ASTC: Oran Park, Round One preview

MORRIS TO RACE WITH RE-BUILT BMW ENGINES BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Champion PAUL MORRIS will begin his title defence at Oran Park this Sunday (May 28) with a choice of two engines prepared by BMW Motorsport in Germany. The engines ...

MORRIS TO RACE WITH RE-BUILT BMW ENGINES

BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Champion PAUL MORRIS will begin his title defence at Oran Park this Sunday (May 28) with a choice of two engines prepared by BMW Motorsport in Germany.

The engines arrived in Australia earlier this month and one of them has been fitted into the rear-drive Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i Morris will race in the eight-round championship.

"One of the engines will be good for around 1,500km," said Morris. "The other has a shorter 'life', because its revs harder and it has lighter componentry. The engines are similar to what we ran in '99, and hopefully we can achieve the same combination of high performance and reliability."

Morris is the most successful driver in the history of the championship since its inception in 1994. The 33-year-old from the Gold Coast has won a record three championship titles for BMW, in 1995 and 1997 as a works driver, and in 1999 in his first year as a team owner. He has also won a record 33 championship races and claimed pole position 37 times, the most by any driver.

Morris' prospects for the championship opener are enhanced by the fact it will be contested on Oran Park's 1.9km South Circuit, where he took the chequered flag in all three races in round five in 1999.

"I've had some good results at Oran Park over the years, and the important thing for fast lap times is to get a good run onto the main straight," he said. "There are several medium-speed corners and you need the balance of the car just right so you can change direction quickly. You also have to qualify up the front because there aren't a lot of passing opportunities."

Morris said that he wanted to maximise points-scoring opportunities at Oran Park to counter the possibility of being forced to race with additional weight in future rounds under TOCA Australia's new rule for success ballast. Race winners will have an additional 40kg imposed at the following round throughout the championship, and there will be 15kg ballast for second, and 10kg for third.

"I've got to get every point I can at Oran Park because once the weight penalties start we don't know what will happen, or how it will affect the balance and performance of all the leading cars," he said.

The three races at Oran Park will over 16, 21, and 31 laps. The third and final race will not feature a compulsory pit-stop to change two wheels. The championship will feature 16 hours of television coverage on the Seven Network.

NEW-LOOK TEAM FOR HILLS

PETER HILLS, the 1999 Independents Cup champion, has a new-look team. The 41-year-old from Sydney said his two Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeos would no longer be prepared by Mick Quinn. Hills has forged a partnership with Sydney's Graham Watson, who currently prepares Formula Holdens for New Zealand drivers Matthew Halliday and Chris Staff. Watson has previous experience in the Super Touring championship, preparing cars for Bob Tweedie and Paul Pickett.

Hills also announced that he had chosen Sydney teenager ALLAN GURR to drive the team's second Mondeo to replace Dean Canto. Gurr, 17, is a former karting champion and he impressed Hills when he drove the Mondeo for the first time at Oran Park on April 25. Gurr is entered for Oran Park, but must first have a licence approved to be able to race.

McGILL SWITCHES TO NISSAN

NSW driver AARON McGILL is switching to a Nissan Primera for this year's championship. The 37-year-old finished seventh in the Independents Cup in 1999 in a Ford Mondeo. The Primera McGill will race was previously driven in the championship by Steven Richards (1997), Adam Kaplan (1998), and Jim Cornish (1999). McGill will again be sponsored by Trinovin. Perth-based ALLAN LETCHER takes over in the Mondeo raced by McGill in 1999.

NEWMAN OPTS OUT OF INDEPENDENT CUP

Sydney-based New Zealander TONY NEWMAN has made himself ineligible for the Independents Cup because he will use the maximum six new tyres on his 1997-specification Peugeot 406 at each round. Under the championship's new Sporting Regulations drivers must meet three of five requirements to compete for the Independents Cup. Newman's Peugeot did not comply because it was manufactured after January 1, 1996, and it has 19-inch wheels. The 43-year-old businessman could have retained Independents Cup status if he used only four tyres at each championship round, but has opted for six.

"This is my fourth season in the championship and I want to be as competitive as possible," said Newman. "The extra two tyres will be worth about a-second-a-lap by the time the third race at Oran Park comes around. It also gives me the chance to do more laps in qualifying."

