With last year¹s 3-Hour Bathurst Showroom Showdown culminating in the closest finish in Mount Panorama history, this year¹s over- subscribed record entry are set to fight out an even tougher event in 1999.
With 59 cars battling it out for 55 grid spots, qualifying will be as frantic as the actual race itself. Qualifying positions are determined by the percentage of entries for each class, with the slower machines in Class E not automatically culled from the field.
Reigning champions Peter Fitzgerald and Jim Richards are expected to contest a three way fight with the Wayne Park/Ross Palmer Ferrari F355 Challenge and the Garry Waldon/John Bowe Dodge Viper GTS Coupe.
"I think it will be touch and go, but variables such as safety cars, rain, number of laps in the race and how effective the strategy is on the day, will decide where we are at the end of the race," Fitzgerald said.
"You might find that the Viper and Ferrari will be able to get by on two stops because of better fuel economy so they¹ll have the upper hand on race day. Any one of the top cars could take victory, there are some great driver combinations.
"John Bowe and Garry Waldon in the Viper are formidable opposition. They¹re both outstanding drivers with a lot of experience. They¹ll be good on-track strategists and probably equally as quick in the car as each other.
"I¹d say this year the Viper will take pole and we¹ll be struggling to make front row. It will be close up the front the Mazda RX7 was quick last year. Jim and I will be aiming to be somewhere in the first two rows.
"One thing I¹m glad of, is that I am racing with Jim (Jim Richards) not against him because he¹s tough opposition on track. We have a good history and get on well when it comes to the racing side of things. I¹m sure that Jim and I will need luck to play into our hands on race day and to tell you the truth I wouldn¹t be disappointed to see a bit of rain, I reckon that might help our chances."
Wayne Park will do battle in a Class A car in the 3-Hour for the first time, this year teaming up with PROCAR Chairman, Ross Palmer, who finished third in the inaugural 12-Hour in 1993. Park believes the Fitzgerald/Richards combination will be a tough nut to crack.
"Fitzy¹s car is always well prepared and he and Jim have a lot of combined experience that will make them a tough pair on track.
"Ross has been involved with motorsport at Bathurst for over 20 years, and has had many teams meet with success. Unfortunately he hasn¹t taken a personal win from Bathurst, so this year the team is focussing on taking victory to give him something back for his involvement."
The Dodge Viper GTS has proven to be quick weapon at Bathurst in the past couple of years, but hasn¹t enjoyed the best of fortunes.
Bowe believes he and Waldon will prove a strong combination if they can get the brakes on the American 8-litre V10 machine to go the distance.
Bowe and Waldon previously teamed up to win the inaugural 3-Hour Bathurst Showroom Showdown in 1997 aboard the Ferrari F355 Challenge that Park and Palmer will drive this year.
"Garry and I have had some great success in the past and I am looking forward to getting back into GTP," Bowe said.
"Brakes are obviously the big problem with this car, but it will certainly have the speed. One of the biggest dramas will be fighting your way through traffic, but that is part of the great challenge of GTP.
"Outright pace is not the only answer, you have to be able to read the traffic and try not to get caught up in somebody else¹s race."
Other leading contenders in Class A include the Porsche 911 RSCS pairings of Ed Aitken/John Faulkner and Geoff Morgan/Domenic Beninca as well as the Matthew Coleman/Yanis Dermus Maserati Ghibli and Terry Bosnjak/Mark Williamson Mazda RX7 SP.
THE STARS V8 SUPERCARS: John Bowe, Jim Richards, John Faulkner, Terry Finnigan, Greg Crick,Tony Longhurst, Steven Richards, Greg Murphy RALLY ACES: Rick Bates, Graham Alexander OPEN WHEELERS: Ben Walsh, Steve Cramp FORMULA FORD: Owen Kelly, Leanne Ferrier, Stuart Kostera IRON MEN: Grant Kenny, Guy Andrews TV STARS: Sam Newman THE GIRLS: Carol Jackson, Melinda Price, Leanne Ferrier, Sue Hughes, Megan Kirkham
CLASS B - V8 GRUNT vs 4WD POWER While the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III machines have dominated Class B this year, keep an eye on the HSV GTS-Rs of John Cowley/Greg Crick and Richard Davis/Garry Baxter. Baxter and Crick will be aiming for a strong early showing before handing over to their team owners.
