BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 6 PREVIEW: Queensland Raceway, Ipswich, Sunday, August 1 RICHARDS READY TO LAUNCH FIGHTBACK Works Volvo driver Jim Richards says he is ready to launch his fightback in this year's BOC...
BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 6 PREVIEW: Queensland Raceway, Ipswich, Sunday, August 1
RICHARDS READY TO LAUNCH FIGHTBACK
Works Volvo driver Jim Richards says he is ready to launch his fightback in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship title chase when the series resumes at the new Queensland Raceway circuit in Ipswich this Sunday (August 1).
Richards, who trails championship leader Paul Morris of Queensland by 21 points after five of the eight rounds, tested his front-drive Volvo Racing S40 on the 3.1km Ipswich circuit on July 12.
"This is the first time the Super Tourers have been to the new track (Queensland Raceway), but I did some test laps there last month to check gear ratios and some other things," said Richards.
"There are four straights which will help the Volvo's top-end speed, so hopefully we can get some good results and close the gap on Paul (Morris) in the points. I haven't given up in the championship because things can turn around so quickly, as we've already seen this season."
Richards led the championship by 15 points after two rounds, but Morris has dominated the past three rounds by winning six of the eight races in his rear-drive ex-works NEMO racing BMW 320.
"We've seen a pattern where the BMW beats everyone off the start-line because it has rear-wheel-drive, and then the rest of us chase it down," said Richards. "The Volvo is capable is catching up, but getting past the BMW is another matter. I'd expect to see the same kind of racing again."
The round at Queensland Raceway comprises three races, over 10, 13, and 20 laps, and the final event includes a compulsory pit-stop for all cars to change two wheels.
Morris, who won the championship in 1995 and again two years later, leads the series with 152 points, followed by Richards on 131, and Audi Sport Australia team-mates Brad Jones of Albury and Victorian Matthew Coleman equal third on 103.
MORRIS WAITS ON RESULT OF PROTEST
The championship prospects of series leader Paul Morris may hinge on the outcome of a protest against him which will be heard at Queensland Raceway this weekend. The protest was lodged by Volvo Racing over an incident in the second race in the previous round at Oran Park on July 18.
Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, said the protest from Volvo Racing would be considered by Race Stewards at Queensland Raceway. The protest was lodged after Richards and Morris made contact when dicing for the lead at Oran Park, and the Volvo was damaged in the incident and did not start in the final event.
Morris said he would be surprised if any action was taken because he had already been cleared of any misconduct by Race Director Peter Wollerman after a post-race investigation into the incident.
"The umpire has made his decision, but Volvo can't seem to accept it," said Morris. "All I did was hold the racing line into a corner - the Volvo tried to pass me when there wasn't enough room and went off the track after we touched. It was a racing incident."
Morris aims to continue his winning momentum at Queensland Raceway, but said the results would be unpredictable because a Super Touring championship round had not been held at the circuit before.
"It's hard to say who's going to have the advantage until we get down to some serious practice," said Morris. "I've done a few exploratory laps there in the BMW and I'd say there are sections of the track that will suit the front-wheel-drive cars and other places where we will be quick."
JONES & WORKS AUDI TEAM VENTURE INTO UNKNOWN
Defending Super Touring champion Brad Jones says he and Audi Sport Australia team-mate Matthew Coleman are battling a lack of knowledge of the Queensland Raceway circuit as they prepare strategy to try and beat championship pacesetters Paul Morris (BMW) and Jim Richards (Volvo) this weekend.
"I've never seen the new track, let alone turned a wheel on it, so for our team it's a case of going into the unknown," said Jones. "With no data to fall back on, practice and qualifying are going to be important to try and find the best possible car set-up."
Jones said he was delighted with the increasing competitiveness of the front-drive Audi as the championship progressed, evidenced by a race win in round four at Winton in Victoria on June 20..
"We had a slow start to the season, but we've proved we can win," said Jones. "Unfortunately we're a long way back in the points so we need the BMW and Volvo to have some problems to have a chance of keeping the title. Matthew (Coleman) is doing a great job in his first season of Super Touring, so hopefully both cars will be competitive this weekend."
