Bathurst preview

QUEENSLAND-based V.I.P. Petfoods will sponsor the fifth annual GTP Showroom Showdown race at Bathurst's Mount Panorama next Saturday. The V.I.P. Petfoods GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown has attracted entries from almost 50 teams driving...

QUEENSLAND-based V.I.P. Petfoods will sponsor the fifth annual GTP Showroom Showdown race at Bathurst's Mount Panorama next Saturday.

The V.I.P. Petfoods GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown has attracted entries from almost 50 teams driving near-standard popular passenger cars.

The sponsorship extends the involvement of V.I.P. Petfoods and its owner Tony Quinn with the national motor racing categories run by PROCAR Australia.

Tony Quinn is a leading driver in the Megamantis.com Australian Nations Cup Championship, currently running fifth in the standings in a Porsche GT3.

V.I.P. Petfoods also backs the 10# Ford Falcon XR8 of Grant Denyer in the Poolrite V8 BRute Muster series and will have supporting sponsorship of the two ute races at Mount Panorama on Friday and Sunday.

MUSTANG is back, Holden's hot and the fastest from Europe and Japan will be out to prove V8s aren't necessary when one of the strongest production car fields ever assembled at Bathurst's Mount Panorama contests the V.I.P. Petfoods GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown next Saturday.

Drivers such as John Bowe, Cameron McConville, Craig Baird, John Faulkner, UK-based GT sportscar ace Neil Cunningham and New Zealander Chris Dunn will join regular GTP series competitors in the fifth annual non-championship race.

The entry list for Australia's most prestigious event for production-based sedans and sports coupes covers 12 different makes and 23 models.

"There are so many strong cars and teams in this race it's hard to pick a possible winner at this early stage, although I think our Ford Mustang is definitely a contender," said 1997 winner John Bowe, who will spearhead the return of a revered nameplate after an absence of 15 years.

Bowe, also winner two weekends ago of the Clarion Sandown 500 - a traditional Bathurst curtainraiser - will lead a two-car entry of Ford Mustang Cobra RA coupes, sharing his with Kiwi Transam driver Chris Dunn.

Making its first appearance, a sister Mustang will be driven by Ferrari regulars John Teulan and Scott Shearman, with New Zealand Grand Prix winner Craig Baird listed as third driver for both crews.

Bowe and the 4.6 litre Mustang have been stunningly fast whenever they have appeared in sprint races this season, but the combination is one of many that is untested either at Bathurst, or over the duration.

Even last year's winners, Ed Aitken and V8 Supercar driver John Faulkner, are not fully confident their Holden Commodore HSV GTS can last the distance - especally in dry weather.

Last year's race was run over three hours, but at much-reduced speed due to rain, and Aitken believes they avoided any problems the Holden might have experienced in hot, fast conditions.

"The fans must remember these are basically road cars, not purpose-built racers, and they endure extreme punishment at Bathurst. Our preparation for this year has been very detailed, but ultimately it's a very different race," said Aitken, who has finished on the podium in every Showdown.

"The Mustang is without doubt the most potent weapon in the field and the little Japanese turbo cars will be very strong.

"The key things are to stay with the lead pack and to keep the car in tip-top shape for the run to the finish. The shorter distance will change strategies for tyres and fuel loads and the pressure will be on from the start.

Winning last year doesn't count for much, but based on recent form we'll go there with some confidence."

Other powerful V8 contenders are Cameron McConville/Peter Floyd and Philip Polites/Neil Cunningham, who also are racing the Commodore GTS, the fastest car made in Australia.

McConville, doubling-up on his duties in the V8 Supercar 1000, says he's quietly confident after the Commodore's strong showing at Sandown on 16 September.

"The Commodore's got plenty of power to get up and down the mountain and it loves the fast-flowing corners, but it's also heavy and if we have to change brake pads that will bring us back to the field. I'm with Ed Aitken - that Mustang is a dark horse."

Polites is banking on the top-flight international experience of co-driver Neil Cunningham. Gold Coast-raised Cunningham has raced touring cars and sports cars in Europe for several years and will arrive in Australia tomorrow after driving a Porsche GT2 yesterday in a round of the British GT Championship.

