Three-time champ Paul Stokell was back behind the wheel, as was former sparring partner Greg Murphy, and while this year's champion Rick Kelly finished the day at the top of the time sheets, there was action aplenty throughout the day. Among those...
Three-time champ Paul Stokell was back behind the wheel, as was former sparring partner Greg Murphy, and while this year's champion Rick Kelly finished the day at the top of the time sheets, there was action aplenty throughout the day. Among those to join the aforementioned trio was Akihiro Asai - after finally sorting out his licensing dramas - and the Japanese driver was delighted to make a return to the category. "These are real racing cars", commented the likeable Asai. "It's great to be back in one, and Chris (team owner Hocking) has the cars much better sorted than last time I drove. It took it out of me early on, but I soon settled back into things".
Asai will make his return to the category for the final round, and was joined at the test by one of his two, team mates, American Emerson Newton-John, while Christian Murchison sat the day out with his new high-horsepower engine not yet off the dyno. Like Asai, Newton-John was another driver to record good times on old rubber and ended the session delighted with the set-up of his 96D, despite having never seen the tight Winton layout.
Seasoned onlookers commented it was like old times when Stokell and Murphy were on the track together. One might also say there would be a few V8 Supercar pilots who have previously driven in the FH series that might like a crack at what is shaping up as a bumper field for the final event. Both Stokell and Murphy will contest this weekend's Queensland 500, as will Rick Kelly, and Stokell played himself in nicely, recording a number of fast laps during the latter part of the day. Murphy was helping out with his dad Kevin's team and assisting Roger Oakeshott and Peter Hill with setting their cars up for the demands of the Winton circuit. What a shame he won't be part of the action in September.his obvious V8 commitments curtailing any chance of making a welcome return to the fray.
Brenton Ramsay and Allan Gurr (first time at Winton in an FH) were also in attendance, this pair recording similar times throughout, but none as quick as 2001 champion Rick Kelly, who, after bolting on a fresher set of tyres recorded a time quicker than the current lap record. Another making a return to the category for the final round was last year's Winton victor Tim Leahey. The talented New South Welshman was shaking down the brand new Murphy Motorsport 94D and after a host of creature comfort modifications, plus a down on power engine, put in a number of laps that were not too far off the pace.
Winton will see a strong 17-car field fighting it out for honours and with Kelly, Stokell, Murchison, Leahey, Asai, Gurr, Ramsay, Hill, Newton-John and NZ's James Cressey all out for the win it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on. This year's Holden Australian Drivers' Championship may be heading into its last round, but if yesterday's action at Winton was anything to go by fans are in for a feast of action when Australia's fastest racing cars visit the rural Victorian circuit on the weekend of September 7-9. No less than 10 drivers turned out for the official test day and amongst them were a number competitors who will contest this weekend's V8 Supercar Queensland 500.
<pre> Winton Times Kelly 1:14.3s Gurr 1:15.5s Ramsay 1:15.6s Stokell 1:15.6s Murphy 1:16.1s Hill 1:16.5s Asai 1:17.2s Newton-John 1:17.3s Leahey 1:17.9s Oakeshott 1:19.8s
2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship (Top Ten)
1. Rick Kelly 265pts; 2. Christian Murchison 132pts; 3. Alan Gurr 107pts; 4. Peter Hill 99pts; 5. Stewart McColl 74pts; 6. Terry Clearihan 66pts; 7. Ian Peters 62pts; 8. Simon Wills 60pts; 9. Emerson Newton-John 59pts; 10. Roger Oakeshott 35pts
2001 Silver Star Award
1. Ian Peters 194pts; 2. Terry Clearihan 182pts; 3. Roger Oakeshott 117pts; 4. Rohan Carrig 94pts; 5. Chris Hocking 75pts; 6. Mark Ellis 74pts;