ASTC: Oran Park preview

High-flying BMW driver Paul Morris will face his toughest challenge of this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship this Sunday at Oran Park in Sydney as his rivals regroup and focus on ending his 100-percent winning...

High-flying BMW driver Paul Morris will face his toughest challenge of this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship this Sunday at Oran Park in Sydney as his rivals regroup and focus on ending his 100-percent winning record.

Morris won all five races in the previous two rounds at Oran Park's South Circuit on May 28 and at Lakeside in Queensland on June 18 in his rear-drive Mount Cotton Estate BMW 320i. The three-times Super Touring champion from Queensland leads this year's series by 32 points and is the favourite for the two 23-lap races in round three on Oran Park's 2.6km Grand Prix layout.

However, two of Morris' chief rivals, Sydney drivers John Henderson and Peter Hills, have made improvements to their cars and fixed the problems which ended their challenges at Lakeside.

Policeman Henderson, who finished second to Morris in the first race at Lakeside, said the differential in his Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra had been rebuilt, and he expected to be in a position to pressure Morris at Oran Park.

"We were right there at Lakeside until a front strut collapsed, but that's been replaced and we've done some work on the 'diff' so the car should be the best it's ever been," said Henderson. "Oran Park is also my 'home' track and I've always been competitive there. As always, the BMW will be hard to beat because it accelerates so good, but I think the Vectra is as quick for top speed and that's important on the long front straight at Oran Park."

Hills, the 1999 Independents Cup winner, said he was desperate for his first championship race win at Oran Park after engine problems thwarted him at Lakeside and he slipped to sixth in the series in his Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo.

"We split a piston and didn't score a point, and we can't afford that to happen again," said Hills. "The pistons, rings, and valves have been replaced and we've also upgraded the (Motec) engine management software. Paul (Morris) has been a class act for many years, but no one is unbeatable and hopefully I'm the one who can end his winning run."

Morris, who has won a record 38 championship races since 1994, believes a factor in his success this year is the expertise of his Gold Coast-based team in fine-tuning his BMW's suspension to suit the various circuits and maximise the performance of the Yokohama control tyres in the category.

"Our team's strength is paying attention to detail and doing all the basic things right," said Morris. "We've been qualifying on the front-row, making good starts, and finishing races, and that's what you've got to do to win championships. The BMW is fast, but its reliability is just as important."

Morris will race with a 40kg weight penalty at Oran Park after his wins at Lakeside under new regulations introduced this year by championship organisers TOCA Australia. His BMW will weigh 1,040kg in race trim.

Other drivers subject to weight penalties at Oran Park are Henderson, Hill's teenage team-mate Alan Gurr, and Queenslander David Auger in the Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo. Henderson and Hills will race with an additional 15kg, after recording second placings at Lakeside. A 10kg penalty has been imposed on Auger for his third place at Lakeside. The other front-drive cars will race at 975kg, and the remaining rear-drive BMWs will be 1,000kg.


Queenslander David Auger, who is currently second in the championship, believes the Yokohama control tyres introduced into the series in 1999 have helped close the gap between the frontrunning cars and Independents Cup competitors this year. The 39-year-old Brisbane businessman led a championship race for the first time in the previous round at Lakeside, despite the fact he has retained his eligibility for the Independents Cup.

"The best thing about the (Yokohama) control tyres is their durability," said Auger. "I've been running near the front and I've finished every race this season, and I haven't had a hint of a tyre problem. The control tyres are the one of the best things to come into the championship because they're cost-effective as well as making the racing closer."


NSW driver Aaron McGill and his Trinovin Racing team have overhauled the gearbox, clutch, and shock-absorbers on his Nissan Primera in the past two weeks in a bid to be more competitive at Oran Park. McGill was part of a lengthy four-way dice for the lead in the second race of the previous round at Lakeside, but he was forced to withdraw in the closing stages because of mechanical problems. He is currently ninth in the championship. McGill is operating a two-car team this year, also preparing the Ford Mondeo raced by Perth's Allan Letcher, who is fifth in the championship.

"We've stripped the front-end of the Nissan and done a lot of work," said McGill. "There are new gearbox and clutch parts, and we've rebuilt the 'shocks'. Obviously we are chasing reliability which has been our downfall this season. Allan (Letcher) is in the car I raced last year and he's been finishing races, which is why he's ahead of me in the championship. It's a big job running two cars - we've got eight people involved which is twice as many as before when we were a one-car team."

McGill, who is a driving instructor, will entertain members of the Subaru WRX Club of NSW at Oran Park. He holds regular driver training courses with the club between racing commitments.


TC Motorsports driver and team owner Tony Newman is heading to Oran Park confident the engine problems in his Peugeot 406 have finally been solved. Newman failed to score a point in the championship opener at Oran Park , and did not race in round two at Lakeside after the engine overheated in his car in the first practice session.

"Lakeside was very disappointing because we had some new engine parts from Britain in the car and we had to go home without even making it to race day," said Newman. "It's been a frustrating start to the season because I think we've got the car speed to be a factor in these races."


The Future Tourers support category between V8 Holdens and Fords, which were absent from the previous championship round at Lakeside, return at Oran Park. Other support events on the program include Commodore Cup, the Mirage one-make series, Club Cars, and Formula Vee.

There will be a karting race this at Oran Park this Sunday morning between 10 Super Touring drivers and 10 fans. The event will be held on Oran Park's karting circuit before the third round of the championship. Other promotional activities include an appearance at the track of the 1000-horsepower Monster Ute known as 'The Beast' which specialises in spectacular burn-outs. Ticketing includes a 'Family Pass' for $30 which admits two adults and children under 15 years.

The TOCA Australia website ( had a total of 405,744 hits during June. The site has recorded more than 100,000 hits in six of the past eight weeks. Information about the championship and the television coverage is now available on the Seven Network website's sports section (


FRIDAY, JULY 7: Practice 12noon-12.45pm, 2.35pm-3.20pm

SATURDAY, JULY 8: Practice 9.30-9.45am; Qualifying session 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying session 2, 1.45-2.15pm

SUNDAY, JULY 9: Race 1 (23 laps) starts 12.45pm, Race 2 (23 laps) starts 3.05pm



RACE LAP RECORD: 1-min 10.04-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4, 1998

1999 POLE POSITIONS: 1-min 11.48-secs, Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40

1999 RACE WINNERS: Race 1: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 2: Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40 Race 3: Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40)

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 2): POS DRIVER CAR POINTS 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 78 2. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 46 3. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 40 4. John Henderson (NSW) Henderson Racing Holden Vectra 28 5. Allan Letcher (WA) McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 25 6. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 22 7. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 18 8. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 14 9. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 13 10. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 11 11. Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit Your Vet Honda Accord 10 12. Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 8 13. Brad Stratton (Qld) Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina 5 14. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Bocoo-Global Express Peugeot 405 3 15. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 2

INDEPENDENTS CUP (after round 2): Auger 73, Letcher 46, Downard 33, Searle 32, Leabeater 24, Miller 22, Cornish 20, Stratton 8, Rolfo 6, Fitzgerald 6

TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP (after round 2): Knight Racing 84, McGill Motorsport 84, Motorsport Developments 12

Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Alan Gurr , Luke Searle , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Peter Hill