Bathurst, the traditional home of Australian production car racing will again play host to the exciting GTP 3-Hour Showroom Showdown in 1999.

Launched in 1997, the Mount Panorama event has grown substantially and last year featured the closest finish in Bathurst history with the Porsche 911 RSCS of Peter Fitzgerald and Jim Richards holding out the Neil Crompton/Darren Palmer Ferrari F355 Challenge by less than a car length.

A maximum grid of 55 cars is expected to contest the race which will be the major support event to the FAI 1000 for V8 Supercars.

The event also completes an outstanding season for the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship which has fielded capacity grids throughout 1999.

Last year¹s Bathurst Showroom Showdown winner and newly crowned GTP champion Jim Richards will rejoin rival Peter Fitzgerald to defend their Bathurst crown.

"We had a fantastic dice with the Ferrari last year and I am sure this year¹s event is going to be even better," Richards said.

"With capacity grids contesting the championship this year, the level of competition when we get to Bathurst should be very sharp.

"This is not an easy race to win. These cars are true production models and Bathurst represents one of the toughest torture test for cars in the world.

"To win this event you have to have everything in your favour with two fast and consistent drivers. That¹s why I join forces with Fitzy every year to make sure we can have our best chance of success."

More than 20 different marques are expected to contest the Bathurst event including Holden, Porsche, Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Subaru, Mitsubishi, BMW, Ford, Proton, Ferrari, HSV, Peugeot, Nissan, Hyundai, Dodge, Maserati, Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus.

Split into six classes, GT Production car racing represents a unique cross section of motoring on Australian roads.

Class championship winners expected to contest this year¹s Bathurst event include Geoff Full (Class B - Subaru Impreza WRX), Peter Phelan (Class C - Holden Commodore VT SS), Phil Kirkham (Class D - Mazda 626), Kosi Kalaitzidis (Class E - Proton M21 Coupe) and Ric Shaw (Class S - Toyota MR2 Bathurst).

The success of the 3-Hour Bathurst Showroom Showdown over the past two years also proved to be the catalyst behind the GTP category¹s move to the V8 Supercar program in 1999.

"Production car racing really made a name for itself at Bathurst in the late 60s and early 70s and the modifications allowed to the GTP cars today, are not that different from the changes allowed back then," PROCAR Chief Executive, Mr Bill West said.

"There are 72 GTP cars currently registered in Australia, so filling a 55 car grid this year will not be a problem.

"We have been near capacity for the past two years, but this year will undoubtedly be the best 3-hour yet.

"The 3-hour format is an ideal duration for competitors, television and racefans and the fantastic spectacle of last year¹s race proves we are on a winner.

"Our race provides the perfect support event for the V8 Supercars and all the competitors can¹t wait to get back to the mountain."

Drivers contesting this year¹s event come from a wide variety of disciplines including rallying aces Neal and Rick Bates, Rod Salmon and Graham Alexander, Formula Ford drivers Leanne Ferrier and Stuart Kostera, Iron men stars Guy Andrews and Grant Kenny, AFL media personality Sam Newman and V8 Supercar drivers Tony Longhurst, Greg Murphy and Steven Richards.

Several other V8 Supercar stars are expected to take part in the event. The 3-Hour Bathurst Showroom Showdown will be telecast live on Network Ten as part of its coverage of the V8 Supercar FAI 1000.

"Paul Ryan" <>