ASTC: Summer season begins wiht Wakefield

A new era in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series begins at Wakefield Park near Goulburn on Sunday with the start of the inaugural Summer Season. Championship organiser TOCA Australia is confident the move to...

A new era in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship motor racing series begins at Wakefield Park near Goulburn on Sunday with the start of the inaugural Summer Season.

Championship organiser TOCA Australia is confident the move to Summer with optimum weather conditions for spectators, coupled with revised and improved daytime television coverage on the Seven Network, is a positive step forward.

TOCA Australia Chief Executive Kelvin O'Reilly said it was appropriate the Summer section of the championship would start on the 2.2km Wakefield Park circuit, which is hosting a round of the series for the first time.

"This weekend will have a fresh feel to it with Summer racing at a track hosting its first major championship event, and we're delighted with the interest shown in Goulburn, Canberra, and nearby areas," said O'Reilly.

"Our Summer Season will fill a void by offering top-class touring car racing to motorsport fans in what has previously been a traditionally quiet time."

The championship was previously held in Winter since it began in 1994, as were the opening three rounds of the current 2000-2001 series.

The remaining five rounds of the 2000-2001 championship will be held monthly, starting with Wakefield Park through to the finale at Oran Park in Sydney in February, and in future years the series will be contested entirely in Summer.

O'Reilly said spectator comfort, and the opportunity to secure a dedicated daytime television timeslot for the two-hour telecasts of each round away from the Seven Network's Australian Football League commitments in Winter were major factors in the decision to introduce a Summer Season.

"We have a five-year television deal with Seven, and the Summer format for the championship means we will have early Sunday afternoon coverage instead of late night timeslots in Winter during the AFL season," said O'Reilly.

"The resulting increased television exposure has obvious commercial benefits for teams and sponsors involved in the championship, and it's also better for motorsport fans."

Championship leader Paul Morris believes the Summer Season will prove popular with spectators, based on his past experience of racing during that time of the year in the United States, in the Indy Lights Championship in 1998, and in New Zealand.

"Motor racing is a Summer sport in just about every country except Australia, so there's no reason why it shouldn't be as successful here as it is overseas," said Morris. "I think the switch to Summer is one of the best things to happen in the (Super Touring) championship in the last few years."

High-flying triple Super Touring champion Paul Morris will miss the opening practice sessions at Wakefield Park on Friday because of business commitments.

The 33-year-old Gold Coast driver, who leads this year's championship by 50 points, has been forced to delay his debut on the circuit until practice and qualifying the following day. He conceded his absence from practice on Friday was a setback to his hopes of maintaining his domination of this year's championship in his Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i.

"I've never raced at Wakefield Park before so the other guys are going to have a head start on me with working on their car set-ups," said Morris. "The BMW seems to be competitive at most tracks, but missing Friday practice will make things tougher than usual."

Main opposition for Morris at Wakefield Park is expected from Sydney policeman John Henderson, who has finished runner-up in four races this year in a Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra, and NSW teenager Allan Gurr, second in the championship in a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo.

"Our car is flying, and I'd like nothing more than beating the BMW and winning one of these races," said Henderson.

Morris goes into the Wakefield Park round, which comprises two 28-lap races, leading the championship with 110 points, followed by Gurr on 60, Queenslander David Auger on 58 in a Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo, and Henderson on 52.

New Zealander Tony Newman, Queenslander David Auger, and Sydney driver Paul Leabeater were all impressed with the revised and upgraded Wakefield Park circuit after test sessions on the track in the past month.

Garry Holt, Managing Director of the consortium which purchased Wakefield Park earlier this year, said $500,000 had been spent in the past three months upgrading the track and pit-lane facilities.

Newman tested his TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 at Wakefield Park on September 28-29, and said the track would produce close and exciting racing.

"The track was wider than I expected and there's quite a few places to pass," he said. "It's obvious a lot of work has been done there and the end result is pretty good."

Auger tested at the track on October 16, and Leabeater drove about 40 laps on the circuit the following day in his Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra.

"It's a challenging track with many third and fourth-gear corners, and a kink at the end of the start-finish straight," said Auger. "There's one section with a whole heap of corners and if you mess up the entry to the first one it's going to slow you down big time."

