NEW cars, a host of gun drivers and a bulging entry list promise to make the annual 3-Hour Showroom Showdown race for GT Production cars at Bathurst on November 18 the most hotly-contested yet.

Australia's most prestigious event for showroon-standard cars will feature 55 invited starters in five classes, with the competition for outright victory expected to be a battle between six of the fastest production models available in Australia.

The line-up of drivers from the recently-concluded Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship will be boosted to more than 100 by others eager for a taste of the famous 6.2 km Mount Panorama circuit.

These will include V8 Supercar aces John Bowe, John Faulkner, brothers Rick and Neal Bates, Greg Crick and Tony Scott.

For the first time, the Bathurst 3-Hour Showroom Showdown will be fought at the front between cars such as Holdens, Hondas, Nissans, Mitsubishis, Mazdas and Subarus, with former outright contenders Porsche, Ferrari and Dodge Viper instead contesting the final round of the Century Batteries GTP Nations Cup.

The 400 horsepower Holden Comodore HSV GTS sedans of Ed Aitken/John Faulkner and Ross Dillon/Tony Scott should show blistering speed up and down the mountain, while new GT Production champion Mark King, with Rod Wilson, will be hard to catch across the top in their all-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer.

Three leading combos have put their hopes in brand new cars making their Australian competition debuts. Sydney=B9s Chris Kousparis/Mark Brame and Don Pulver/Terry Shiel will race 300 hp Nissan 200SX Spec-R coupes, while Greg Crick and Darren Palmer have entered a Honda S2000 sports car.

"We'll be short of development time, but the Honda stacks up very well on paper and I'd say we'll be a dark horse,=B2 said Crick, whose car is being built in Brisbane.

- Chris Nixon