UTE: Sandown: Event preview

Sandown 500 meeting bigger & better in 2002 with live tv plus The Great Aussie Ute race. ONE of Australia's most historic motor races, the Sandown 500, returns next month for its 35th running with an exciting class format expected to attract ...

Sandown 500 meeting bigger & better in 2002 with live tv plus The Great Aussie Ute race.

ONE of Australia's most historic motor races, the Sandown 500, returns next month for its 35th running with an exciting class format expected to attract entries for a wide variety of showroom-derived sports and touring cars.

The 500-kilometre race at Melbourne's Sandown International Motor Raceway on Sunday 8 September will be shown live and in full in a six-hour national telecast by SBS Television.

Also featuring in the telecast will be the Great Aussie Ute Race, a three-part event with two drivers each in V8 BRute Fords and Holdens.

The Sandown 500 will offer a total of $36,750 in prize money for production-based cars from the Nations Cup, GT Performance and GT Production Car categories, which are run by PROCAR Australia.

Like last year, when PROCAR Australia organised the event for the first time, the field of up to 49 starters is likely to include more than 20 different makes and models, from Ferraris to Falcons and Chryslers to Commodores.

First place, taken last year by John Bowe and Tom Waring in a Ferrari 360 Challenge, will win $10,000 in 2002. The first teams in GT Performance, plus the V8 Touring, 6-Cylinder Touring and Sports Touring classes of GT Production Cars will earn $3000 each.

Bowe, who currently leads the Australian Nations Cup Championship pointscore for his team PHR Scuderia, is expected to compete with a new co-driver in the non-championship Sandown 500, although his plans have not been announced.

Other leading contenders in the field of 49 are expected to include Paul Stokell and Anthony Tratt in a Lamborghini Diablo, Jim Richards/Tony Quinn in a Porsche GT3 Cup and Geoff Morgan/Rick Bates in an eight-litre Chrysler Viper.

Stokell and V8 Supercar ace Steven Johnson were forced out by suspension failure in their Lamborghini while leading last year's race. Stokell, a three-time winner of the prestigious CAMS Gold Star Award, says he is anxious to make amends.

The Sandown 500 winner will be the first to complete 161 laps of the 3.1 km Melbourne suburban circuit and while the Nations Cup teams will set the pace with their exotic sports cars, the GT Performance cars should not be far behind.

The GT Performance entries will feature some of Australia's top touring car drivers, including Mark King and Geoff Full in King's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, and Trevor Haines, Bob Hughes and Ed Aitken in Haines' factory-supported Ford Falcon Tickford TE50.

King says he can't imagine a better partner for the enduro than Full, his rival in the GT Performance Championship.

"Geoff is leading the championship in an identical Mitsubishi, so we'll be able to combine resources, parts and expertise. He's also very fast and I think we can finish well if we drive consistently and have a good pit strategy," King said.

As well as the Sandown 500 and Great Aussie Ute Race, the three-day PROCAR meeting will host national championship rounds for GT Production Cars, Formula 3, Mitsubishi Mirage and V8 Future Tourers touring cars.

The Sandown 500 was first run in 1964, just one year after the first Bathurst enduro, and was won by Italian Dr Roberto Businello and Australian Ralph Sachs in a works Alfa Romeo.

The pair beat one of the most illustrious line-ups ever to contest an Australian touring car race, including Jackie Stewart from Scotland, Irish rally legend Paddy Hopkirk, Indianapolis 500 two-time winner Rodger Ward and Australians Bob Jane and Alex Davison.

Also on the grid was an unknown young driver from Canada, Allan Moffatt, who was having his first race in Australia.

GREAT AUSSIE UTE RACE ADDS SPICE TO V8 BRutes

THE Great Aussie Ute Race at the Sandown 500 meeting on 6-8 September will add a highly entertaining new format to one of the nation's most popular categories, the V8 BRutes.

Regular drivers of Holden Commodore SS and Ford Falcon XR8 utes from the championship series will be joined by guest drivers, expected to include some from the ranks of V8 Supercar racing.

Each driver will complete a nine-lap race, then share the duties in a longer third race.

"It's a fantastic idea to include a second driver and I think the spectators are going to love the idea of a pit stop and driver change for the first time in V8 BRute racing," said championship leader Warren Luff, who has signed young Mitsubishi Mirage ace James Dutton as his partner.

The Great Aussie Ute Race will be shown on SBS TV from 10 am on Sunday 8 September, before the Sandown 500 start at 12 midday.

-cn-

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Series Supercars
Drivers Steven Johnson , Jackie Stewart , Jim Richards , John Bowe , Alex Davison , Anthony Tratt , Rick Bates , Bob Jane , Geoff Morgan , Trevor Haines , Geoff Full , Mark King , Bob Hughes , Warren Luff , Allan Moffat
Tags AUSUTE