AUSSIE 2 LITRES SEASON PREVIEW The wild waters of Bass Strait provide the spectacular backdrop for Round 1 of the Australian Manufacturers' Championship for FIA C2 cars at Melbourne's Phillip Island. The series for the BTCC style cars got off...
AUSSIE 2 LITRES SEASON PREVIEW
The wild waters of Bass Strait provide the spectacular backdrop for Round 1 of the Australian Manufacturers' Championship for FIA C2 cars at Melbourne's Phillip Island.
The series for the BTCC style cars got off to an inauspicious debut in 94 with poor spectator turnout, small fields and some blatantly staged for television races that severely damaged its credibility.
This year however looks a lot better on paper at least with major entries from teams representing BMW, Audi, Alfa, Volvo, Ford, Toyota, Peugeot, Mercedes, GM (Opel) and Hyundai with rumours of a Gibson Motorsport entry for either Nissan or Renault still strong.
Series favourites BMW return without defending 2 litre champ Tony Longhurst who has returned full time to the big V8s, however his shoes will be more than capably filled by the return of former Can Am and IMSA champ Geoff Brabham from the US. He will join team leader Paul Morris who has forsaken the 5 litre Aussie V8s to concentrate full time on the 2 litre series.
The works team will be backed up by private BMW entries from former Sierra driver Steve Ellery in one of last years works cars, little known club racer Paul Pickett in an ex BTCC E36 as well as a suprise entry for local NASCAR ace Charlie O'Brien from Team BMW New Zealand.
Their main competition should come from the works Audi team for AUSCAR and NASCAR star Brad Jones and New Zealand open wheel ace Greg Murphy. The Audis with their 4WD should be well suited to the tight Aussie circuits and in Jones and Murphy there is no doubting the capabilities of the driving talent. Ford will be represented by a pair of V6 Mondeos for ex Motor Cycle star and Bathurst winner Gregg Hansford and team owner Ross Palmer's son Darren (It's not what you know...) The cars come from the workshop of Andy Rouse and will have all the latest bits. Former DJR team boss Neal Lowe is team manager and while Palmer Jnr. is an unknown quantity, Hansford is an experienced and professional driver who is capable of matching the best.
Volvo's Wonder Wagon the ex BTCC 850 Estate will no doubt attract lots of Media interest if not too many wins.
Driven by former production car champ Tony Scott the car will be prepared by veteran touring car engineer George Shepeard. The team will maintain close links with TWR and Volvo so they will benefit from on-going development of the 850 sedan in Britain.
Peugeot 405's will be run by Mark Adderton for Mike Quinn's team and the Fortech car of Daryl Dixon, both cars are ex BTCC.
Toyota¹s involvement in the series will come from several locally built ex factory Corollas for Andrew Reid and Melinda Price and self built cars for Malcom Rea and Ken Talbert with the ex BTCC Carinas from the camp of New Zealand's Bruce Miles team a possible no show due to a lack of sponsorship. If they do appear then expect them to be a strong mid field runner.
The wildcard of the series will no doubt be the Alfa155S of reigning Formula Ford champion Steven Richards. The Alfas dominated last years BTCC and with the hard charging young Richards at the wheel and preparation from Gary Rogers Valvoline outfit expect to see the Alfa challenging for the lead in most races.
Phil Ward will be back in the Mercedes he drove with such characteristic verve in 94. The team to be sponsored by telephone company Nokia has benefited from considerable input from AMG in Germany but still will be a place contender at best.
The great mystery of the series will be the Graham Moore Sentul team. Financed with considerable input from Indonesian interests including the Presidents son, the team is set to run Opal Vectras in both the Australian and Asia-Pacific series. Moore is a capable driver and has a good business brain to back it up so if the team materialises it should give a respectable account of itself.
Steve Hardman's works assisted Hyundi Lantra is an interesting entry which ran only spasmodically late last year. The Korean manufacturer is new to racing so this team is very much an unknown quantity.
The series will be televised in Australia by the Nine network as part of their GP coverage. It will also be seen in New Zealand on TV3 and in Britain on SKY Sport.
-- Brett Ramsey On-Line Media Consultant. Check out http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts/VPMA/Media3.html