ASTC: Oran Park Preview 98-08-25

AUDI & VOLVO SET TO BATTLE FOR TITLE Three drivers can claim Super Touring crown at Oran Park Works Audi team-mates Brad Jones and...

AUDI & VOLVO SET TO BATTLE FOR TITLE Three drivers can claim Super Touring crown at Oran Park Works Audi team-mates Brad Jones and Cameron McConville, and Volvo driver Jim Richards are set for a three-way battle for this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship title in the final round at Oran Park in Sydney on August 30. The three drivers go into the eighth and final round separated by just seven points in the championship, and the title will be decided over the two races at Oran Park, the first over 16 laps, and the second over 31 laps which includes a compulsory pit-stop for all cars to change two wheels. An element of uncertainty has been created by the decision by championship organisers TOCA Australia to stage the round on Oran Park's 2.6km long circuit, instead of the 1.9km short-track used for previous championship meetings since 1994. "We've never raced Super Touring cars before on the long track at Oran Park - no one knows what will happen so the championship is wide open," said Jones. The 38-year-old from Albury leads the championship after seven rounds with 162 points in an Audi Sport Australia A4 quattro, and is followed by McConville on 158, and five-times Bathurst 1000 champion Richards on 155 in a front-drive Volvo Dealer Team S40. "Our Volvo team will be throwing everything at the Audis at Oran Park because this is the last throw of the dice and there are no second chances," said Richards. Jones is in a virtually n identical situation to 1996, when he went to the final round at Oran Park leading by two points from of BMW Motorsport's Paul Morris, and then claimed the title for the first time for Audi by winning both races. "Hopefully it will work out the same this year, although when I won the title (at Oran Park) in '96 we raced on the short circuit," he said. "The long track has three extra three second-gear corners to suit the Audi, but the longer straight and sweeper over the bridge help the Volvo's top-speed advantage." Richards' past record on the long track at Oran Park includes claiming the second of his four Australian Touring Car Championship titles in 1987. The 50-year-old Melbourne-based New Zealander backed up Jones' comments that the Volvo would benefit from the lengthy front straight on Oran Park's long circuit. "Speed is one of the strengths of the Volvo and there could be some passing opportunities for me at the end of the straight," said Richards. "The championship will come down to consistency on the day, reliability, and finishing both races. If something breaks on the car or you make a mistake and don't finish one of the races it's all over." McConville is also a proven performer at Oran Park, and in 1996 he clinched the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Championship title at the circuit. The 24-year-old from Melbourne, who won both races in the previous round at Winton in Victoria on August 9, believes Audi's proven speed with pitstops could be critical in the outcome. "All season we've been the quickest team with the pitstops, and that could make the difference between winning and losing when the pressure is on," he said. "I'm coming off two wins at Winton so we've got some momentum going and my confidence is up." There have been 14 races in the previous seven rounds, with Jones and McConville each recording six victories, and Richards two. Volvo is chasing its first championship since entering the series in 1995. Audi has one title, by Jones in 1996. Rival German manufacturer BMW won in 1994, 1995, and 1997. INDEPENDENTS CUP UPDATE - PIRELLI TYRES ENTER CHAMPIONSHIP Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli will enter the championship at Oran Park. Melbourne-based ROD WILSON, the Pirelli tyre distributor for motorsport in Australia, will make his championship debut in a Pirelli-shod BMW 318. The car was driven in previous rounds this year by NSW's CARLOS ROLFO. Wilson said he had a combination of wet and dry-weather Pirelli tyres to use at Oran Park. "We're starting from scratch, but we have some data from Pirelli based on tests they've done with Super Touring cars in Spain." Wilson's Motorsport Concepts team will prepare the car for Oran Park. The team previously prepared the Porsche which CAMERON McCONVILLE won the 1996 Century Batteries Australian GT Production Championship. Wilson said it was intended that he and Rolfo would team up in the BMW 318 in the AMP Bathurst 1000 on October 4. Sydney driver WARREN LUFF makes his championship comeback at Oran Park driving a Ford Mondeo prepared by Knight Racing. The team will oversee three cars at Oran Park, with the others driven by PETER HILLS and MARK ZONNEVELD. Luff, 22, drove a Honda Accord in the final two rounds of 1997 championship at Lakeside and Amaroo Park. He also teamed with ex-Formula One driver Julian Bailey in the Accord in the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000 and they finished 10th. Luff's past record includes two starts in the Nurburgring 24-hour race in Germany in 1996-97. He tested the Mondeo at Eastern Creek on Friday (August 21) and drove impressively, according to Knight Racing manager John Pachos. New Zealand's GRAHAM DODD returns to the championship at Oran Park in the Honda Accord he sourced from the United States earlier this year. Dodd, 52, made his championship debut in round four at Eastern Creek on June 7. Also expected back in action at Oran Park are Sydney pair JOHN HENDERSON in his South African-sourced Opel Vectra, and MIKE FITZGERALD in a Peugeot 405. Henderson finished fourth in race one of round two of this year's championship at Oran Park on April 26. Fitzgerald has not raced in the championship since his high-speed crash in the final round of 1997 at Amaroo Park. ORAN PARK SCHEDULE: Saturday, August 29: Qualifying Session 1, 11.15-1145am; Qualifying Session 2, 2.25-2.45pm. Sunday, August 30: Race 1 (16 laps), starts 12.45pm; Race 2 (31 laps), starts 3.05pm 1998 DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 7): Brad Jones (Audi)162, Cameron McConville (Audi) 158, Jim Richards (Volvo) 155, Cameron McLean (BMW) 120, Mark Adderton (Honda) 74, Peter Hills (Ford) 59, Bob Tweedie (Vauxhall) 40, Troy Searle (BMW) 26, Bob Holden-Justin Matthews (BMW) 25, Ron Searle (Toyota) 24, David Auger (Alfa Romeo) 23, Adam Kaplan (Nissan) 19, Paul Pickett-Ric Shaw-Aaron McGill-Kurt Kratzmann-Mark Zonneveld (Ford) 19, Anthony Robson (BMW) 13, John Henderson (Opel) 8, Trevor Sheumack (BMW) 6, Dwayne Bewley (Peugeot) 5, Tony Newman (Peugeot) 2 1998 MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 7): Audi 204, Volvo 174 1998 INDEPENDENTS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 7): McLean 194, Adderton 136, Hills 112, Tweedie 83, Holden-Sheumack-Matthews 71, Auger 51, Pickett-Shaw-McGill-Kratzmann-Zonneveld 47, R. Searle 46, T. Searle 46, Kaplan 42, Robson 35, Henderson 15, Bewley 14, Newman 11, Rolfo 1998 TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 7): Audi Sport Australia 177, Knight Racing 118

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Series General
Drivers Julian Bailey , Cameron McConville , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Cameron McLean , Ric Shaw , Trevor Sheumack , David Auger , Anthony Robson , Justin Matthews