UTE: Season opener preview

V8 UTES PROMISE THRILLS APLENTY IN DEBUT AT AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX Sophisticated Formula 1 spectators might not have seen anything like it, but Australia's quintessential motor racing series, the V8 Utes, is set to thrill the masses in its first...

V8 UTES PROMISE THRILLS APLENTY IN DEBUT AT AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

Sophisticated Formula 1 spectators might not have seen anything like it, but Australia's quintessential motor racing series, the V8 Utes, is set to thrill the masses in its first appearance at the Fosters Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne next week.

The spectacular Ford and Holden V8 Utes are among just four national categories to score a prestigious invitation to join the support race program at the Albert Park event.

A field of 31 V8 Utes will contest three races sponsored by Cleanevent on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the grand prix meeting -- and the action promises to be hot.

A number of off-season changes have produced the most competitive field yet for the opening of the fifth season of ute racing in Australia.

Champion driver Damien White has ditched his Holden SS and returned to the Ford fold, while Albury-based Dave Griffin has followed the same path and will drive a Falcon XR8 prepared by V8 Supercar team Brad Jones Racing.

One of the most keenly-watched V8 Ute recruits will be Danish driver Allan Simonsen, who has joined the Coopers-backed Ford team alongside owner Ian McAlister and former Sydney Roosters footballer Jack Elsegood.

Those following his progress are likely to include McLaren-Mercedes F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen, who Simonsen beat for the Scandinavian Karting Championship several seasons ago.

Simonsen has taken the seat of another young kart star, Luke May, who will be a reserve driver when the Dane's GT commitments take him overseas.

After a season's absence from ute racing, V8 Supercar development series driver Gary MacDonald returns to a two-Holden Kanga Loaders team with 2001 champion Rod Wilson.

Ryal Harris switches from Ford to Holden alongside James Brock at Team Brock, while Adam Bressington continues his Ford relationship and Yanis Derums joins the Holden squad after moving from the Lotus one-make series.

Ute hard-men Charlie Kovacs, Gary Baxter and Kim Jane, all in Holdens, and Ford-mounted Ian Luff and Marcus Zukanovic promise plenty of action.

After three seasons at the wheel of a Ford ute, three-time Bathurst winner Allan Grice has entered a Holden for the Cleanevent V8 Ute races.

"To race at the grand prix is a fabulous opportunity for the V8 Utes teams and I'm sure we'll put on a contest that will be as entertaining as the grand prix," said White, who by his switch to Ford aims to prove he can be a champion with either make.

"Anyone who hasn't see ute racing before will be in for a surprise.

"These things go hard and sound great and there's plenty of sliding and door-to-door racing.

"At the end of six or eight laps, the crowd will be breathless as well as the drivers!"

Timetable -- Cleanevent V8 Utes

Thursday 3 March
9.30 am - Practice (20 min.)
3.30 pm -- Qualifying (20 min.)
5.45 pm -- Race 1 (6 laps); grid decided on qualifying order

Friday 4 March
5.40 pm -- Race 2 (6 laps); grids reversed for faster and slower 50% of qualifiers

Saturday 5 March
4.10 pm -- race 3 (8 laps); grid decided on aggregate points from race 1 and race 2 finishing positions

-ausute-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series CAMS
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Ian McAlister , Brad Jones , Allan Simonsen , Rod Wilson , Ian Luff , Charlie Kovacs , James Brock , Marcus Zukanovic , Dave Griffin , Jack Elsegood , Damien White