ASTC: Mallala Preview

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 3 PREVIEW: Mallala, South Australia, Sunday, May 30 NO PIT-STOPS AT MALLALA FOR SUPER TOURERS Compulsory pit-stops in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship will be ...

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 3 PREVIEW: Mallala, South Australia, Sunday, May 30

NO PIT-STOPS AT MALLALA FOR SUPER TOURERS

Compulsory pit-stops in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship will be temporarily discarded for the third round of the 1999 series at Mallala near Adelaide this Sunday (May 30).

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, said the decision had been made because of the narrow width of the pit-lane entry.

"Mallala has excellent facilities, but we are concerned with the design of the pit-lane entry, especially if two or more cars want to come in at the same time," said O'Reilly. "For example, if a car enters pit-lane slowly with some sort of problem it may inadvertently hold up someone else behind and cost them time. We want to avoid this type of situation."

Compulsory pit-stops requiring all cars to change two wheels were introduced into the championship in 1998 and have been held in the second race of most rounds since then, apart from at the Lakeside circuit in Queensland.

O'Reilly said the first of the two races on the 2.6km Mallala circuit would be over 16 laps and the second event would be 25 laps.

Works Volvo S40 driver Jim Richards leads the championship with 55 points, followed by England's Patrick Watts on 40 in a Peugeot 406, Paul Morris on 37 in a NEMO Racing BMW 320, and Audi Sport Australia pair Brad Jones on 36 and Matthew Coleman on 27.

RICHARDS AIMS FOR HISTORIC WIN FOR VOLVO AT MALLALA

Championship leader JIM RICHARDS will create history for Swedish manufacturer Volvo if he can win one of the two races at Mallala. Volvo has never won a championship race on the Mallala circuit. The previous 10 championship races held at Mallala since the series began in 1994 were all won by either BMW or rival German manufacturer Audi. Richards, a six-times Bathurst 1000 winner, rocketed into the lead of this year's championship when he drove his front-drive Volvo S40 to victory in both races in the previous round at Oran Park on May 2.

"Oran Park was good for Volvo in terms of results and it's fair to say we probably had the best car and tyre package there," said Richards. "At the same time we're not getting carried away, because we don't know how the control Yokohama tyres will work on the various cars at Mallala. Maybe Volvo will come out on top again, but it's also possible the BMW or the Audis will have a better set-up with the control tyres. I'm not making any predictions."

MORRIS ALSO CHASING FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP WIN AT MALLALA

Like Jim Richards and Volvo, dual Australian Super Touring title-holder PAUL MORRIS is also chasing his first championship race win at Mallala this Sunday.

Morris has won a record 25 championship races since 1994, but is yet to finish first at Mallala. The 31-year-old Gold Coast driver, who won the championship title in 1995 and again in 1997, returns this year in an ex-works rear-drive NEMO Racing BMW 320. Morris won the opening race in this year's championship at Lakeside in Queensland on April 18.

"We may be at a disadvantage at Mallala with no pit-stops," said Morris. "Our car seems a little better on cold tyres than the front-drive Volvos and Audis at the start of races, and it would have been the same after pit-stops. The biggest problem we have is keeping the tyres up to operating temperature. It didn't show out at Lakeside because the car is always doing something there, but you notice it going into corners at the end of longer straights. We are lacking grip going into the corners, and then it bites when the temperature goes up."

JONES HOPES TO MAINTAIN PAST SUCCESS AT MALLALA

Defending Super Touring champion BRAD JONES is the most successful driver in championship races at Mallala, with three race wins in works Audis. The 39-year-old from Albury won one race in each of the past three Mallala rounds in 1996-97-98. Other championship race winners at Mallala since the series began in 1994 are Tony Longhurst (BMW), Geoff Brabham (BMW), and Cameron McConville (Audi) with two, and Greg Murphy (Audi) with one. Jones is currently fourth in this year's championship in a front-drive Audi A4, after driving quattro all-wheel-drive cars from 1995-98.

"Our top-speed with the front-drive car is as good as anyone else, but we've had problems getting the power down," said Jones. "We're learning more about the car and we're improving - I'm sure our first win of the season isn't too far away. Taking away the pit-stops this weekend won't help us. Our team has generally been the quickest with pit-stops since they came into the championship.

SUPER TOURING BRIEFS

Sydney Independents Cup driver ANTHONY ROBSON will make his debut in a Honda Accord at Mallala. The 29-year-old has previously raced a BMW 318 in the championship since the start of the 1998 season. The Honda Accord that Robson will race at Mallala was driven in the opening round of this year's championship by Great Britain's Jamie Wall. In 1998 Sydney's Mark Adderton drove the same Honda Accord to fifth outright in the championship and second in the Independents Cup.

"Based on Mark Adderton's results in '98 the car has the speed to run near the front of the Independents Cup," said Robson. "The BMW was a good entry-level car for me to come into the championship, and getting into the Honda will hopefully allow me to move up a few places."

Starion Team Peugeot team manager Paul Grimm said English speedster PATRICK WATTS would not drive at Mallala. Grimm said he was attempting to secure sponsorship backing for the 42-year-old Kent driver to compete in the final four rounds of the championship.

MALLALA - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS

CIRCUIT LENGTH : 2.6km

RACE LAP RECORD : 1-min 10.25-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4, 19.7.98

1998 POLE POSITIONS:        Race 1:  1-min 9.61-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4 
                        Race 2:  1-min 9.57-secs, Cameron McConville (Vic) Audi A4
1998 RACE WINNERS:        Race 1:  Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4
                        Race 2:  Cameron McConville (Vic) Audi A4

MALLALA - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE

Friday, May 28 : Practice - 10am-10.30am, 12.05pm-12.35pm, 2.10pm-2.40pm

Saturday, May 29: Qualifying 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying 2, 2.25-2.45pm

Sunday, May 30 : Race 1 (21 laps) starts 12.45pm; Race 2 (24 laps) starts 3.05pm

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after Round 2): Richards 55, Watts 40, Morris 37, Jones 36, Coleman 27, Hills 23, Williamson 17, Wall 8, Canto 7, Henderson 7, Auger 5, Townshend 3, Robson 1, L. Searle 1, Cornish 1

MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after Round 2): Volvo 60, Audi 48

TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after Round 2): Audi Sport Australia 86, Volvo Racing 83, Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 44, Project Racing 29

INDEPENDENTS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after Round 2): Hills 51, Watts 49, Henderson 24, Auger 23, Wall 22, Canto 20, Robson 15, Cornish 13, L. Searle 11, Newman 8, Townshend 8, Leslight 6, Rea 6, McGill 6, Stones 1

Mike Porter - mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Greg Murphy , Cameron McConville , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Tony Longhurst , Geoff Brabham , Patrick Watts
Teams Williams