ASTC: Likeside circuit Queensland preview

Series leader Paul Morris is concerned the 40kg weight penalty imposed on his all-conquering BMW threatens to end his domination of Queensland's Lakeside circuit in round two of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship this Sunday...

Series leader Paul Morris is concerned the 40kg weight penalty imposed on his all-conquering BMW threatens to end his domination of Queensland's Lakeside circuit in round two of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship this Sunday (June 18).

Morris took the chequered flag in all three races in the series opener at Oran Park in Sydney on May 28, and is the first victim of a new rule introduced this year by championship organisers TOCA Australia which requires winners to compete with an additional 40kg at the following round.

The 33-year-old Morris has won 10 of the past 12 championship races on the 2.4km Lakeside circuit since 1995, but he believes the weight penalty will slow the performance of his rear-drive Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i.

Morris' car at Lakeside will race at 1,040kg, compared to the minimum weight of 975kg for front-drive cars (without TOCA Australia weight penalties).

"Usually the BMW is the car to beat at Lakeside, but with the extra weight I'm not so sure this time," said Morris. "We're expecting to be about a second-a-lap slower toward the end of the races because the additional weight means more wear and tear on the tyres and brakes."

Morris said he planned to distribute the weight around the inside of the car in a bid to maintain optimum balance for the two races at Lakeside, over 17 and 27 laps.

"We will probably put about 25kg where the passenger seat would be in a road car, and position other bits of lead around to balance the corner weight on all four wheels," said Morris.

Morris. who has won the championship and leads this year's series with 46 points, said his tactics would be to try and qualify on the front-row of the grid and make an early break on his rivals, most of whom are racing front-drive cars.

"We need to get away in the first few laps because the others are going to close as the races go on," he said. "You've got to remember all the front-drive cars are at 25kg lighter than the BMW to start with even before any extra weight goes in."

Brisbane's David Auger is brimming with confidence for Lakeside, despite the fact he will be forced to race with a 15kg weight penalty after finishing runner-up in the championship opener at Oran Park. The Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo raced by 39-year-old Auger must race at a minimum 990kg.

Auger finished with second, third, and fourth placings in the three races at Oran Park, his most successful round since his championship debut in 1997. He is second in the championship with 30 points and leads the Independents Cup.

"We've got a new engine from Germany in the car and it's brought us closer to the front than we've ever been before," said Auger. "The important thing for a quick lap at Lakeside is maintaining high corner speed through the fast turns. If we do that we can put pressure on anyone out there."

Sydney's Jim Cornish will make his long-awaited debut in the upgraded Visit Your Vet Honda Accord at Lakeside. Mechanical problems prevented the 29-year-old veterinarian from racing the Honda in the opening round, but he completed a successful 20-lap test session at Oran Park on Monday (June 12).

"The car has a new engine and gearbox, and we gave it a thorough systems check and everything was fine," said Cornish. "My initial impression is the Honda has heavier steering, compared to the Nissan (Primera) I raced in '99, but it feels easier to position on the track."

TC Motorsport owner-driver Tony Newman has sourced new engine parts from Great Britain to ensure his ex-works Peugeot 406 is competitive at Lakeside. The 43-year-old Sydney-based businessman from New Zealand was struck down by engine problems before and during round one at Oran Park.

"We had trouble with the engine before Oran Park, but we tried to race and there seemed to be one problem after another," said Newman. "There will be virtual new engine in the car at Lakeside, with some bits and pieces from Motorsport Developments in the UK."

Sydney driver Paul Leabeater spent two days driving an HQ Holden at Lakeside on May 31 and June 1 to prepare for his Super Touring debut on the circuit in the second round of the championship. The former HQ Holden racer is contesting this year's championship in a Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra, prepared by JPS Performance in Sydney, and finished all three races in round one.

"I've never raced at Lakeside before so when an opportunity came up to spend some time on the track in an HQ (Holden) I took it," said Leabeater. "Lakeside is a high-speed track and outside Bathurst it's one of the more exciting and flowing places I've driven at. It's going to be different in the Hyundai, but at least I know my way around. We have a new team this season and we were pleased with the reliability of the Hyundai at Oran Park. Now we're working on finding more speed."

Newcastle's Luke Searle is buoyed for Lakeside after becoming a father for the first time. The SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i driver and wife Sarah became parents on June 2, with a son Griffen.

"We thought the baby was going to come on the weekend of Oran Park (first championship round), so I was really nervous that weekend," said Searle. "Now it's happened and everything is fine so I'll be more relaxed at Lakeside. I want to get on the podium this weekend!"



RACE LAP RECORD: 52.23-secs, Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40, 1998

1999 POLE POSITIONS: Race 1: 53.00-secs, Patrick Watts (GB) Peugeot 406 Race 2: 60.62-secs, Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40 (track wet)

1999 RACE WINNERS: Race 1: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 2: Patrick Watts (GB) Peugeot 406


FRIDAY, JUNE 16: Practice 12noon-12.45pm, 2.35pm-3.20pm

SATURDAY, JUNE 17: Practice 9.30-9.45am; Qualifying session 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying session 2, 1.45-2.15pm

SUNDAY, JUNE 18: Race 1 (17 laps) starts 12.45pm, Race 2 (27 laps) starts 3.05pm

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): POS DRIVER CAR POINTS 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 46 2. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 30 3. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 22 4. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 18 5. John Henderson (NSW) Henderson Racing Holden Vectra 16 Allan Letcher (WA) McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 16 7. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 11 Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 11 9. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 10 10. Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 8 11. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 6 12. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 2

INDEPENDENTS CUP POINTS (after round 1): Auger 46, Letcher 30, Downard 23, Miller 22, Leabeater 20, Searle 12, Fitzgerald 6

TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): Knight Racing 57, McGill Motorsport 52

Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Jim Richards , Paul Morris , Luke Searle , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Peter Hill , Patrick Watts