Leabeater said the track was vastly improved compared to when he previously raced on it in HQ Holden events.

"The layout is much more flowing then before, and wider," said Leabeater. "We've made some changes to the geometry of the Hyundai and I don't we are going to have any tyre problems."

Auger announced he had secured additional sponsorship for the remainder of the championship from International Security Supplies. The Queensland-based company markets safety equipment in Australia and overseas for security personnel, police, and the military.

Sydney teenager Allan Gurr is pleased with his progress in his debut championship season, after finishing on the podium five times from seven starts in a Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo team. The 18-year-old, who is currently second in the championship, was recruited by Team Mondeo owner/driver Peter Hills this year after driving in only three motor races - two in Formula Ford and the other in the Daewoo one-make series.

"It would be good to win a Super Touring race this year, but being realistic that would be a bonus because my main priority is to learn and get some experience," said Gurr. "I had never raced a touring car until this year and apart from Oran Park, all the tracks are new to me. Peter (Hills) and his team took a chance giving me this drive in Super Touring, and everyone is helping me."

NSW driver Aaron McGill is confident he can produce his best performance in this year's championship at Wakefield Park after improvements to the chassis and engine management system of his Trinovin Nissan Primera.

The 37-year-old from Mittagong said he would also benefit from his past experience at Wakefield Park, where he operates advanced driver training schools.

"Basically the car has been completely overhauled, and the improvements to the chassis will mean a more balanced vehicle and greater consistency with overall performance," said McGill. "Being in my 'home' territory, I know Wakefield Park well from my driving schools and I hope this track knowledge will give me an edge."

Another 'local' driver entered at Wakefield Park is Canberra's Matthew Fox, who will make his championship debut in a Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina for the team operated by Queenslander Malcolm Rea. Fox plans to drive in the remainder of the championship.

Support categories racing at Wakefield Park are the V8 Future Tourers, competing in the Super Touring events, plus Commodore Cup, Production Sports Cars, Street Sedans, and the one-make Mirage and Daewoo series.

Andrew Gillespie, from Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, will make his debut in the V8 Future Tourers class at Wakefield Park, driving an EL Ford Falcon. The car has been converted to Future Tourer specifications after previously being raced in AUSCAR events. Gillespie's past racing experience was in the AUSCAR and Sportsman categories at Calder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne.

<pre> WAKEFIELD PARK - SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27: Practice, 12.05pm-12.50pm; 2.40pm-3.15pm

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28: Practice, 9.30-9.45am; Qualifying session 1, 11.05-11.35am; Qualifying session 2, 12.55-1.25pm

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29: Race 1, (28 laps) starts 12.45pm; Race 2, (28 laps) starts 3.10pm

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): POS DRIVER CAR POINTS 1. Paul Morris (Qld) Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i 110 2. Allan Gurr (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 60 3. David Auger (Qld) Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo 58 4. John Henderson (NSW) Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra 52 5. Peter Hills (NSW) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 33 6. Allan Letcher (WA) McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 31 7. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 24 8. Aaron McGill (NSW) Trinovin Nissan Primera 18 9. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 14 10. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 11 11= Dwayne Bewley (NSW) TC Motorsports Peugeot 406 10 11= Jim Cornish (NSW) Visit Your Vet Honda Accord 10 13. Paul Leabeater (NSW) Redline Motorsport Hyundai Lantra 8 14. Anthony Robson (NSW) Grid Motorsport BMW 318i 6 15. Brad Stratton (Qld) Motorsports Developments Toyota Carina 5 16. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Bocoo-Global Express Peugeot 405 3 17. Mike Fitzgerald (NSW) MF Motorsport Peugeot 405 2

INDEPENDENTS CUP POINTS (after round 3): Auger 101, Letcher 66, Searle 47, Downard 33, Leabeater 24, Miller 23, Cornish 20, Robson 20, Stratton 8, Rolfo 6, Fitzgerald 6

TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): Knight Racing 141, McGill Motorsport 112, Motorsport Developments 12

Mike Porter - mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Andrew Gillespie , Luke Searle , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Garry Holt , Peter Hill , Anthony Robson