Bathurst 24 news 2003-07-22

A spectacular BMW-powered sports car from famous British manufacturer Morgan could be on the grid for the international Bathurst 24-Hour race in November -- with an Australian driver at the wheel. The Morgan factory team, which races its Aero 8...

A spectacular BMW-powered sports car from famous British manufacturer Morgan could be on the grid for the international Bathurst 24-Hour race in November -- with an Australian driver at the wheel.

The Morgan factory team, which races its Aero 8 in the European-based FIA GT Championship, confirmed this week it would like to bring a version of the car to Mount Panorama for the 21-23 November event.

Morgan's number one driver is Australian Neil Cunningham, who signed recently with the team on the strength of a long and successful career in European sports car racing.

Last week the team announced that French 1980s Formula 1 legend Jacques Lafitte would join Cunningham and Formula 3 ace Paula Cook in the Morgan for one of the GT season's most exciting races, the Spa-Francorchamps 24-Hour, in Belgium next weekend.

Other potential Bathurst entrants also are expected to contest the Spa race.

Morgan Works Race Team manager David Dowse said he was keen to bring a new N-GT version of the Aero 8 to Australia if a budget could be found.

In N-GT form, the Morgan would be eligible for Class A, contesting outright honours against last year's winning 7.0 litre Holden Monaro, plus the Porsche GT3 RS, Mosler MT900R, Ferrari 360GT, Lamborghini GTR and other exotic makes.

"We would love to come in 2003. The only thing missing at the present is some budget," Dowse said.

"Just as soon as we're through with Spa I will start to look at our future plans seriously."

Cunningham has been a front-runner in a Morgan Aero 8 in this year's British GT Cup Class Championship, while the Morgan Works Race Team has concentrated on an international programme since an unsuccessful bid to contest the 2003 Le Mans 24-hour.

Morgan says if sufficient sponsorship support is achieved, the FIA GT Championship will serve as an important start to a year-long programme, which will see it back at Le Mans next year and at the Suzuka 1000 km in Japan and the Bathurst 24-Hour.

Charles Morgan, Managing Director of the Morgan Motor Company, said: "The result so far for both Morgan Aero 8s in the British GT Championship is hugely significant to our programme.

"It proves that the car can hold its own against the likes of our chief competitors, like Porsche and Ferrari. I am looking forward to seeing what it can do on an international platform."

Entries for the Bathurst 24-Hour close on 1 October. The race will start at 2 pm on Saturday 22 November, after practice and qualifying on the previous day and evening.

The Channel Seven television network will devote at least six hours' live coverage to the race, mixed with its telecast on Saturday night of the Rugby World Cup final match, which will be watched by fans on two giant screens at the top and bottom of Mount Panorama.

Tickets to the Bathurst 24-Hour are on sale from $32 for adults through Ticketmaster7, on ph. 1300 136 122 or www.ticketmaster7.com.au.

UNIQUE CRASH REPAIR TEAM WILL KEEP CARS ON TRACK

Cars that crash during next November's international Bathurst 24-Hour will be able to be repaired and rejoin the race, thanks to a unique free service and special regulations at the Mount Panorama circuit.

The NRMA Crash Repair Team will be fully equipped to repair even major wrecks, with regulations allowing cars officially to remain in the race even though they have been removed temporarily from the track.

The service is expected to encourage international teams considering a Bathurst 24-Hour entry, with the assurance that a crash will not necessarily mean a premature end to an expensive venture.

The NRMA Crash Repair Team will be based in the Paddock area of Mount Panorama during the 21-23 November event and cars will remain in parc ferme, or part of the race, if they are retrieved from the track under certain conditions.

A special compound includes several repair facilities, such as a straightening rack, spray painting booth and fibreglass repair area.

The team's mobile headquarters are in a specially-fitted Volgren double-deck coach donated by Ross Palmer, Chairman of Bathurst 24-Hour organiser PROCAR Australia.

A workforce of 30 volunteer instructors and senior apprentices under Manager Tony Warrener will do the repair work, although race team crews will be responsible for stripping and refitting all mechanical parts.

Over 25 years -- and 38 years at Bathurst for Warrener himself - the Crash Repair Team has won a legendary reputation and the gratitude of hundreds of teams for putting crashed cars back on track.

It also provides its service at other motor racing events around the country, including all rounds of the PROCAR Champ Series.

Ross Palmer's support of the Crash Repair Team is in gratitude for its remarkable overnight repair during a 12-hour event in 1992 of his all-aluminium Honda HSX sports car, which motorcycle world champion Wayne Gardner had crashed on top of the Mountain during practice.

PROCAR Deputy Executive Chairman John Cowley said the Crash Repair Team delivered an important benefit for fans, as well as competitors, by ensuring cars were able to remain in the round-the-clock race.

"Very often in motorsport a crash means the end of the race, but that is a particularly high price to pay in 24-hour racing when it occurs perhaps only hours into an event and when a team has travelled from the other side of the world," he said.

"PROCAR has adapted the regulations to allow cars to be repaired off-track, which is not usually the case, and Tony Warrener and his group of tradesmen will then apply skill, enthusiasm and true dedication to their work throughout the day and night.

"Their presence should encourage entries and during the event ensure teams the best chance of finishing and fans the maximum viewing enjoyment."

-www.bathurst24hr.com.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Charles Morgan , Neil Cunningham , Paula Cook