GT world's biggest guns turn out for unpredictable Nations Cup opener. Five of Australia's top drivers in five of the world's fastest GT sports cars promise a cracking, unpredictable start to the 2003 Australian Nations Cup Championship at the...
GT world's biggest guns turn out for unpredictable Nations Cup opener.
Five of Australia's top drivers in five of the world's fastest GT sports cars promise a cracking, unpredictable start to the 2003 Australian Nations Cup Championship at the Clipsal 500 event in Adelaide from tomorrow.
Three-time champion Jim Richards in a Porsche, John Bowe in a Ferrari, Nathan Pretty in a Holden Monaro, Paul Stokell in a Lamborghini and Greg Crick in a Chrysler Viper will head a multi-million dollar field contesting three races on the Adelaide Parklands street circuit.
Stokell, Bowe and Richards all climbed the podium last year and the Tasmanian Crick is driving the Viper in which its former owner scored a pair of top-three places, but the wild card in the Group One outright class is Nathan Pretty, one of four Holden "young guns" who shared the Monaro's maiden win in the Bathurst 24-Hour race last November.
His Aussie contender remains unbeaten after Peter Brock won all four Nations Cup races at the recent Australian Grand Prix, but the demanding 3.2 kilometre Adelaide street circuit could end its run.
"Realistically, a 3.6-litre Porsche should have trouble matching a 7.0-litre Monaro, but this is the start of a new season and many things are unknown," Richards said.
"With five such different cars it should certainly be good racing. I enjoy the Nations Cup and I'll be trying my hardest."
Against the nimble Porsche GT3 Cup and Bowe's classic Ferrari 360GT, Stokell, Pretty and Crick are turning out the biggest guns in Australian racing - respectively, a 6-litre V12 Lamborghini Diablo GTR, 7-litre V8 Monaro and 8-litre V10 Viper
Other Vipers will be in the hands of D'arcy Russell and Rusty French, while Australian Rules football personality Sam Newman has left the Ferrari team to join Stokell in an identical Lamborghini Diablo GTR.
Stokell said: "Sam has developed his skill and experience very conscientiously and picked up a third at the grand prix. There are definite advantages to having a second driver and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do between us in Adelaide."
Group Two also is due to produce plenty of excitement. Trident Racing's new Maserati Trofeo V8s, driven by Gary Young and David Lawson, start their first championship with improved suspension set-ups after their successful grand prix debut.
But the pacesetter should be 24-year-old visiting Danish driver Alan Simonsen, who impressively put his Ferrari 360 Challenge among the Group One cars and on the podium at Albert Park.
Adelaide's Andrew Taplin will be among the Porsche runners, in a GT3 Cup model.
Round one will introduce a number of developments to Nations Cup, the most significant being "success ballast", which will add weight on a reducing scale to the first, second and third cars in each race.
A revised championship points system will award finishers up to 15th place.
Adelaide also will kick off a new broadcast deal between Nations Cup organiser PROCAR Australia and the Seven Network, which will see a total of 40 hours' television devoted to PROCAR categories and events this season.
TIMETABLE: Thursday - 11.40 am Practice (20 min.). Friday - 12.30 pm Practice (20 min.). Saturday - 8.30 am Qualifying (20 min., 11.55 am Race 1 (12 laps), 6.30 pm Race 2 (30 laps). Sunday - 10.05 am Race 3 (12 laps).
AUTOGRAPH SESSIONS: Nations Cup drivers will attend public autograph sessions in the Support Paddock at Adelaide Parklands on Saturday at 10.30 am and Sunday at 11.15 am.
TELEVISION: Channel Seven, Saturday 29 March, 12 noon - 1.00 pm (check local guides).