BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 4 PREVIEW: Winton, Victoria, Sunday, June 20 RICHARDS SET FOR 50TH CHAMPIONSHIP START Works Volvo driver Jim Richards will make his 50th race start in the BOC Gases Australian Super ...
BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 4 PREVIEW: Winton, Victoria, Sunday, June 20
RICHARDS SET FOR 50TH CHAMPIONSHIP START
Works Volvo driver Jim Richards will make his 50th race start in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Winton on June 20.
Richards, who leads this year's championship by 10 points after three rounds, has made 48 race starts in the series since his debut in 1995 at Eastern Creek. The 51-year-old Melbourne-based New Zealander will make his 50th start in the second race on the 3km Winton circuit.
The only other drivers to achieve 50 race starts since the championship began in 1994 are works Audi driver Brad Jones with 70, Queenslander Paul Morris and Sydney's Justin Matthews each 65, and NSW trio Mark Adderton 62, Bob Tweedie 55, and Peter Hills 52.
Richards, a six-times Bathurst 1000 champion, will also achieve a second milestone at Winton, making his 50th race start for Volvo since his debut for the Swedish manufacturer in 1996.
"I'm keen to win at Winton, not so much for records and milestones, but because it would be a big plus for the championship," said Richards. "This is Volvo's fifth year in the championship and we've never won the title, so that's the priority we are working toward."
Richards is one of the few remaining survivors from a 'golden' era of touring car racing in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s when his rivals included legends Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, and Dick Johnson. Brock and Moffat are now retired, Johnson is in his final year of racing, but Richards is adamant he has no intentions ending his career in the near future.
"I still enjoy racing cars and while I'm competitive I don't see any reason why I should stop," said Richards. "Driving a car to the limit of its capabilities gives me as much satisfaction now as ever."
Richards, who has had two race wins and three pole positions in his front-drive Volvo S40 this year, leads the championship with 79 points, followed by Morris on 69 in an ex-works rear-drive NEMO Racing BMW 320, and Audi Sport Australia team-mates Jones on 48 and Matthew Coleman 47.
Richards' previous 48 championship race starts were - 1995: 2 races (Ford Mondeo). 1996: 8 races (Holden Vectra). 1997: 16 races (Volvo 850). 1998: 16 races (Volvo S40). 1999: 6 races (Volvo S40).
JONES DESPERATE TO WIN AT WINTON
Albury's Brad Jones believes his wealth of experience at the nearby Winton circuit could be a decisive factor in his prospects of achieving a much-needed win in round four of the championship. Jones, the Super Touring champion in 1996 and 1998, is third in this year's series and is still without a race win in his Audi Sport Australia A4.
"We've had a tough start to this season and we need to turn things around at Winton," said Jones. "Fortunately Winton is my 'home' and test track so I'd expect us to be more competitive against the Volvos and the BMW than we have been. I understand Yokohama will have a new control tyre for this race and that could solve some of the grip problems we've had this year."
MORRIS SET FOR MORE SUCCESS AT WINTON
History and current form indicate that dual Super Touring champion Paul Morris will be extremely competitive at Winton in his NEMO Racing BMW 320. Morris, the champion in 1995 and 1997, has had four championship race wins at Winton, the most by any driver since the series began in 1994.
The 31-year-old Gold Coast driver is also high on confidence after winning both races in the previous round of the 1999 championship at Mallala near Adelaide on May 2. Morris tested his BMW at Winton in the week after the Mallala round.
"My car isn't the quickest in a straight line, but Winton has many 'stop-go' corners and the BMW is suited to those types of race tracks," said Morris. "The left-hand sweeper is one place where you can make up time - it's the fastest corner. Winton is always a difficult place to pass so it's going to be important to qualify on the front row and get through the first corner without any dramas."
SUPER TOURING NEWS BRIEFS
NSW driver MARK ADDERTON will have his second successive drive for the works Volvo team at Winton. Adderton, 31, had his first drive in the team's 1997-specification S40 in the previous round at Mallala. NSW's Mark Williamson drove the car in the opening two championship rounds.
Newscastle's LUKE SEARLE will replace elder brother Troy Searle in the Roadchill BMW at Winton. Luke Searle, 22, made his championship debut in the ex-works BMW in the opening round at Lakeside, finishing 10th and 11th in the two races. His 25-year-old brother raced the car in the following two rounds at Oran Park and Mallala. The Searle brothers will continue to alternate during the championship before teaming up in the Bathurst 1000 on October 3. The BMW now features a new black livery after signing SAE College and Recording Studios 301 as sponsors for the championship and Bathurst.
Melbourne driver MICHAEL DOWNARD will make his long-awaited championship debut at Winton in a MPD Racing BMW. The car was entered in the championship opener at Lakeside, but was withdrawn from the because of a differential failure during practice. Delays in sourcing replacement parts prevented 47-year-old Downard racing in the following two rounds. Perth-based New Zealander ALLAN LETCHER will make his championship debut at Winton in the BMW 318 previously driven by ANTHONY ROBSON, who has switched to a Honda Accord. Letcher drove in the 1998 Bathurst 1000, and he intends to campaign the ex-Robson BMW for the remainder of this year's championship.
Sydney's JIM CORNISH is confident if being more competitive during the remainder of the championship in his Visit Your Vet Nissan Primera, prepared by Project Racing. The 28-year-old veterinarian made his championship debut in a Hyundai Lantra in 1997, but did not race the following year. "It was tough coming back after a year away from racing, but now I'm getting up to speed," he said. "We've also improved the balance and the brakes, and we put a 'fresh' engine in the car before Mallala which gave the Nissan more power. I'm hopeful of moving up a few places from now on."
WINTON - SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS
CIRCUIT LENGTH: 3km
RACE LAP RECORD: 1-min 25.31-secs, Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo S40
1998 POLE POSITIONS: Race 1: 1-min 24.12-secs, Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4 Race 2: 1-min 24.80-secs, Cameron McConville (Vic) Audi A4
1998 RACE WINNERS: Race 1: Cameron McConville (Vic) Audi A4 Race 2: Cameron McConville (Vic) Audi A4
DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): Richards 79, Morris 69, Jones 48, Coleman 47, Watts 40, Hills 35, Williamson 17, Henderson 15, Auger 12, Canto 11, Wall 8, Newman 5, Adderton 5, McGill 3, Townshend 3, Cornish 2, Robson 1, L. Searle 1, Leslight 1
MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): Volvo 90, Audi 72
TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): Audi Sport Australia 128, Volvo Racing 119, Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 67, Project Racing 42
INDEPENDENTS CUP POINTS (after round 3): Hills 79, Watts 49, Henderson 39, Auger 42, Canto 32, Newman 24, Cornish 23, Wall 22, Robson 21, McGill 16, Leslight 14, L. Searle 11, Townshend 8, T. Searle 7, Rea 6, Stones 1
PHOTOGRAPHS: High resolution action and headshot images of Jim Richards, Mark Adderton, Paul Morris, Brad Jones, and other drivers are on the TOCA Australia website: www.toca.com.au