Chris Kousparis returns aboard the machine he spannered to victory in the Class B Championship for Geoff Full. Former Suzuki ace Mark Brame will again drive with Kousparis.
Iron Man Grant Kenny again will team up with Scott Jacob aboard a Subaru Impreza WRX while rally ace Rick Bates will drive with Bob Hughes aboard a Mazda RX7. Garry Holt is set to bounce back after rolling his WRX at Indy.
CLASS C - WIN A RACECAR! As soon as Tony Longhurst and Guy Andrews complete the 3-Hour aboard their Ford Falcon XR6, a member of the public will actually win the car. By purchasing a Century Battery at an Autobarn store, purchasers are entered into the prize draw which also includes a supply of Pirelli race tyres, Castrol Oils, Revolution Racegear pack, Kinchrome tool kit and race drive tuition from the John Bowe Institute of Driving.
New Class C Champion Peter Phelan will team up with David Wood aboard a Holden Commodore VT SS while other leading combinations include Rob Chadwick/Steve Knight (Mitsubishi Magna TH Sports), David Ratcliff/Ron Searle (Toyota Camry CSi) and the Ford Falcon XR6 of Peter and Ryan McLeod and ex-Formula Fordster Peter Verheyen.
CLASS D - V8 BOYS JOIN THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Gibson Motorsport V8 stars Greg Murphy and Steven Richards will do battle in Class D aboard one of the Holden Vectra 2.2 GL machines. Melinda Price (the beauty) and Sam Newman (the beast) will drive the other team car.
The son of Network Ten GTP commentator Craig Denyer, Grant will make his GTP debut on the mountain with Tom Watkinson and Calvin Gardiner aboard a Mazda 626. Young Formula Ford stars Leanne Ferrier and Stuart Kostera will also drive one of the Mazda machines. V8 Supercar driver Kevin Heffernan will team up with the husband and wife team of Carol and Gary Jackson aboard a Honda Civic VTiR.
CLASS E - JOURNOS TEAM UP TO DEFEND PROTON¹S CROWN Kosi Kalaitzidis took the Class E honours for Proton at Bathurst last year and back that up with a Championship victory in 1999. At Bathurst this year he will hand over the keys to Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter McKay and the Melbourne Herald Sun¹s Paul Gover.
Other leading contenders will include the Peugeot 306 Style of Warren Luff, Dwayne Bewley and Peter Ross as well the Suzuki Swift GTi of Nathan Thomas and Glenn Jordan.
CLASS S - DADS FLYING THE BMW FLAG While Beric Lynton and Michael Simpson do battle in Class A aboard a BMW M3R, their fathers Bruce Lynton and Ian Simpson will contest Class S with a BMW 323i.
The fathers will face a tough battle against the similar machine of Wayne Russell and NASCAR driver Bob Middleton as well as the Toyota MR2 Bathurst of Ric Shaw, Colin Osborne and Peter Rushton.
