ASTC: Mid-season recap

Who Can Beat The BMWs? report by Rod Eime The opposition are throwing everything at Morris and Brabham, but the BMW stranglehold on the 1995 Australian Manufacturers' Championship only tightens. After the running of Rounds 3 and 4 at...

Who Can Beat The BMWs?

report by Rod Eime

The opposition are throwing everything at Morris and Brabham, but the BMW stranglehold on the 1995 Australian Manufacturers' Championship only tightens.

After the running of Rounds 3 and 4 at Symmons Plains and Calder, new and eager contenders are emerging, but currently lack the reliability and consistency of Frank Gardner's "Bimmer Boys."

A promising and aggressive challenge by the ORIX Audi Sport Team at the start of the season seems to have stalled. Team chief and brother of Brad, Kym Jones, concedes that the 210 kW 16 valve 4WD Audis lack the straight line speed of the BMWs and have to rely on the tighter circuits to capitalise on their superior braking and traction. Kym takes full responsibility for the blunder in tyre choice at the inclement Calder round, where he banked on a dry line emerging after a few laps, and sent the cars out on slicks. Bad call! Jones is promising a renewed effort at the more favourable Mallala circuit on June 4. He also believes the Audis will be the goods at the tight, twisty Winton Raceway on August 13.

Pommie import, Jeff Allam, has revived the chances of Ross Palmer's Ford Mondeo outfit after their huge set-back in round one. With new sponsors, Poz Hype Sportswear, and a few (undisclosed) trick bits from the UK, the V6 FWD Mondeo is now up with the BMWs in pace. After a valiant thrust at the Diet Coke pair during the wet Calder night meeting. Allam finished third overall on the night.

"I needed either of the BMWs to make a mistake before I could get past. That just didn't happen and I wasn't about to tap anybody." said a frank Jeff at a packed RPM sponsors' function after the event. Team boss, Ross Palmer, and the many patrons were clearly impressed by the Briton's gutsy drive in the damp Melbourne evening.

Another team to have come to the fore has been that of Steven Richards' Valvoline Alfa Romeo 155TS. The Garry Rogers prepared, factory supported ex-Stefano Modena development car has come with full back-up and Richo Jnr has been keen to demonstrate the potential of the vehicle. It certainly has the straight line speed, as so obviously exhibited at the long-straighted Symmons Plains track in May. A niggling gearbox problem and (rear!) panel damage prevented better results. Many "Alfisti" around the country are hoping that this Alfa racing revival is a prelude to a return to retail level in Australia by the marque.

The "wild child" Volvo 850 estate looks to have settled into an upper mid-field niche - something that I'm sure is not pleasing the very capable team leader, George Shepheard. Driver, Tony Scott, brings a wealth of real cut-and-thrust racing to the team and will not give over to anybody, but the Volvo seems to have some shortage of brakes as races progress, evidenced by Tony's spectacular exits at Oran Park and Symmons.

Privateers Steven Ellery (BMW 318i) and Graham Moore (Opel) have each sounded their intentions to make serious challenges. Ellery, who has enlisted the vastly experienced Campbell Little into the team as engine man, has shown the healthy dividends of that investment with a very quick and solid performance at Symmons Plains. Calder, on the other hand, was somewhat of a disappointment. Moore has managed to get the Indonesian supported Opel Vectra (aka Vauxhall Cavalier) going pretty well "straight out of the box". His Oran Park debut showed much promise after a quick and reliable curtain-raiser for the new car. Symmons and Calder only cemented that consistent performance and the little German rocket has only improved, scoring points in every heat it has started.

Queenslander, Charlie O'Brien, has missed the last two rounds with his NZ-backed BMW 318i which performed so well at Indy, and has lost the benefit of that healthy result from Oran Park. Inspired Racing's Melinda Price has needed to be just that. Her ex-Colin Bond Toyota Seca burst into flames on the grid at Calder, but managed to make it back for heat two - and even registered 8 privateer points.

Steve Hardman's Hyundai assault is not turning out to be a totally happy one. Steve believes he has all the horsepower he can currently get, and now with the new aero kit fitted, all efforts are focussed on suspension and chassis tuning. He has only a bare sprinkle of points to his credit so far.

The Phoenix Motorsport Peugeot 405 is back with Mark Adderton at the wheel - and scoring points - after its round one horror. Newcomer Adderton was still recovering from his substantial Phillip Island injuries when Warwick Rooklyn stepped in for him at Oran Park. Team boss, the very experienced Mike Quinn, still believes there is still more to come from both the car and Mark.

Colourful Mercedes runner, Phil Ward, has had the pin pulled by major sponsor Nokia and has turned his attention to the "cheaper" Commodore V8 he runs occasionally in V8 touring cars. Ward was beginning to show form in the ex-German factory 190E with a spectacular performance at Oran Park. I, for one, will miss Phil's unmistakable style.

Former privateer leader, Justin Matthews, has lost his early season advantage, after the well sorted, but slower ex-Doulman BMW M3 yielded to the stronger Opel. Rob Tweedie (Sierra) is suffering a shortage of engines, while Paul Pickett (BMW 318i) still needs more experience all around to make inroads. Matthews' teammate in the second ex-Doulman BMW M3, Paul Nelson, also began well but has faltered under the new pressure. Mark Seymour's ASV Spares BMW M3 has also proven he can be fast, but erratic results has kept him too behind the eight ball. Ian Spurle and the Daryl Dixon-owned Peugeot 405 has kept low since a big shunt at Oran Park, as has Peter Hills (Sierra), who has not been sighted since retiring with engine strife during round one.

My own prediction for the balance of the season is that we will see Audi topple BMW at either Mallala or Winton (August 13), while at least one more stand-out performance can be expected from Steven Richards, Steve Ellery and Jeff Allam, although I doubt any will win a heat this year.

******************************************* ** RODERICK EIME ** * Motorsport Photojournalist * ** CAMS Canon Kodak MEAA Accredited ** * PO Box 301 RIVERWOOD NSW 2210 * ** Australia ** * Phone/Fax +612 740 6199 * *******************************************

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series General
Drivers Stefano Modena , Steven Ellery , Garry Rogers , Graham Moore , Phil Ward , Peter Hill , Jeff Allam , Campbell Little , Justin Matthews , Steven Richards , Phillip Island