit for first practice on Friday, with qualifying and race one on Saturday and two further races on Sunday.
NEWS UPDATE IN BRIEF
SEIDLER TO RETURN AT EASTERN CREEK
VICTORIAN driver Chris Seidler will be back on-track for round two of the Carrera Cup after his Australian Home Warranties Insurance machine was badly damaged in a crash in race one of the opening round at Phillip Island.
"The car is in the process of going back together and we should have it finished tomorrow (Tuesday) and the plan is to take it to Calder on Wednesday and give it a quick run. It would have been finished a lot earlier, but we decided to put a whole new front on the car. We could have repaired the old one but we decided to get a new section, from the firewall forward, sent out from Germany so the car is brand new and ready to go."
Seidler tested at Eastern Creek last week, sharing seat time in Dean Cook's #9 Izod Sportswear car. He is a rookie at the circuit.
ANOTHER KIWI JOINS THE CARRERA CUP
THE number of New Zealand drivers in the 2003 Carrera Cup will be boosted at Eastern Creek by the addition of Kiwi Rick Armstrong to the field. Armstrong will drive the Porsche GT3 Cup car campaigned by Matthew Halliday at the Australian Grand Prix support races, with Lyall Williamson's International Motorsport outfit overseeing the car.
Armstrong, 30, joins countrymen Kevin Bell and Paul Pedersen in the series, as well as Andrew Bagnall, who returns in the #82 Holiday Shoppe machine after missing Phillip Island due to a family wedding in the United States.