CLASS A 3 Peter Fitzgerald/Jim Richards PORSCHE 911 RSCS 7 Peter Boylan/Ross Almond MITSUBISHI Lancer RS Turbo EVO V 8 Ed Aitken John Faulkner/PORSCHE 911 RSCS 9 TBA/TBA DODGE Viper GTS Coupe 11 Jamie Cartwright/Owen Kelly TOYOTA Supra RZ Twin-Turbo 12 Geoff Morgan/Domenic Beninca PORSCHE 911 RSCS 18 Murray Carter/Greg Waters CHEVROLET Corvette C5 V8 Coupe 23 Beric Lynton/Michael Simpson BMW M3-R Coupe 27 Wayne Park/Ross Palmer FERRARI F355 Challenge 29 Garry Waldon/John Bowe DODGE Viper GTS Coupe 30 Matthew Coleman/Yanis Derums MASERATI Ghibli Cup Twin-Turbo 41 Terry Bosnjak/Mark Williamson MAZDA RX-7 SP Twin-Turbo 45 John Teulan/Mike Kilpatrick NISSAN Skyline GT-R Turbo 4WD 56 Terry Finnigan/Ben Walsh BMW M3-R Coupe 57 Graham Alexander/John Woodberry MITSUBISHI Lancer RS Turbo EVO V 63 Paul Mitolo/Julian Mazzone MAZDA RX-7 SP Twin-Turbo 65 Craig Dean/Trevor Sheumack FORD Mustang Saleen 83 Jeff Church/Ross Dillon/Ray Stubber NISSAN Skyline GT-R Turbo 4WD 93 Matthew Stoupas/Christian D' Agostin PORSCHE 911 RSCS
CLASS B 2 John Cowley/Greg Crick HSV VS GTS-R 215i 6 Chris Kousparis/Mark Brame SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 14 Clyde Lawrence/Peter Gazzard SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 15 Bob Hughes/Rick Bates MAZDA RX-7 Twin-Turbo 25 Richard Davis/Gary Baxter HSV VS GTS-R 215i 34 Mark King/Rod Wilson MITSUBISHI Lancer RS Turbo EVO III 50 - TBA/TBA SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 51 Scott Jacob/Grant Kenny SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 91 Gary Deane/Jim Mc Knoulty SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 96 Don Pulver/Terry Shiel SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo 99 Garry Holt/Chris Stannard SUBARU Impreza WRX Turbo
CLASS C 16 Peter Phelan/David Wood HOLDEN Commodore VT SS V8 20 Robert Chadwick/Steve Knight MITSUBISHI Magna TH Sports V6 3.5 33 Roland Hill/Denis Cribbin HOLDEN Commodore VS Exec V8 46 Peter Mc Leod/Ryan Mc Leod/Peter Verheyen FORD Falcon 55 Mark Cohen Daynom Templeman HOLDEN Commodore VS SS V8 60 Guy Andrews/Tony Longhurst FORD Falcon AU XR6 HP live-axle 4.0 62 Scott Loadsman/Allan Marin/Phillip Crow HOLDEN Commodore VT SS V8 64 Brian Carr/Bruce Constable FORD Falcon AU XR8 70 Daryl Coon/TBA FORD Falcon AU XR6 HP live-axle 4.0 88 David Ratcliff/Ron Searle TOYOTA Camry CSi V6 95 John Mc Ilroy/Brett Youlden FORD Falcon AU XR8
CLASS D 10 Carol Jackson/Gary Jackson/Kevin Heffernan HONDA Civic VTi-R 17 Sam Newman/Melinda Price/Steven Richards HOLDEN Vectra GL 2.2 Sedan 28 Steven Richards/Greg Murphy/Sam Newman HOLDEN Vectra GL 2.2 Sedan 43 Grant Denyer/Tom Watkinson/Calvin Gardiner MAZDA 626 V6 Sedan 71 Leanne Ferrier/Stuart Kostera/Phil Kirkham MAZDA 626 V6 Sedan
CLASS E 21 Peter Mc Kay/Paul Gover PROTON M21 Coupe 36 Peter Ross/Warren Luff/Dwayne Bewley PEUGEOT 306 Style 37 Nathan Thomas/Glenn Jordan SUZUKI Swift GTi 67 Nigel Williams/Danny Brian SUZUKI Swift GTi 74 John Falk/Ken Lusty SUZUKI Swift GTi 75 Sue Hughes/Paul Buda/Craig Dontas SUZUKI Swift GTi 78 Darren Best/TBA HYUNDAI Excel Sprint Twin Cam
CLASS S 4 Anton Mechtler/Clayton Haynes TOYOTA MR2 GT 13 Colin Osborne/Ric Shaw/Peter Rushton TOYOTA MR2 Bathurst 26 Wayne Russell/Robert Middleton BMW 323i 32 Ian Simpson/Bruce Lynton/Beric Lynton BMW 323i 35 Daniel Wilkie/Ian Freeman/Colin Osborne TOYOTA MR2 Bathurst 54 Megan Kirkham/Len Cave/Phil Kirkham MAZDA MX-5 Sports
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