Newman has switched from a green and gold livery on his car, which was raced in the 1997 British Touring Car Championship by the work's Peugeot team, to blue and yellow this year. He has also added a silver fern to the colour scheme.

CORNISH RETAINS INDEPENDENTS CUP STATUS

As a contrast to Tony Newman, Sydney's JIM CORNISH will restrict himself to four tyres at each round in a bid to win the Independents Cup. The 29-year-old veterinarian is driving a Honda Accord, fitted with a 1998-specification aerodynamic kit. The new parts meant Cornish had to contest each round with four tyres to retain Independents Cup status.

"My aim this year is to win the Independents Cup, and the improvements we have made to the car should compensate for using two less tyres," he said. "The Honda has been completely rebuilt so we are going into the new season with high hopes."

Cornish drove a Nissan Primera in the 1999 championship. He has retained his major sponsors, Lyppard, Frontline, and Hill's Science Diet and the Honda will feature the 'Visit Your Vet' logo on each side. Cornish has opted for a striking purple-based colour scheme with silver flashes. The car also features 20-spoke wheels.

SUPER TOURING BRIEFS

The championship opener at Oran Park will feature cars from nine different manufacturers - BMW, Nissan, Ford, Peugeot, Honda, Alfa Romeo, Holden/Opel, Toyota, and Hyundai.

Queenslander CARLOS ROLFO returns to the championship in an ex-Tony Newman Peugeot 405. Rolfo, who lives on the Gold Coast, made his championship debut in 1998 in a BMW 318i, but did not contest the series in 1999. He has secured sponsorship backing for the Peugeot from Bocoo, a youth-orientated clothing company with 26 outlets in Queensland, NSW, and the Northern Territory, and Global Express, who specialise in electronic customer loyalty programs.

Melbourne solicitor PETER WOLLERMAN will be the championship Race Director for the third year since 1997. Former Bathurst 1000 champion COLIN BOND returns as Driving Standards Adviser, a position he has held since 1997, and FRANK LOWNDES is again Technical Commissioner. ROBERT ANDERSON is the Chief Steward.

Redline Motorsports, who are contesting every round of the championship with a Hyundai Lantra, will have a range of merandise on sale at racetracks during the series. Driving duties in the Lantra will be shared by NSW pair PAUL LEABEATER and CLAUDE ELIAS. The team are also planning to launch a website in the near future. The Hyundai is being prepared by JPS Australia in Blacktown, Sydney.

Support categories at Oran Park are the Future Tourers, Commodore Cup, Formula 2/3, and the Mirage and Daewoo one-make series. Round two is at Lakeside Raceway in Queensland on June 18.

<pre> ORAN PARK (SOUTH CIRCUIT) - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS

CIRCUIT LENGTH: 1.9km (South Circuit)

RACE LAP RECORD: 42.80-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4, 26.4.98

1999 POLE POSITION (Round 5): 43.00-secs, Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i

1999 RACE WINNERS (Round 5): Race 1: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 2: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i Race 3: Paul Morris (Qld) BMW 320i

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

ORAN PARK - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE

FRIDAY, MAY 26: Practice 12noon-12.45pm, 2.35pm-3.20pm

SATURDAY, MAY 27: Practice 9.30-9.45am, 11.15-11.45am, Qualifying 1.45-2.15pm

SUNDAY, MAY 28: Race 1 (16 laps) 10.45am, Race 2 (21 laps) 1pm, Race 3 (31 laps - no pitstop) 3.05pm

ORAN PARK - SUPER TOURING ENTRY LIST: No DRIVER CAR 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 2. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 3. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 5. Anthony Robson (NSW) RR Speed Sports BMW 318i 7. Allan Letcher (WA) Ford Mondeo 13. Tony Newman (NZ) TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 14. Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit Your Vet Honda Accord 21. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 22. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Bocoo-Global Express Peugeot 405 30. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 44. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 45. Dave Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 56. John Henderson (NSW) Henderson Racing Holden Vectra 77. Malcolm Rea (Qld) Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina 88. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 95. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 97. Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 99. TBA Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina

Mike Porter, mikep@qldnet.com.au

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series General
Drivers Matthew Halliday , Brad Jones , Dean Canto , Paul Morris , Luke Searle , Aaron McGill , Peter Hill , Anthony Robson , Steven Richards