ASTC: Bathurst Kiwi S Schedule Saturday Practice Report

3rd October 1998 Saturday Practice The BMW 320i pairing of Jason Richards and Barrie Thomlinson appear to be the best bet for top honours amongst the Kiwi S Schedule Touring Cars in the AMP Bathurst 1000 scheduled for Sunday. However, expect ...

3rd October 1998 Saturday Practice

The BMW 320i pairing of Jason Richards and Barrie Thomlinson appear to be the best bet for top honours amongst the Kiwi S Schedule Touring Cars in the AMP Bathurst 1000 scheduled for Sunday. However, expect serious competition from Peter van Brugel's Prestige Motorsport Team in the Nissan Sentra SSS.

Having arrived at the track with no previous experience at Bathurst, the Nissan has made huge strides over the week, and the team achieved their immediate goal of splitting the BMWs on the grid for the start of the race. Van Brugel insists that they are only racing the BMWs indirectly, concentrating instead on setting their own pace and bringing the car home in one piece.

Richards, who will take the first stint on Sunday, recorded a lap time of 2:34.85 in Thursday's qualifying to place the BMW 320i twenty fourth on the grid, with the Nissan in 26th spot and the second BMW 320i piloted by Rod Hicks and Kevin Bell rounding out the top 3 in 28th position.

Less than 2 seconds separate the tightly bunched group of Gillon and Pedersen in the Toyota Corona, the Ford Telstar of Short and Goudie, and the ex Craig Baird BMW 325i of Harris and Worsley. All the teams are confident about the reliability of the Schedule S cars for Sunday's race, with the aim of today's practice session to fine tune pit stops, practice with full fuel loads and bed in equipment.

In a move designed to benefit performance, race organisers have agreed to allow the Schedule S cars to run on AvGas, a 100 octane fuel which should deliver extra horsepower.

The weather in Bathurst has been hot and dry all week. Forecasters are predicting the weather to cool, with the possibility of rain on Sunday. Without the opportunity of testing in the wet, the weather could have a significant effect on race strategies and could also reduce the gap in the lap times between the Schedule S cars and the Super Tourers.

It was an unhappy debut for the Suzuki Baleno team who had to admit defeat after rebuilding the car for a second time this week following a racing incident on the top of the mountain with an other car yesterday. Safety considerations forced them to withdraw after unacceptable damage was discovered in the suspension. Meanwhile, Grant Aitken is continuing to make satisfactory progress in hospital after a brake fluid line failure resulted in the Suzuki catapulting over the armco barrier on Wednesday.

Up front Rickard Rydell set a blistering time of 2min 14.92 to take pole position for tomorrow's race. The time cracked over 1.5 seconds off Paul Morris's pole setting performance he recorded for BMW in last years top ten shoot out. The time surprised Rydell, who had to tape the data readout on the dash to make sure it was right. "It was a near perfect lap, I didn't make any mistakes and it was as good as it could have been" said a jubilant Rydell. Steven Richards continues to impress, his 2min 16.41 placing him along side his father Jim Richards who will start the race for Volvo off the front row of the grid, with Tim Harvey in the second Volvo S40 rounding out the top three with a time of 2 min 16.47.

The battle for line honours remains a lottery. Volvo, Nissan and Holden have all held pole prior to Saturday's top ten shoot out. All the teams have shown that they have the pace, so it will be reliability that may ultimately decide the outcome of Sunday's race. Audi are the dark horse and proved last year that only those still circulating at the end of the gruelling 161 laps can mount a challenge for a win.

Tony Bunyan Email editor@nztouringcars.co.nz

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Series General
Drivers Tim Harvey , Jim Richards , Craig Baird , Jason Richards , Barrie Thomlinson , Rickard Rydell , Kevin Bell , Rod Hicks , Steven Richards