2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship Round 4 Preview - Canberra Street Circuit, 4th June 2001 Canberra Round To Shape FH Season With the opening three of eight encounters having already been run and won, this weekend's Canberra round of...
2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship
Round 4 Preview - Canberra Street Circuit, 4th June 2001
Canberra Round To Shape FH Season
With the opening three of eight encounters having already been run and won, this weekend's Canberra round of the Holden Australian Drivers' Championship signals the halfway point of the 2001 championship season, and for title protagonists a good result on the narrow and bumpy ACT streets could set the scene for the remaining four rounds.
Fresh from the extreme heat of Darwin, the pair of 10-lap Canberra races will see the scintillatingly quick Formula Holden machines make their fourth appearance in as many states, and after the energy-sapping conditions experienced up north, drivers can look forward to much cooler conditions this weekend, although rain would not be a welcome sight.
After two cameo appearances by twice champion Simon Wills, which saw him win three of the four races he contested, Rick Kelly looks the most likely to take the honours on a circuit he has yet to visit. Kelly has been the class-act among the list of 2001 debutantes and almost held out the wily Wills during the second Darwin encounter, before finishing right with his more experienced rival at the end of a thrilling race. Without doubt Kelly's game has been raised to a new level by going head-to-head with Wills, and with the flying Kiwi gone for good it will take a big effort from his short-list of rivals to make an impact on the 31 point championship lead he currently enjoys.
Like Kelly, most of his challengers have never before visited the unique ACT circuit, which is used just once each year. New to the quirks of the Parliamentary venue and the chase for the CAMS Gold Star are, NSW teenager Allan Gurr and recent debut runner Goulburn's Con Toparis. The tight confines of the concrete-lined circuit ensures they each of them will have plenty to do in getting up to speed before raceday. Gurr was brilliant on the streets of Adelaide in April, while Toparis showed well in his first outing last time out and could surprise.
Among the front-running drivers who will have an early advantage over their less experienced adversaries are Christian Murchison, Peter Hill and Canberra's own Terry Clearihan. Murchison has struggled with his Hocking 98D, but seasoned observers will recall his front-row qualifying time at Adelaide and if reflexes and commitment count for anything then watch-out for the spectacular Singaporean youngster. Hill is coming off a troubled NT effort and will be hoping to redeem his points tally after sitting in third spot before Darwin. His team has struggled with the set-up on his M ONE 11 machine, but he cannot be discounted to figure in the battle for the podium.
Running in the Silver Star class, Clearihan regularly gets his elderly Ralt RT23 into positions that quite frankly, it doesn't deserve to be. The former Speedway driver often fights his way into the ranks of the Gold Star runners and will be out for a strong showing on home turf - where he made his debut last year. Looking to keep Clearihan honest in the battle for the 'senior masters' will be current SS points leader, the ever-consistent Ian Peters, SA doctor Roger Oakeshott (who survived a big shunt at Canberra last year and is just seven points behind Peters), while Rohan Carrig makes a return to the category and his first Canberra outing.
Late minute negotiations could also see last year's race winner Chris Staff make a return with the Hocking Motorsport team, although he is one of a number of drivers vying for the seat alongside Murchison. Hocking is confident his team has found their horsepower problems and has Steve Owen also looking to make an appearance. The Formula Holden cars will have two practice sessions on Friday, qualifying and a race on Saturday and a race on Sunday.