AUS: Darwin preview

Darwin -- The Next Stage For Battle in Carrera Cup The experienced Carrera Cup champion is hungry for a win. The young and supremely talented 2004 series leader wants to be the successor. A rejuvenated Kiwi returns to the scene of past glory.

Darwin -- The Next Stage For Battle in Carrera Cup

The experienced Carrera Cup champion is hungry for a win. The young and supremely talented 2004 series leader wants to be the successor. A rejuvenated Kiwi returns to the scene of past glory. Throw in some wily veterans and fast developing drivers, and there is a great show set to unfold at Hidden Valley Raceway near Darwin next week, May 21 to 23.

Close to 20 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars will do battle in round three of the Australian Carrera Cup at Hidden Valley, set to enthral the Darwin crowd as the primary support category to the V8 Supercars.

The hungry Carrera Cup champion is Jim Richards (Jim Richards Racing / OAMPS Insurance Brokers) who is champing at the bit to record his first round win in 2004, after recording consecutive second-place finishes in rounds one and two.

Richards has even more incentive to win in Hidden Valley after his 2003 trip to the Northern Territory capital ended in disappointment. The seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner won the first two races before accidentally jumping the start in race three. The ensuing drive through penalty ended Richards' hopes of a race podium finish and ultimately the round win.

The wannabe successor to Richards' crown is young tyro Alex Davison (Greg Murphy Racing / Glenfords Tool Centre) who is showcasing all the trademarks of a champion.

The 24-year-old won the first two rounds of the series in Adelaide and Eastern Creek, and only encountered his first race defeat in the Australian series at the last round. Davison's record stands at nine race starts for seven wins in official Australian Carrera Cup races.

He also comes to Hidden Valley in white hot form after setting the Winton track alight in testing this week, bettering last year's race record by nearly 1.5 seconds.

The rejuvenated Kiwi is Kevin Bell (International Motorsport NZ / G-Tech NZ) who is making a return to the Australian Carrera Cup after finishing fifth in its inaugural season last year. Bell took some recreational time out earlier this year in New Zealand, and will make his Carrera Cup comeback in the Andrew Bagnall number 82 Porsche.

The classy Kiwi has fond memories of his last race at Hidden Valley, when he took advantage of Richards' jump-start to take his first Carrera Cup race win and round podium finish.

Two of the fast developing drivers are Fabian Coulthard (Greg Murphy Racing / Team Braun) and James Cressey (Team VIP Petfoods).

Coulthard, 21, is showing composure and skill beyond his years to currently lie third in the series. The Melbourne-based Kiwi is improving with every outing, and this week in testing clocked a best lap time around Winton marginally outside team mate Davison's scorcher.

Another young Kiwi in Cressey, 20, finds himself in fifth position in the series coming into round three, but is leading the Michelin Rookie of the Year stakes for the best series newcomer and is equal leader with Coulthard in the Michelin Porsche Driver to Europe Award for the leading driver under 30 years of age without European experience.

Last year's series third placegetter Peter Fitzgerald enjoyed his first race win and round podium of 2004 at Eastern Creek, which moved him up to sit fourth in the championship. One of the wily veterans of Porsche racing will hit Darwin in a positive frame of mind after securing sponsorship to see him through the 2004 season. Fitzgerald will have all new 'Abcor' livery on his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Hidden Valley Raceway. Abcor is a market leader in heavy automotive componentry.

There will be plenty of interest in the Porsche debuts of ex-V8 Supercar driver David Thexton (Thexton Racing) and Formula Ford graduate Tony Pugliese (Greg Murphy Racing / Team Braun) in round three.

Thexton recently purchased his own 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to campaign through the remainder of the series, while Pugliese will step in for Peter Hill in Hill's number 66 Team Braun Porsche in Darwin.

A mini battle that is developing as the season progresses is between ex-Scotsman now Queenslander Tony Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) and Melbourne's Dean Grant (Becks Racing). The petfood king and the hotel hospitality magnate will lock horns in the fight for the Carrera Cup Challenge.

This new award in 2004 recognises the leading driver aged 35 or over in a 2003-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Currently Quinn has the slight ascendancy, but Grant is determined to turn the tables in the heat of Hidden Valley.

