ASTC: Super Touring Stars Support New Bathurst Format

THURSDAY, JULY 29: Leading Australian Super Touring drivers Paul Morris and Brad Jones today expressed their support for the revised format for the 37th annual Bathurst ‘Great Race’ in the first week of October. The feature 1000km race held...

THURSDAY, JULY 29: Leading Australian Super Touring drivers Paul Morris and Brad Jones today expressed their support for the revised format for the 37th annual Bathurst ‘Great Race’ in the first week of October.

The feature 1000km race held since 1973 will be replaced on the October 3 program by a 500km endurance event for Super Touring cars and a 300km race for V8 Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons.

Morris, who leads the 1999 BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship which continues at Queensland Raceway this Sunday, said a 500km endurance event around the 6.1km Mount Panorama circuit would still provide the ultimate challenge for teams and drivers in the category.

“You’ve also got to remember Bathurst was a 500 (mile) race up to 1972 when Peter Brock won for the first time in a (Holden) Torana,” said Morris. “The history and prestige of the event is still there and it’s going to feel just as good to win it.”

“A 500km race is going to be tough on equipment and drivers. Everyone will be going harder in a shorter race, and although there will be less pit-stops they will be more important because if your team makes a mistake there’s less time to recover.”

Jones, the 1998 Australian Super Touring champion, said he was confident the category would produce an exciting ‘Great Race’, as in the past two years.

The inaugural Super Touring Bathurst endurance race in 1997 was won by brothers David and Geoff Brabham of Australia in a works BMW, who finished narrowly in front of Jones and German team-mate Frank Biela in a factory Audi A4.

In 1998 works Volvo pair Jim Richards and Swede Rickard Rydell took the chequered flag by just 2.00-secs ahead of the Team Dynamics Nissan Primera raced by Steven Richards and Briton Matt Neal.

“I’ve been going to Bathurst for many years, and the two Super Touring races were as good as any we’ve seen,” said Jones. “I’m sure that’s going to continue this year. They’ve given the weekend a facelift to add some variety and maybe that’s a good thing for the fans and for television.”

The Bathurst event will again be televised by the Seven Network, which also screens the Super Touring championship rounds on the ‘Start Your Engines’ program.

Originally organisers of the Bathurst event had applied to CAMS, the national motorsport controlling body, for a permit to conduct a 1000km event at Mount Panorama combining the Super Touring cars with the V8 ‘New Millennium Auscars’.

CAMS declined to issue the permit, and to date it has not provided a reason. The commercial division of CAMS, the Australian Motor Sport Commission, is a business partner of AVESCO, organisers of the V8 Supercar Championship which includes a 1000km endurance race at Bathurst in November, televised by the Ten Network.

It is understood a permit may be pursued for the traditional ‘Great Race’ in October to return to a 1000km event in 2000.

The opening practice session for the sixth round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship, which Morris leads by 21 points, is being held at Queensland Raceway today.

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Frank Biela , Matt Neal , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Peter Brock , Rickard Rydell , Geoff Brabham , Steven Richards