Winton, Australia practice notes

Richards, Fitzgerald and Leahey fill top three times in first practice Just nine-tenths of a second separate the top seven drivers after opening practice for this weekend's third round of the Carrera Cup at Winton Motor Raceway in northern ...

Richards, Fitzgerald and Leahey fill top three times in first practice

Just nine-tenths of a second separate the top seven drivers after opening practice for this weekend's third round of the Carrera Cup at Winton Motor Raceway in northern Victoria today.

Current championship points leader Jim Richards was fastest in both sessions held today in sunny conditions, clocking a 1m26.4203s lap around the three-kilometre venue, which will host three championship races for the all-Porsche series this weekend.

Richards, fresh from his record seventh Targa Tasmania victory in partnership with Tasmanian Barry Oliver (also in a Porsche 911), was only fractions of a second ahead of ENJO Racing's Peter Fitzgerald in both sessions, who will be looking to improve one position in qualifying, which will be held at 11.10am tomorrow.

Greg Murphy Racing's Tim Leahey was third fastest in his Mossimo-backed machine and is just as keen to continue on with good results, considering he scored his first podium of the season at Eastern Creek three weeks ago.

Running on a track where he has never driven a Carrera Cup car, Eastern Creek pole-sitter Marcus Marshall was fifth fastest in his VIP Pet Foods machine. The Queenslander sits second in the championship to Richards, and leads the Rookie of the Year standings over Leahey.

"Qualifying is still a bit of an unknown quantity, we're still learning about getting the best out of new tyres," said the Gold Coast-based racer.

Leahey's team-mate Peter Hill was a fantastic fifth overall after the two sessions, making the most of a recent test session at Winton where Leahey ran some laps in the former Formula Holden Silver Star champ's machine.

Andrew Miedecke, who also tested a week ago at Winton, was sixth fastest, ahead of Matt Coleman. After suffering severe damage to his #62 machine in the last round at Eastern Creek, Coleman bounced back in fine fashion to be third quickest in the first session and seventh overall by the end of the second.

"There was a fair amount of work in repairing the car but it wasn't bent, which was good, and it was a matter of piecing back together all the bits," said Coleman, who reported that traffic had hampered his run in the second session.

Kiwi Kevin Bell was eighth fastest ahead of an impressive Jack Crocker in the Team Terrier machine and fellow NZer Paul Pedersen. Crocker finished a strong ninth in the final race at Eastern Creek and continues to show good pace having graduated from Class B cars in Porsche Cup.

Returning to the category for the first time since his massive accident during qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix support races was David Scaysbrook. The Queenslander's team have been busy working on repairing his Fuzion Internet-backed car in order for him to take part in this first championship round this weekend, his #28 machine ending up 19th fastest in both sessions.

Making his Carrera Cup debut this weekend is Victorian Marc Cini. Cini is driving a car purchased from Scott Shearman. The 2002-model machine was raced by Shearman in Nations Cup last year and has been upgraded to full 2003-spec for this year's Carrera Cup. Cini was 23rd fastest today in both sessions in his first competitive hit-out.

Qualifying will be held tomorrow at 11.00am, with the first 12-lapper to be run from at 4.00pm. Races two and three will be held on Sunday, at 10.00am and 4.25pm respectively.

The Carrera Cup is a nine-round championship supporting the V8 Supercar Championship Series, using identical Porsche GT3 Cup cars that have been specially manufactured for Carrera Cup competition by the Porsche factory in Weissach, Germany.

In its first year, the Australian series has the highest car count of any Carrera Cup worldwide, with 24 cars to compete this weekend. The figure is slightly down on previous rounds of the title at Phillip Island and Eastern Creek, but nevertheless an impressive figure given that it is the first year of the series in Australia. <pre>

Top 10 Positions - Practice Pos No Driver Car/Team Time 1 5 Jim Richards OAMPS/Greenfield Mowers 1:26.4203 2 33 Peter Fitzgerald ENJO/Fitzgerald Racing Services 1:26.6889 3 55 Tim Leahey Mossimo/Greg Murphy Racing 1:26.6898 4 31 Marcus Marshall VIP Pet Foods Racing 1:26.8117 5 66 Peter Hill Mossimo/Greg Murphy Racing 1:27.2295 6 35 Andrew Miedecke Miedecke Motorsport 1:27.3132 7 62 Matt Coleman Coleman/Dutton Racing 1:27.3687 8 86 Kevin Bell G Tech Bellmor/Porsche Motorsport NZ 1:27.7202 9 51 Jack Crocker Team Terrier 1:27.7901 10 96 Paul Pedersen LakeSawn Lumber/Porsche Motorsport NZ 1:28.2841

</pre> NEWS UPDATE:

* Missing from the field this weekend are a few regular Carrera Cup competitors. Geoff Morgan is overseas to compete in the Nurburgring 24 Hour, while Scott Shearman will also miss this round due to family commitments. Kiwi drivers Rick Armstrong and Andrew Bagnall are also absent this weekend.

* A late withdrawl from this weekend's round is the #23 RT Motorsport machine that was to be driven by Formula 3 ace Michael Caruso. Caruso tested the car at Wakefield Park during the week, but has instead decided to take up a drive in a Formula 4000 car.

* Coleman/Dutton Racing have added new sponsors for their Porsches this weekend. The team now have Fubu clothing and Qbar backing drivers Matt Coleman and James Dutton.

-apcc-

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Series Porsche
Drivers Greg Murphy , Andrew Bagnall , Tim Leahey , Marcus Marshall , Jack Crocker , Scott Shearman , Jim Richards , Geoff Morgan , Peter Fitzgerald , Michael Caruso , Peter Hill , Kevin Bell , Marc Cini , Andrew Miedecke , Phillip Island