P/GT: Queensland preview

Expanded Sunshine State Squad readies for Queensland Raceway Challenge. There is nothing quite like having the home ground advantage -- that is exactly what the strong Queensland contingent in the ever growing Speed Energy Drink Australian GT...

Expanded Sunshine State Squad readies for Queensland Raceway Challenge.

There is nothing quite like having the home ground advantage -- that is exactly what the strong Queensland contingent in the ever growing Speed Energy Drink Australian GT Championship, Porsche driver's challenge will be thinking as the series prepares for it's second round at Ipswich's Queensland Raceway this weekend.

Four drivers entered for this round call Queensland home and have the machinery and talent to make a significant impact at the front of what is an increasingly competitive field of high performance Porsche and GT specification cars.

Leading the charge of the Queenslanders will be Industry Central Ferrari 360 Challenge driver John Teulan and Instant Foundations Honda NSX Brabham man Ian Palmer, who both had encouraging performances at the series' opening round at Phillip Island a month ago.

Teulan, in a Ferrari slightly overweight compared to its rivals, put in a spirited drive to end the weekend with a plethora of top six performances at the series' opening round in the distinctive yellow and red Prancing Horse. Teulan joins an expanded Ferrari attack for this weekend, with Dean Savage Neil Bryson and Ted Huglin's 360GT Specification car all making the trip north for the series' second round in their similar cars.

One of the surprise performances of the opening round, Ian Palmer's NSX has found a new turn of speed and reliability for the 2005 season thanks to (a third) change of engine, the aggressive looking car now sporting a turbocharged Honda engine under its sprawling flanks.

Palmer warned that despite the strong run at the Victorian Circuit, there would be more to come from the NSX when it gets going at the 3.12km Queensland circuit.

"The car has another two seconds up it's sleeve, so with the (new) LSD, some bigger brakes and the engine running reliably we should be around the pace of the (GT3) Cup Car, which is where it should really be," he said.

"We have upgraded to a Limited Slip Differential (since Phillip Island), which we think will make the car a lot better into the corners -- especially at Queensland -- which is where we have been struggling in recent times."

One driver steering a car with a huge motorsport pedigree will be Phillip Holzberger, who makes his first ever race start this weekend at the wheel of his #81 Asset Val Porsche 911 GT3RS -- the same car that took glory at the Le Mans 24hour race in 2002. Operated then by US-Based Porsche team The Racers Group and driven by Timo Bernhard, Lucas Luhr and team owner Kevin Buckler, the team finished 16th overall in the renowned event, winning the GT Class en route.

As well as Le Mans, the car saw success at the Mosport and Mid Ohio American LeMans Series rounds, before successfully qualifying for the renowned 24 hour event again in 2003 and 2004.

Holzberger -- who flew to the United States to purchase the car directly from The Racers Group team and is entered this weekend in the open class of the Porsche Drivers Challenge -- has contested numerous events in the Porsche Marque, including Dutton Rally's and Porsche Sprints in Queensland, but makes his first ever race meeting appearance this weekend.

"Im looking forward to it, with a little bit of trepidation," he said. "I know the car is up to it -- we tested it at Morgan Park recently and it went really well -- its just a matter of making sure I drive carefully and keep it off the walls and other cars!"

Joining Teulan, Palmer and Holzberger as home town heroes for this weekend's round will be Russell Kempnich, a longtime Porsche Driver's Challenge competitor. Kempnich this weekend upgrades from his existing class B mount to a much newer -- and faster -- Porsche GT3 for his home round to ensure that he challenges right at the front of the Class A Porsche field.

The Queensland competitors join a substantially deeper field for this weekend's second round of the brand new championship, with many new and existing competitors set to take the field forward a notch in competition this weekend.

Current series leader Peter Hackett returns in his Team Lamborghini Australia Lamborghini Diablo GTR, and will be ready to take up the challenge to South Australian Bryce Washington -- his closest competitor at Phillip Island in May.

Perhaps the final word in preparation for Queensland should go to the series leader who has some open wheel success at the Queensland venue in the past.

"Im really looking forward to racing at Queensland," commented the Hackett. "There is always a really good vibe there from the Queensland fans and the weather is always fantastic!"

Round 2 of the Speed Energy Drink Australian GT Championship, Porsche Drivers Challenge gets underway this weekend with Practice and Qualifying on Sunday, before three races -- of varying lengths - Sunday.

-rc-

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Series CAMS
Drivers Lucas Luhr , Kevin Buckler , Timo Bernhard , John Teulan , Peter Hackett , Ian Palmer , Bryce Washington , Dean Savage , Russell Kempnich , Phillip Island