AUS GT3: Series Bathurst preview

FROM THE AMAZON TO LeMANS, INDY CAR TO A 17-YEAR-OLD SCHOOLBOY - THE PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE HAS IT ALL! Question: What does an Amazon Jungle geologist, a LeMans class winning car, a Red-hot livery made famous by a Frenchman in US Champ / ...

FROM THE AMAZON TO LeMANS, INDY CAR TO A 17-YEAR-OLD SCHOOLBOY - THE PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE HAS IT ALL!

Question: What does an Amazon Jungle geologist, a LeMans class winning car, a Red-hot livery made famous by a Frenchman in US Champ / IndyCar racing and a 17-year-old youngster have in common?

Answer: You can find them all in the first round of the 2009 Porsche GT3 Cup challenge Australia series to be held at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, this weekend.

The Amazon connection comes from second-year driver Ray Angus, who made his GT3 Cup Challenge debut last year after spending 14 years as a geologist in - amongst other places - Peru and the Amazon jungle.

Angus - who's INKA motorsport team and car carries several cues from the South American country in its livery - made his Motorsport debut with the GT3 Cup Challenge Australia last year after a last-minute purchase of a 996 Gt3 Cup Car via the services of Porsche Centre Gold Coast dealer Principal Terry Knight.

"Terry had found a car for sale and asked if I was interested," Angus said. "Within 10 days I had bought a car, done some laps in Queensland and was on the grid at Phillip Island making my first ever racing start. It was a massive baptism of fire but I really enjoyed the three rounds I did last year.

"I can't wait to get on track this weekend," he added. "I did about 23 laps here in the sprint Bathurst event last season so I'm not exactly experienced, but it should be fun."

Angus is carrying signage from Anaconda - Australia's largest camping and outdoors store - this weekend, and noted the links between the Anaconda brand and the South American cues carried by both his car and team.

The LeMans connection comes courtesy of Porsche Club of Queensland president Phil Holzberger, who has his 2002 LeMans 24 hour class winning GT3 RS entered this weekend.

"It's a fantastic car," the Queenslander said. "The last time I drove it seriously was an endurance race in 2007, and it was the first car I seriously raced after going Karting about 300 years ago! The car has such a history that I really don't want it damaged so I haven't driven it much, but I'm looking forward to the weekend.

"This series has so much going for it - you only have to look at all the guys who have come up from club sprints to race to see how much appeal it has. Keeping the ‘pro's' and seeded drivers out has been fantastic and kept the racing fun and enjoyable for everyone. It's a great concept and I can only see it growing further."

The link to the now-defunct Champ Car World Series, and now IndyCar racing, comes via Terry Knight's stunning new livery on his 996 GT3 Cup Car.

Formerly sporting the white, blue and silver colors of the Porsche Centre Gold Coast, Knight's new scheme carries the familiar solid red with yellow arches of the McDonald's brand - the same scheme made famous in the US by four-time ChampCar champion Sebastian Bourdais and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson last year.

The new livery is in response to McDonald's supporting the 2009 GT3 Cup Challenge Australia series as a major supporter, whilst the GT3 Cup Challenge helps to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald house charities.

Knight was a consistent top six performer last year and will be hoping to take a further step up the leader board against a highly competitive 47 car grid this weekend.

Finally, the 17-year-old connection comes from young Open Wheel star Justin Tate, who returns to his roots by driving a Porsche 944 Challenge car at Bathurst this weekend.

Tate made his name in the competitive Victorian State Racing Scene driving in the Porsche 944 Challenge and will return for a one-off drive this weekend after becoming an Open Wheel sensation in F3 last year. The Victorian will be one of the youngest drivers racing this weekend - so much so that he only had his first driving lesson last week.

Tate will have to go head-to-head with another Open Wheel graduate - ex Formula Atlantic racer Josh Hunt on the grid in a similar 944.

"It's good to be back in the cars," Tate said. "Our aim this weekend is to just get some laps at Bathurst and learn the track for any possible opportunities in the future. It always looks good to have a Bathurst start or two on the CV. I'd like to think that we can be competitive this weekend.. I'm really hoping for rain - then we can look at trying to get one up on some of the GT3s!

"I had my first driving lesson last week to try and get my road license," he added. "The instructor recognized me as a racing driver so I guess I'd better pass the test!"

The first round of the 2009 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge will be held over two days at the Bathurst 12 hour festival this weekend.

Action gets underway tomorrow with a practice, qualifying and Race One tomorrow.

-credit: gt3cupchallenge.com.au

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Series Road racing
Drivers Justin Wilson , Josh Hunt , Terry Knight , Phillip Island