ASTC: Oran Park qualifying report

Paul Morris today made a perfect start to his title defence by claiming pole position for tomorrow's opening round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Oran Park in Sydney. Morris, who is chasing a record fourth title, ...

Paul Morris today made a perfect start to his title defence by claiming pole position for tomorrow's opening round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Oran Park in Sydney.

Morris, who is chasing a record fourth title, emerged fastest in today's qualifying session by clocking the fastest lap time of 43.67-seconds around the 1.9km Oran Park South Circuit in a Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i in cool and windy conditions. The 34-year-old Gold Coast driver earned a bonus championship point for his 38th pole position in the series since 1994.

Joining Morris on the front row of the grid tomorrow will be Sydney policeman John Henderson, who qualified second with 44.75-secs in a Holden Vectra. It was the first time Henderson has qualified on the front-row for a championship race.

The second row comprises 1999 Independents Cup champion Peter Hills in a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo, and Queensland's David Auger in a Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo. Auger was the leading Independents Cup driver.

Hills' teenage teammate Alan Gurr, who is making his championship debut at Oran Park, originally qualified fourth, but was relegated to fifth because he did not stop at the weigh station during the qualifying session. Sydney's Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra driver Paul Leabeater was excluded from qualifying for the same offence. Another Sydney driver, Mike Fitzgerald, had his qualifying time ruled out because of an infringement with the ride-height on his MF Motorsport Peugeot 405.

NSW's Aaron McGill will start from the rear of the grid after being forced to miss qualifying because of mechanical problems with his Trinovin Nissan Primera. New Zealand's Tony Newman, who yesterday said he would not be able to race at Oran Park because of engine damage to his TC Motorsport Peugeot 406, said his team was attempting to repair the machine and he was an outside chance of racing.

Tomorrow's format comprises two races over 21 laps, and a third event over 35 laps.

PAUL MORRIS (NEMO Racing BMW 320): “We're using the same car and tyres as in '99 so we had the data to quickly find a good set-up with the car. At the moment I've got a gap on the others in qualifying pace, but I'm sure it's going to be closer in race conditions."

JOHN HENDERSON (Henderson Racing Holden Vectra): “This is my first time on the front row so I'm really pleased. Oran Park is my 'home' track so that's a help, plus we have improved the engine and handling of the Vectra since last year. Hopefully I can follow the BMW into the first corner and put some pressure on. I'll be disappointed if I can't get onto the podium tomorrow."

DAVID AUGER (Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo): "We're running a new engine from Germany and it's given the car more 'punch' out of the corners. I've never gone under 45-seconds before around Oran Park so today was a step forward for us."

AARON McGILL (Trinovin Nissan Primera): "Unfortunately it hasn't been the start to the season we wanted. The pinion gear broke on the differential on the third lap of practice (before qualifying) so that was the end of the day. The Nissan (Primera) is quite a lot different to the (Ford) Mondeo we ran last year. The Nissan is more direct and agile, but it's 'twitchy' in the tail and I have to adapt to that."

<pre> QUALIFYING LAP TIMES (starting grid positions): POS DRIVER CAR TIME 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 43.67 2. John Henderson (NSW) Henderson Racing Holden Vectra 44.75 3. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 44.86 4. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 44.89 5. Alan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 45.01 6. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 45.65 7. Allan Letcher (WA) Ford Mondeo 46.13 8. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 47.03 9. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Bocoo-Global Express Peugeot 405 47.21 10. Anthony Robson (NSW) RR Speed Sports BMW 318i 51.40

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Alan Gurr , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Peter Hill , Anthony Robson