SUPER TOURING BRIEFS
Championship leader PAUL MORRIS, 1998 title-holder BRAD JONES, works Volvo driver MARK ADDERTON, and Sydney Independents Cup racer AARON McGILL will be in Ipswich Mall this Wednesday (July 28) to promote the round at Queensland Raceway. Morris' NEMO Racing BMW 320 will be on display, along with Jones' works Audi A4, a Volvo S40, and McGill's Trinovin Ford Mondeo. The promotion will be held from midday until 1.30pm. Ipswich radio station Star 106.9 is suppoirting the promotion with a competition to win a ride in Jones' Audi at the track on Friday.
Queensland's Gun Racing Alfa Romeo driver DAVID AUGER credits his rapid improvement this year to an updated aerodynamic package, which he secured during an off-season trip to Italy. The 38-year-old from Brisbane finished sixth outright and second in the Independents Cup category in the second race of the previous round at Oran Park. Auger was in fourth place in the third and final race at Oran Park until forced to retire becaise of a broken throttle pedal. "The new 'aero kit' has transformed the car, and it's now much quicker through corners. In the last couple of years the rear-end lacked grip, but now it's much more stable. I think we're capable of a top five finish before the end of the season."
Newcastle's TROY SEARLE will replace younger brother Luke Searle behind the wheel of the Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 318 at Queensland Raceway. The pair are sharing driving dutires in the car during the championship. Luke Searle recorded the best results of his debut Super Touring season by scoring championship points in all three races in the previous round at Oran Park. Troy Searle said they had benefitted from assistance from championship leader Paul Morris and his the NEMO Racing BMW team. "Paul (Morris) and his team have worked on the engine and they've also improved the handling of our car," said Troy Searle. "It's now going better in all areas."
Sydney driver MILTON LESLIGHT is now receiving support from Lithgow Toyota for his All Auto Parts Carina team. Leslight is in his second year in the championship, and his team comprises solely volunteers, including female staff.
QUEENSLAND RACEWAY - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, JULY 29: Practice 9am-5pm
FRIDAY, JULY 30: Practice 10-10.30am, 12.10-12.40pm, 2.15-2.45pm
SATURDAY, JULY 31: Practice 9.30-9.45am, 11.15-11.45am, Qualifying 1.45-2.15pm
SUNDAY, AUGUST 1: Race 1 (10 laps) 10.45am, Race 2 (13 laps) 1pm, Race 3 (20 laps with compulsory pit-stop) 3.05pm
DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): Morris 152, Richards 131, Jones 103, Coleman 103, Hills 70, Watts 40, Canto 33, Adderton 29, Henderson 23, Robson 22, Auger 21, Williamson 17, Newman 16, McGill 13, Wall 8, L. Searle 8, Townshend 3, Rea 3, Cornish 3, Elias 1, Leslight 1
MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): Volvo 159, Audi 153
TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): Audi Sport Australia 261, Volvo Racing 208, Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 144, Project Racing 77, TC Motorsport 17
INDEPENDENTS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 5): Hills 164, Canto 87, Robson 71, Auger 70, Newman 56, Henderson 55, Watts 49, McGill 48, L. Searle 40, Cornish 28, Wall 22, Rea 19, Leslight 14, Elias 14, Stones 10, Townshend 8, T. Searle 7, Letcher 7, Zonneveld 5, Downard 4
CHAMPIONSHIP RACE WINS (1994-99): Paul Morris 31, Brad Jones 23, Geoff Brabham 9, Cameron McConville 9, Tony Longhurst 6, Jim Richards 5, Greg Murphy 3, Steven Richards 1, Patrick Watts 1
CHAMPIONSHIP POLE POSITIONS (1994-99): Paul Morris 19, Brad Jones 14, Jim Richards 14, Geoff Brabham 12, Tony Longhurst 5, Steven Richards 4, Greg Murphy 4, Cameron McConville 3, James Kaye 1, Craig Baird 1, Patrick Watts 1