UTE: Adelaide: Season opener preview

Gricey's back as V8 BRutes saddle up in Adelaide TWO-time Bathurst 1000 champion Allan Grice will make a popular return to motorsport next weekend, driving a Ford Falcon ute in the opening round of the 2002 V8 BRute Muster Series at the Clipsal...

Gricey's back as V8 BRutes saddle up in Adelaide

TWO-time Bathurst 1000 champion Allan Grice will make a popular return to motorsport next weekend, driving a Ford Falcon ute in the opening round of the 2002 V8 BRute Muster Series at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide.

Grice, 59, said he had finalised a deal only yesterday to compete in the eight-round national series for near-standard Holden and Ford utes.

He will contest three races on Saturday and Sunday against a field of 26 fellow drivers, including others with V8 touring car experience such as Dean Canto, Michael Donaher and James Brock.

Apart from his 1986 and 1990 Bathurst wins, Grice achieved notoriety for racing the first ute on the mountain circuit, in 1992.

He shared a Commodore in a 12-hour race with Brad Jones and John Spencer and one of the team's principal sponsors then, bush hat maker Akubra, has signed up again.

Grice has not raced regularly for several seasons and is resuming motorsport after nine years as a Queensland Member of Parliament.

"I've had nine years in politics and now I'm interested in having a bit of fun and showing that there's still a life for the over-50s," he said.

"I'm not prepared for the professional commitment of a V8 touring car, even if I was quick enough, but the V8 BRute series should be pretty competitive and good fun."

While the battle-hardened Grice is likely to raise the competitive bar in the V8 BRute series, he may find the racing as torrid as anything he faced in his touring car heyday.

There were just nine cars for the BRutes' first-ever race at last year's Clipsal 500, but the series quickly gathered popularity with drivers and spectators for its close racing.

Inaugural champion Rod Wilson will return at the wheel of his Commodore, while runner-up Damien White (Falcon) and Donaher (Falcon), Grant Denyer (Falcon), Charlie Kovacs (Holden) and Gary MacDonald (Holden) also are back for a second season.

Other recruits from touring car ranks include Garry Holt, Gary Baxter, Ross Halliday, Warren Luff, Jim Cornish and Ross Almond, while former Manly (Sydney) rugby league player Jack Elsegood will drive a Falcon for his debut at national motorsport level.

White, the V8 BRute lap record holder on the Adelaide Parklands temporary circuit, expects intense competition from the start of practice on Friday.

"The specifications of the Falcons and Commodores are controlled so that the performance of every ute in the field is virtually identical and the racing is incredibly close," White said.

"This weekend will be a volatile mix, especially in the confines of a street circuit.

"Those of us who have had a season learning how to get the best out of driving these utes are not going to be just moving over for the new hot-shots like Gricey or Canto.

"If they want to win, they'll have to work for it."

WEEKEND TIMETABLE:
Friday - 8.55 Practice (20 min.), 6.10 Qualifying (20 min.).
Saturday - 9.30 Race 1 (6 laps), 5.30 Race 2 (6 laps, reverse grid).
Sunday - 11.25 Race 3 (6 laps).

LAST YEAR:
Race 1 - Wilson (Commodore), MacDonald (Commodore), White (Falcon).
Race 2 - White, MacDonald, Kovacs (Commodore).
Race 3 - MacDonald, Young (Falcon), Kovacs.
Fastest qualifier - Wilson 1 min. 48.17 sec.
Fastest race lap - White 1:46.15 (record).

-procar-

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Series General
Drivers Brad Jones , Dean Canto , Grant Denyer , Ross Halliday , Rod Wilson , Charlie Kovacs , James Brock , Garry Holt , Warren Luff , Jack Elsegood , Damien White
Tags AUSUTE