Australian Production Car Championship returns with promise of closer races, more youngsters, new tilte.
Production touring car racing will receive a major boost this year with more competitive classes, more opportunities for up-and-coming young drivers and the reintroduction by PROCAR Australia of a prestigious title, the Australian Production Car Championship (APCC).
The APCC succeeds the Australian GT Production Car Championship, which itself took over from the APCC in 1996, but it will remain a seven-round series for popular sedans, hatchbacks and coupes with minimal changes to their standard road specifications.
PROCAR Australia believes the new measures will enhance the championship's appeal as the most consumer-relevant form of racing in Australia and encourage further entries from vehicle makers and importers.
Details of the planned television coverage are expected to be announced soon.
High-performance production touring cars will continue in the eight-round Australian GT Performance Championship (GTP). Both championships will open the 2003 season at round one of the PROCAR Champ Series, part of the Clipsal 500 event in Adelaide on 20-23 March.
Apart from the name, the biggest change accompanying the Australian Production Car Championship is in how the four classes are determined, with cars now competing against others of similar performance, instead of being grouped by engine or vehicle type.
For instance, a draft list of eligible cars for Class A includes models as diverse as the new 5.4 litre Ford Falcon BA XR8 and the Mazda MX-5 SP Turbo, because of their similar power-weight ratios.
In all, 65 models representing 22 makes are on the draft eligibility list.
To encourage entries from younger drivers, the minimum licence grade will now be CAMS' C3, in line with other series for up-and-comers, such as the Australian Formula Ford Championship and Australian Porsche Cup.
To help limit the costs of competing, APCC rounds will be run over only two days and with all cars again using Dunlop road-legal control tyres.
The popular handicap formula, with classes starting in the reverse of qualifying order, will continue.
PROCAR Australia's Deputy Executive Chairman, John Cowley, said the Australian Production Car Championship would sustain the long-standing popularity of production car racing with Australian fans.
"The APCC and GT Production Car championships have always been hard-fought, entertaining, very professional and among the most coveted titles in Australian racing," Mr Cowley said.
"PROCAR Australia will build on that by increasing the competitiveness of the racing, making it easier for young drivers to enter and by helping to control costs in line with the spirit of showroom-standard racing.
"The new class structures will give teams the confidence to enter in a fair competition and as a result we're expecting bigger fields this season."
The Australian Production Car Championship was run for the first time in 1987 and continued in various forms until the end of 1995, when it became the Australian GT Production Car Championship under the management of PROCAR Australia.
Past winners have included some of the most respected names in the sport, such as Peter Fitzgerald (1987, 1989), Kent Youlden (1990-91), Gary Waldon (1988) and Mal Rose (1993).
Several news cars have been nominated already for this year's series.
The new Toyota Camry V6 Sportivo will make its competition debut in the hands of John Roecken, Holden HQ stalwart Richard Hing wll drive a Mitsubishi FTO in a team with Canberra's Chris Poulton, Angelo Catano is listed for an Alfa Romeo GTV, 2002 V8 Class champion Scott Loadsman will return with a VY Commodore SS and a Melbourne driver is planning to enter a Mini Cooper S.