Round three of the 2004 Australian Carrera Cup at Hidden Valley begins with practice on Friday May 21, qualifying and race one on Saturday May 22, and race two and three on Sunday May 23. All races will be contested over 15 laps of the 2.9km anti-clockwise racing circuit.

'Trackside' on Network Ten will telecast round three of the Carrera Cup on Sunday May 30 at 2pm (check local guides).

The Carrera Cup is the most successful 'one make' championship in the world with close-to-identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built by Porsche' racing arm in Weissach, Germany set for racing in 2004. All cars have a top speed in excess of 300 kilometres per hour with a 400-horsepower, 6 cylinder Boxer engine which revs to 8000 RPM.

HIDDEN VALLEY STATS & INFO
Circuit -- 2.9km anti-clockwise
Practice -- 11.20am Friday
Qualifying -- 10.15am Saturday
Race 1 -- 3.15pm Saturday (15 laps)
Race 2 -- 10.30am Sunday (15 laps)
Race 3 -- 1.40pm Sunday (15 laps)

<pre> AUSTRALIAN CARRERA CUP CHAMPIONSHIP (AFTER ROUND 2) 1. Alex Davison (Greg Murphy Racing/Glenfords Tool Centre) 330 2. Jim Richards (Jim Richards Racing/OAMPS Insurance Brokers) 297 3. Fabian Coulthard (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 240 4. Peter Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald Racing/Abcor, Acer) 210 5. James Cressey (Team VIP Petfoods) 150 6. Tony Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) 147 7. Rodney Jane (Rodney Jane Racing/Bob Jane T-Marts) 138 8. Dean Grant (Becks Racing) 135 9. Peter Bradbury (Team MPS Security) 126 10. Klark Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) 99 10. Paul Pedersen (International Motorsport NZ/Lakesawn Lumber) 99 12. Peter Hill (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 93 13. Stephen Borness (Celerity Racing/Logiadd) 90 14. Ross Rutherford (International Motorsport NZ/Woodstock Bourbon) 72 15. Jonathon Webb (Tekno Autosports) 57 15. Troy Hunt (MOG Sport/Talent 2) 57 17. Roger Oakeshott (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 54 18. Marc Cini (Adamco) 27 19. Ash Samadi (Globe Racing) 24

MICHELIN PORSCHE DRIVER TO EUROPE (For Drivers under 30 who haven't driven in a European Porsche series) 1. Fabian Coulthard (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 300 1. James Cressey (Team VIP Petfoods) 300 3. Klark Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) 198 4. Jonathon Webb (Tekno Autosports) 150 5. Troy Hunt (MOG Sport/Talent 2) 102

MICHELIN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (For Drivers in their first Porsche racing series) 1. James Cressey (Team VIP Petfoods) 318 2. Fabian Coulthard (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 300 3. Ash Samadi (Globe Racing) 186 4. Troy Hunt (MOG Sport/Talent 2) 114

FUCHS HARD CHARGER (For the Driver who passes the most cars in Carrera Cup races) 1. James Cressey (Team VIP Petfoods) 16 1. Stephen Borness (Celerity Racing/Logiadd) 16 1. Peter Bradbury (Team MPS Security) 16 4. Tony Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) 14 4. Jonathon Webb (Tekno Autosports) 14

CHALLENGE (For Drivers 35 years or ove! r in a 2003 Porsche GT3 911) 1. Tony Quinn (Team VIP Petfoods) 336 2. Dean Grant (Becks Racing) 324 3. Peter Hill (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 276 4. Stephen Borness (Celerity Racing/Logiadd) 255 5. Roger Oakeshott (Greg Murphy Racing/Team Braun) 222

HIGHEST PLACED NEW ZEALAND DRIVER 1. Paul Pedersen (International Motorsport NZ/Lakesawn Lumber) 99 2. Ross Rutherford (International Motorsport NZ/Woodstock Bourbon) 72

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Greg Murphy , Andrew Bagnall , Jim Richards , Rodney Jane , Fabian Coulthard , Alex Davison , Bob Jane , David Thexton , Tony Quinn , Klark Quinn , Peter Fitzgerald , Stephen Borness , Ash Samadi , Jonathon Webb , Peter Hill , Kevin Bell , Marc Cini , Dean Grant
Teams Tekno Autosports