Neither Commodore nor Mustang completed the Clarion Sandown 500, so their outright speed on Saturday and in practice and qualifying from Thursday will be viewed in the light of unproven reliability.

That is unlikely to be an issue for the Japanese all-wheel-drive turbo cars, such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution of Graham Alexander/John Woodberry and the Subaru STi's of GTP championship front-runners Brett Peters/Maher Algadri and Wayne Boatwright/Scott Anderson.

Peters today reversed the withdrawal of his Subaru, with the Indonesian Algadri, after securing last-minute sponsorship. The Queenslander's smooth, consistent and rapid driving ability and his record of 13 previous Bathursts will be a threat to less experienced crews.

Anderson and Boatwright are racing the only 2001 Version 7 Subaru in Australian competition. Anderson, who came second last year in a Lancer, says the Subaru will be still under-developed in only its second race.

"Were still a little off the pace in the new car, although it's strong enough to go the distance. I don't think we'll be quick enough to win Bathurst unless we have a bit of luck - but then we surprised a lot of people by being the second GTP car home in the Sandown 500," Anderson said.

Alongside the outright contest in the Meguiars Top Marques High Performance class, the V.I.P. Petfoods GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown will feature four other classes based on car or engine type.

Hippies Sports Touring class championship leader Nathan Pilkington, teamed with Phil Parsons in a Mitsubishi FTO coupe, will face major opposition in the form of the official factory VW Beetle team, featuring regulars Tim Leahy/Matthew Coleman and newly-crowned Formula Ford champion Will Davison, with Stuart McColl.

Poolrite V8 Touring rivals Brian Carr and John McIlroy will co-drive a Falcon XR8 against James Philip/Kent Youlden (Falcon) and Scott Loadsman/Warren Luff (Commodore), while in the 6-Cylinder Touring class new series champion Daryl Coon has signed Warren Millett in a bid to take a second straight Bathurst trophy.

The Poolrite 4-Cylinder Touring class has attracted six entries, including David Russell/Nathan Thomas in a Proton and NASCAR identity Marshall Brewer, in a Holden Vectra with Martin Doxey.

AT A GLANCE - V.I.P. Petfoods GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown

* Featuring 48 cars from the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship.

* Race starts 1.35 pm, Saturday 6 October (Practice - Thursday 9.15 am and 3.45 pm; Qualifying - Friday 9.30 am). One compulsory driver change; no driver to exceed 80 min.; 10 tyres for qualifying and race.

* Television - live on Network Ten.

* 12 Car makes, from Mustang to Magna; 23 different models. Series production cars with no engine modifications permitted; different springs, shock absorbers, brake pads, exhaust pipes and engine computers may be fitted; slick tyres; safety equipment; no changes to interior trim or bodywork.

* Classes - Meguiars Top Marques High Performance (outright), Hippies Sports Touring, Poolrite V8 Touring, Poolrite 6-cylinder Touring, Poolrite 4-Cylinder Touring.

* Past GTP Showroom Showdown winners - 2000 E. Aitken/J. Faulkner (Holden Commodore HSV GTS), 1999 T. Bosnjak/M. Williamson (Mazda RX-7 SP), 1998 P. Fitzgerald/J. Richards (Porsche 911 RSCS), 1997 G. Waldon/J. Bowe (Ferrari F355 Challenge).

* Lap record - The GTP Mount Panorama record of 2 min. 24.6055 sec. was set by Neil Crompton in a Ferrari F355 Challenge on 14/11/1998. In 2000, the former GTP Class A cars contested separate races in the new Nations Cup category. As 2000 was a wet race, no fast times were set.

-ausgtp-

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Series Supercars
Drivers John Faulkner , Will Davison , Phil Parsons , Neil Crompton , Cameron McConville , Neil Cunningham , Scott Shearman , Craig Baird , John Bowe , Tony Quinn , Grant Denyer , Peter Floyd , John Teulan , James Philip , Wayne Boatwright , John McIlroy , Graham Alexander , Nathan Pilkington , Warren Luff , Algadri Maher , Scott Anderson , David Russell
Teams Williams