Steve Owen to take over Autobarn Commodore for 2006 V8 Supercar Series The final seat in a Holden for this year's V8 Supercar Championship Series has been filled by the signing of Steve Owen to drive for Rod Nash Racing's Autobarn-sponsored ...
Steve Owen to take over Autobarn Commodore for 2006 V8 Supercar Series
The final seat in a Holden for this year's V8 Supercar Championship Series has been filled by the signing of Steve Owen to drive for Rod Nash Racing's Autobarn-sponsored team.
Owen, 31, will drive the #55 Autobarn Racing Commodore VZ for the full 13- round championship under a Level 1 franchise purchased by team owner Nash at the end of last season.
The team has secured a Commodore from Paul Morris Motorsports, which was used by Morris in the 2003/2004 V8 Supercar seasons before reverting to being the team's spare car in 2005.
Rod Nash Racing will again operate under the Autobarn Racing banner and the team will be run by former Gibson Motorsport team manager Marty Brant, based at the Independent Race Cars workshop in the Melbourne suburb of Hallam.
IRC has previously been involved with running cars in the V8 Supercar Development Series, winning the title with Paul Dumbrell in 2002.
"I had a really frustrating time last year where I sat out plenty of races because of team franchise issues, but this is a nice way to bounce back," said Owen of the deal.
"The other frustrating thing was that the team was grouped with another so that meant we couldn't go and test. It will feel like a little bit of a luxury to go to our first test at Phillip Island this year actually!
"I've had a chance to do six laps in the car on a handover day at Queensland Raceway and I've raced against cars prepared by Marty and IRC in the past in the Development Series so I know he does a good job.
"Having some knowledge of Phillip Island in a V8 Supercar will be a real help when we test. I'll have a clue of what part of the ballpark we are in and what areas we will need to work on before we go to Adelaide."
Owen, a graduate of the Formula Ford and Formula Holden open-wheeler ranks, made his V8 Supercar debut in 1999 at Bathurst with an impressive ninth place finish for Garry Rogers Motorsport.
He became a regular V8 Supercar endurance driver from there on, snaring a coveted drive with Kmart Racing in 2004 at Bathurst.
His eighth-placed finish drew plenty of attention and he was signed to drive for Britek Motorsport in last year's V8 Supercar Series. The Melbourne-based driver has also had stints in the V8 Development Series with Imrie Motorsport and the Holden Young Lions.
Team owner Rod Nash said that while being a single-car team in the series will make things difficult up against a plethora of two-car squads, he is confident good results can come early.
"We wanted to make sure we built a strong technical package and we've been able to do that by sourcing our hardware from the Morris team," said Nash.
"Marty Brant has been around V8 Supercar racing at the highest level in the past during some of the most successful years with Gibson Motorsport. He certainly knows what he is doing and I'm happy with our new tie-up.
"Steve has been an underrated driver in the past and people have forgotten about him after he had a relatively quiet season in 2005. I think he'll surprise a few people."
Autobarn National Marketing Manager Bill Leane said the company dipped its toe in the sponsorship waters of V8 Supercar racing last year and was taking more control of its destiny this season.
"Our program this year and decision making reflects our business mantra - that is that we're a rapidly growing, successful organisation and we won't settle for second best," said Leane.
"Last year we were in the hands of a third party but we deemed it necessary to have more control over our destiny and the way things are setup in 2006 reflects that.
"We're really positive about where the year is going. We have a driver in Steve Owen who has proven in the past that he's quick, can drive hard when required and can drive smart when required.
"The most critical thing is that we have our own car, our own testing program and the model we're working around is based on other team's successful models. That's the only to go - there's no point trying to re- invent the wheel."
Owen will debut in the #55 Autobarn Commodore when the V8 Supercar Series starts with the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 23-26.