CENTURY BATTERIES AUSTRALIAN GT PRODUCTION CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
ORAN PARK PREVIEW 20th August 1998
PORSCHE PILOTS SET FOR TITLE DOG FIGHT
After 14 races and 236 laps of paint swapping action, the 1998 Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship has come down to a two-way war between reigning champion Peter Fitzgerald and current points leader Domenic Beninca.
With only three points separating the pair, either Porsche 911 RSCS driver could walk away this weekend from Sydney's Oran Park raceway as the new champion.
For the two Melbourne men, season 1998 has been a year of contrasts. While Beninca blasted out of the blocks with a pair of victories at the opening round at Calder Park, Fitzgerald has showed a steady consistent pace - yet only tasted victory once this year.
Significantly, Beninca has four race wins to his credit while Fitzgerald's sole victory actually came on the Oran Park short-circuit in round two.
With 15 points up for grabs in both races and a further point per race available for pole position, the championship title fight will not be finalised until late Sunday afternoon.
"The pressure is on but I am looking forward to fighting it out with Fitzy for the title," Beninca said.
"I actually prefer the Oran Park long circuit and I believe it will provide better opportunities for passing.
"I'd like to say we are going to beat him but its going to be very tough and will depend upon who has the better car set-up.
"For us, Mallala was really good, yet we were off the pace at Winton. It will simply come down to trying to beat him in the opening race, and then at least finishing right on his tail in the second race."
Fitzgerald last year wrapped him his championship with time to spare, but the Melbourne veteran is not about to give up his crown without a fight.
After showing surprise aggression at Winton, if Fitzgerald is going to go down - he is going to go down swinging.
"After 22 years I suppose I am not unfamiliar with these situations, but it is going to be tough," Fitzgerald said.
"I suppose I got a bit fired up at Winton after being hit in turn one by Domenic. In the end, I think he actually got a bit of a shove from Rodney Forbes which pushed him into me, but I suppose it had the desired effect to get me going.
"My team is confident we can do the job, particularly as we seem to have the car handling better than it ever has.
"We are going to go down fighting but if Domenic comes out with the title, he would deserve it because he has had a great year, but we are not about to hand it to him on a platter."
With Rodney Forbes (Porsche 911 RSCS) and John Bowe (Ferrari F355 Challenge) also out to finish with race victories, the Class A battle is going to provide fireworks. Terry Bosnjak is also expected to be on the pace aboard his Mazda RX7.
While Nigel Stones (Suzuki Swift GTi) has wrapped up the GTP Lights Class E title, the remaining class battles remain undecided.
At 67 years of age, Murray Carter looks set to take the Class B crown aboard his Nissan 200SX while Chris Kousparis (Subaru Impreza WRX) is hot on his heels.
David Ratcliff (Toyota Camry CSi) is favourite to take the Class C title from Mark Cohen (Holden Commodore VS SS) while Ric Shaw (Toyota MR2 Bathurst) has one hand on the GTP Lights Class D crown but Mazda 626 driver Phil Kirkham will be out to continue his later season pressure.
ENTRIES CLASS A 1 Peter Fitzgerald Porsche 911 RSCS 3 Alfredo Costanzo Maserati Ghibli Twin Turbo 12 Terry Bosnjak Mazda RX7 SP Twin Turbo 17 Ross Halliday Mitsubishi Lancer RS Turbo Evo V 24 Marcus Marshall Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo 26 Ross Almond Mitsubishi Lancer RS Turbo Evo V 27 John Bowe Ferrari F355 Challenge 50 Paul Stokell Lotus Elise Sport 190 52 Domenic Beninca Porsche 911 RSCS 64 Bob Thorn Toyota Supra RZ Twin Turbo 85 Rodney Forbes Porsche 911 RSCS
CLASS B 6 Chris Kousparis Subaru Impreza WRX Turbo 7 Peter Boylan Subaru Impreza WRX Turbo 18 Murray Carter Nissan 200SX Turbo 25 Richard Davis HSV GTS-R 215i 44 Dean Canto Subaru Impreza WRX Turbo 47 John Trimbole Mitsubishi Lancer RS Turbo Evo III
CLASS C 20 Robert Chadwick Mitsubishi Magna TE Sports V6 21 Jim Myhill Mitsubishi Magna TE Sports V6 28 Wayne Webster Ford Falcon EL XR8 55 Mark Cohen Holden Commodore VS SS V8 88 David Ratcliff Toyota Camry CSi V6
CLASS D 4 Clayton Haynes Toyota MR2 GT 13 Colin Osborne Toyota MR2 Bathurst 15 Luke Searle BMW 323i 32 Michael Simpson BMW 323i 35 Ric Shaw Toyota MR2 Bathurst 71 Phil Kirkham Mazda 626
CLASS E 42 Nigel Stones Suzuki Swift GTi 75 Aaron McGill Suzuki Swift GTi 76 TBA Suzuki Swift GTi 78 Darren Best Hyundai Excel Sprint Twin Cam
POINTS OUTRIGHT Domenic Beninca 157 Peter Fitzgerald154 Garry Waldon 123 John Bowe 98 Rodney Forbes 93 Paul Stokell 46 Alfredo Costanzo37 Ross Almond 36 Neil Crompton 29 Terry Bosnjak 28 Murray Carter 26 Chris Kousparis 20 Dean Canto 18 Peter McKay 10 Chris Smith 10 Ross Halliday 10 Ed Aitken 9 John Bourke 8 Peter Boylan 7 Bob Thorn 5 John Trimbole 5 Craig Dean 4 Michael Simpson 2 John Cowley 1 Marcus Marshall 1 Mark King 1
CLASS A Domenic Beninca 154 Peter Fitzgerald153 Garry Waldon 121 John Bowe 92 Rodney Forbes 92 Paul Stokell 46 Alfredo Costanzo40 Ross Almond 39 Neil Crompton 30 Terry Bosnjak 28 Craig Dean 25 Bob Thorn 12 Peter McKay 10 Chris Smith 10 Ross Halliday 10 Ed Aitken 9 John Bourke 8 Marcus Marshall 1
CLASS B Murray Carter 170 Chris Kousparis 145 Dean Canto 126 Peter Boylan 105 John Cowley 47 Richard Davis 47 John Trimbole 44 Mark King 18 Trevor Haines 8
CLASS C David Ratcliff 168 Mark Cohen 148 Robert Chadwick 121 Jim Myhill 68 Steve Knight 40 John Wright 22 Guy Andrews 18 Peter McKay 18 Paula Elstrek 16 Paul Gover 15 Joshua Dowling 12 Sam Newman 12
CLASS D Ric Shaw 160 Phil Kirkham 140 Michael Simpson 118 Colin Osborne 116 Luke Searle 95 Clayton Haynes 38 Carol Jackson 37 Allan Letcher 23 Peter Phelan 12
CLASS E Nigel Stones 199 Aaron McGill 139 Kosi Kalaitzidis92 Danny Brian 68 Darren Best 48 Nigel Williams 28 Jim Myhill 22 Clayton Haynes 18