BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 5 PREVIEW: Oran Park South Circuit, NSW, Sunday, July 18 RICHARDS, MORRIS & JONES SET FOR BATTLE Jim Richards and Paul Morris, the dominant drivers in this year's BOC Gases Australian...
BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 5 PREVIEW: Oran Park South Circuit, NSW, Sunday, July 18
RICHARDS, MORRIS & JONES SET FOR BATTLE
Jim Richards and Paul Morris, the dominant drivers in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship, expect another close battle for the chequered flag when the series resumes at Oran Park in Sydney this Sunday (July 18).
However, both are wary their supremacy will be challenged on Oran Park's 1.9km South Circuit by rejuvenated works Audi driver Brad Jones, the 1998 Super Touring champion who broke through for his first race win of this year's series in the previous round at Winton in Victoria on June 20.
After four of the eight rounds Richards leads the championship with 107 points in a works front-drive Volvo S40, followed by Morris on 106 in a NEMO Racing BMW 320, and Jones on 83 in an Audi A4.
"Paul (Morris) and I have been racing nose-to-tail all season, and it's going to be the same this weekend," said Richards. "The Audis are now much more competitive, so you can't say who will have the advantage at Oran Park until we get there and start sorting through car set-ups and tyres."
The Oran Park round comprises three races over 16 laps, 21 laps, and 31 laps. The final race features a compulsory pit-stop for all cars to change two wheels. The three-race format was introduced at Winton. Previous rounds were contested over two races since the series began in 1994.
Richards, who won both races in the previous championship round on the Oran Park South Circuit on May 2, believes Morris will have an advantage at the race starts in his rear-drive BMW.
"The BMW gets off the line better than the front-drive cars, so I'll probably be coming from behind again," said Richards. "At the same time, Oran Park has a long front straight and that's where the Volvo can use its top-end speed."
Morris, the Super Touring champion in 1995 and 1997, but without a win at Oran Park since 1994, said his Gold Coast-based team was concentrating on improving it's pit-stop technique.
"Volvo was quicker than us in the pits at Winton and that's where we lost the lead in the last race," said Morris. "We're a small team, but we're working hard to get in and out of the pits quicker. If we'd won that last race at Winton we'd be leading the championship so that's how important it is."
Jones, who has four championship race wins on the Oran Park South Circuit sice 1996, said qualifying on the front-row would be critical to his prospects.
"We put the car on the front-row at Winton and beat the BMW to the first corner, which made winning a lot easier," said Jones. "We proved it's possible for a front-drive car to beat the BMW off the line. The Yokohama control tyres seem to work much better on our cars now. At Oran Park you need the car balanced so it changes direction quickly through the medium-speed corners."
Both Jones and Morris tested their cars at Oran Park last Friday in preparation for this Sunday's round, which has attracted a season-high 23 entries.
COLEMAN FACES DASH TO ORAN PARK FROM THE SNOW
Works Audi newcomer Matthew Coleman will take a short break from his fulltime ski coaching duties at Mt Buller to race at Oran Park, and in the following three rounds of the championship. Coleman, who is fourth in the championship in his first year of Super Touring racing, is a professional coach of the crack F.I.S team at Mt Buller. The squad comprises Australia's most promising slalom competitors from the ages of 15 to 21. Coleman, who travelled to Austria with the squad the past two years, will make return trips from Mt Buller to racetracks for the remainder of the Super Touring championship.
"There are a lot of things in motor racing that you can relate to skiing," said Coleman. "You have to be precise with your entry and exits around the gates in slalom, just like cornering on the race-track. Timing, co-ordination, balance, and fitness are also common to both.
NOTE: There is a high resolution photographic image of Matthew Coleman skiing at Mt Buller on the TOCA Australia website: www.toca.com.au
SUPER TOURING NEWS BRIEFS
NSW driver MIKE FITZGERALD will make his debut in this year's championship at Oran Park. Fitzgerald escaped injury, but severely damaged his Peugeot 405 in a high-speed crash in the final round of 1997 at Amaroo Park. He repaired the car and raced in the 1998 Bathurst 1000 with Jenni Thompson. Another NSW driver, NIGEL STONES, is also entered for Oran Park in an ex-Paul Pickett Hyundai Lantra. He made his championship debut at Oran Park in the second round this year.
The traditional rivalry between Holden and Ford has produced some interesting statistics in this year's championship. JOHN HENDERSON, driving a Holden Vectra, has dominated Ford rivals in qualifying this year. However, Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo team-mates PETER HILLS and DEAN CANTO have recorded better race results. In the seven qualifying sessions this year Henderson has headed his Ford rivals in five of them. Hills or Canto have finished ahead of the Vectra in seven of the nine races. Hills leads the Independents Cup on 118 points, Canto is second on 63, and Henderson is third on 55.
Trinovin Ford Mondeo driver AARON McGILL faces a hectic schedule of sponsorship and promotional appearances during the remainder of the championship and before and after the Bathurst 1000 on October 3. McGill will participate in road shows and appear in shopping centres in Toowoomba and Ipswich in Queensland, Wollongong, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, and Newcastle in NSW, and at Canberra in the A.C.T. He will also conduct road safety seminars at each venue.
SUPER TRUCKS will be part of the championship support program for the first time at Oran Park, contesting three races - one over six laps, and the other two over 10 laps. Other support categories are Pirelli Porsche Cup, ROH Wheels Commodore Cup, Sports Sedans, and Formula Two.
ORAN PARK - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, JULY 15: Practice 9am-5pm FRIDAY, JULY 16: Practice 10-10.30am, 12.10-12.40pm, 2.15-2.45pm SATURDAY, JULY 17: Practice 9.30-9.45am, 11.15-11.45am, Qualifying 1.45-2.15pm SUNDAY, JULY 18: Race 1 (16 laps) 10.45am, Race 2 (21 laps) 1pm, Race 3 (31 laps with compulsory pit-stop) 3.05pm
ORAN PARK SOUTH CIRCUIT - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS CIRCUIT LENGTH: 1.9km RACE LAP RECORD: 42.80-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4, 26.4.98 1999 RACE WINNERS (round 2): Race 1: Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40. Race 2: Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40
DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): Richards 107, Morris 106, Jones 83, Coleman 75, Hills 51, Watts 40, Henderson 23, Canto 23, Williamson 17, Auger 14, Robson 14, Adderton 11, McGill 10, Wall 8, Newman 5, L. Searle 4, Townshend 3, Rea 3, Cornish 2, Elias 1, Leslight 1
MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): Volvo 117, Audi 114
TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): Audi Sport Australia 202, Volvo Racing 154, Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 107, Project Racing 60
INDEPENDENTS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 4): Hills 118, Canto 63, Henderson 55, Robson 53, Auger 50, Watts 49, McGill 37, Newman 28, Cornish 23, L. Searle 23, Wall 22, Rea 19, Leslight 14, Elias 10, Townshend 8, T. Searle 7, Stones 1
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