ASTC: New weight penalties for 2001-2002 season

MONDAY, JULY 16: Performance-based weight penalties will be increased from a maximum of 40kg to 80kg in the coming 2001-2002 Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series. Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers...

MONDAY, JULY 16: Performance-based weight penalties will be increased from a maximum of 40kg to 80kg in the coming 2001-2002 Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series.

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, said today the revised weight penalty system for drivers securing top-three results was aimed to ensure the closest possible competition in the eight-round series which begins at Lakeside in Queensland on September 23.

"We have given this matter careful consideration and we are confident the changes will allow a greater number of drivers to be competitive and compete for outright podium positions," he said.

Weight penalties were introduced to the championship for the 2000-2001 series, with 40kg imposed on race winners in the following round, along with 15kg for second place, and 10kg for third.

Under the revised regulations, the first-place weight penalty will be the same, but second position will be increased to 25kg, and third will go up to 15kg. The penalties will now also flow on during the championship and are to be adjusted up and down according to results, with a maximum of 80kg ballast added to a driver's car.

"For example, if a driver wins a race at two successive rounds he will carry the full 80kg, but it can't go any higher than that if someone keeps winning," said O'Reilly.

"However, if that same driver was to finish back in the field at the next round then they would lose the weight applied at the previous event in which they scored a podium finish."

Defending champion Paul Morris said he supported the revised weight penalty system.

"It's going to make the racing closer right through the field and that's good for the championship," said Morris. "We've seen this type of system work well overseas and I'm sure it will be just the same here."

O'Reilly said another change in the regulations for the championship's first full Summer season was the introduction of a single qualifying session for rounds with two races.

In past years there were separate qualifying sessions to determine starting grid positions in the two-race format.

In the 2001-2002 series the sole qualifying session will determine the grid for race one, and starting positions for race two will be set according to the fastest lap by each driver in race one.

O'Reilly said that although one qualifying session had been discarded at championship rounds, it would be replaced by an additional practice session to ensure competitors had the same amount of pre-race track time as in previous seasons.

Newcastle's Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW driver Luke Searle said he expected to benefit from the revised qualifying system because he would be in a position to secure a higher starting position in race two at rounds, compared to previous seasons. In the past Searle was required to start most races from the rear of the grid because he did not compete in qualifying sessions on Saturdays because of religious beliefs.

"This will give me a much better chance to get on the podium in the second race because I should be able to start closer to the front of the grid compared to the last few seasons," said Searle.

This year's championship will be contested by the Super Touring cars which have raced in the series since its inception in 1994, and the modified V8 cars which joined the series in 2000-2001 under the Future Tourers banner.

O'Reilly said the V8s in has championship been renamed TOCA Touring Cars.

The three major awards in the series will be the Drivers Championship, for overall supremacy, plus the Super Touring Cup, and TOCA Touring Cars Cup for the highest points-scoring driver in each class. The Independents Cup and Teams Championship awards have been discarded.

The points system remains unchanged in the Drivers Championship, with 15 for a race win, 12 for second, 10 for third, and decreasing allocations down to 10th place. The same system will operate for the Super Touring Cup and the TOCA Touring Cars Cup.

The championship will be televised for the third successive season by the Seven Network. There will be a delayed two-hour telecast of each round, and a total coverage of 16 hours.

The TOCA Touring Cars entries in the championship will include defending class winner Tim Shaw of Tasmania in a Holden Commodore, and Sydney's Greg East in the Mitsubishi Magna which made it's debut in the final round of the 2000-2001 series at Oran Park in Sydney in February.

A strong field of TOCA Touring Car newcomers in the championship will include Victorians Jason Kennedy, Jeff Emery, and Shannon Sidebottom, South Australian Leanne Ross, and Mark Seaton and Steven Williams from NSW.

-Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Jeff Emery , Luke Searle
Teams Williams