Improved Production Touring: Chris O'Shannessy interview

</pre> After a bad start to his year 2000 campaign, Chris O'Shannessy once again pulled through to take out the Under 1600cc Improved Production Class for the third straight year. The car was also a giant killer of sorts, by ...

</pre> After a bad start to his year 2000 campaign, Chris O'Shannessy once again pulled through to take out the Under 1600cc Improved Production Class for the third straight year. The car was also a giant killer of sorts, by claiming a string of respectable outright results.

MW- Season 2000 was a pretty good one for Chris O'Shannessy and the TOYOTA Sprinter / Levin.

CO- Season 2000 did not get off to the best start for the team, and myself as our new engine unfortunately failed after only 2 races. We then missed the entire next round waiting on new parts from Japan (TRD), when the time began to drag on the decision was made to put the old engine back into the car even though it had already done 3000 race kays and focus on the class championship as we were falling badly behind on points, From there the season turned around as the car was reliable and I just kept on driving it with the intention to rack up as many class points possible. We also ran the repaired engine at the V8 Lites round at Lakeside but where once again struck with problems (oil surge), but on a better note the engine showed huge potential as I was able to drop 0.8sec off my best laptime instantly. This put me into 62.0-second laps straight away which moved me up the grid 3 or 4 spots (very happy about that).

MW- At the start of the year did you expect to do so well?

CO- At the start of the season I was full of confidence as I had already won the 98 & 99 class championship and was totally focused on making it 3 in a row. In one regard I was not overly stressed going into season 2000 because the other 1600cc class competitors are at least 2 or 3 seconds a lap off my times, but with the way the improved production races are held (all in together) there is a fair bit more to the racing than just racing in your class, because at any stage you could get caught up in someone else's stack and then be taken out of contention all together.

MW- What would be your highlight for the year?

CO- The Highlight for the year was winning the Under 2000cc Event at the QLD 500 V8 Supercar round (The race meeting was actually divided into 2 separate classes Under 2000cc and Over 2000cc) Being presented the trophy in front of all the spectators and having the opportunity to say thanks to all my sponsors which were there for the weekend. Winning the Under 1600cc Improved Production Championship in 1998, 1999 & 2000 making a clean sweep of the title 3 years in a row was quite a big buzz. Holding the 1600cc class lap records on all four circuits Lakeside & Willowbank A, B & Long tracks.

MW- What do you put the improvement down to?

CO- The improvement in the car and myself has just come down to spending as much time behind the wheel as possible, and becoming more in tune with what the car can and can't do. Also spending a fair amount of time making little changes to the car one at a time to see what works is a big part of the improvement.

MW- Do you think there is much room for improvement in the car?

CO- Definitely there are still many improvements to made to the car, next year we will have our new engine running reliably, I also have finally been able to get a much better diff ratio for the car, which will give me far better acceleration out of the corners, There is also a total upgrade of the front and rear brakes still to come. With all of this combined it should make for a reasonable improvement.

MW- Obviously the cars strong point is its handling. How much of an advantage is that around Lakeside?

CO- The Sprinter has proven to be quite a good little car through the turns, it is a really good fun car to drive around Lakeside and on the short circuits at Willowbank where you can get away with not having that much horsepower, But the Willowbank long track is another story all together.

Having a car that stops and turns well is quite an advantage around Lakeside mainly because all of the corners are quite high speed and if you can keep the corner speed up it gives you a good chance to keep up with the cars that have more straight line speed, I have spent a fair bit of time working on the car setup with Ken Graham from ACCURATE SUSPENSION who has kept me on the right track with all the little mods and improvements that have been done over the years.

MW- What inspired you to build the car as a replica Group A Corolla?

CO- The inspiration to build the car as close as possible to the Corolla Group A cars basically came from the fact that when they were being run as touring cars they were very popular race cars and had a good reputation for being quite quick, it also to lets the spectators and other competitors know what the car actually is because not to many people know or realise what a Sprinter is exactly (I have had a lot of people over the years come up to me at the track and say is that John Faulkner & Mike Quinns old touring car).

MW- Improved Production cars run on control Yokohama tyres. Do they suit the car?

CO- From 2001 all improved production cars will be on the same control tyre (YOKOHAMA AO32r), At this point in time I am still running on YOKOHAMA A008rs and they seem to work very well on the car, I can basically get through the whole season on 2 sets of tyres, Mainly because the car is pretty easy on it's rubber and the cars light weight helps a fair bit. As yet I have not run on the AO32r Yokohama's but I am sure that we will be able to get the car to work just as well on the new tyres.

MW- How does your racecar compare to a road going Sprinter?

CO- I have a Sprinter as my daily drive car / spare parts car and the differences between the two cars are huge, Although my road car has a twin cam 1600 from the Jap spec Levin just like the race car that is basically where the similarities end. To give you an idea I used to run my road going Sprinter at regularity meetings and sprint meeting and was only able to put in 67second laps at Lakeside, where as the race car can consistently real of any number of 62.0 second laps. I'm sure you can understand the levels of modification required to drop 5 seconds are fairly substantial.

MW- What does next season hold for Chris O'Shannessy and the COS Motorsport team?

CO- Season 2001 will be a interesting year for myself and the team as we are planning to travel down south to do at least two interstate races (Eastern Creek and Wakefield Park or Phillip Island) to get a bit of an idea of how competitive the car is against other 1600cc cars it will also be a lot of fun to learn new tracks and see how the car responds to them.

MW- And after that?

CO- I Plan to try and get a few more sponsors together and then set about building a new car to run in the GTP series. The car will be a class B vehicle from the TOYOTA / Lexus stable, and hopefully if we can get enough funds together to make the project happen I will be able to provide some TV time for all the people / sponsors who have supported me so far.

MW- You have several very loyal sponsors who have helped you out during the season.

CO- I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thankyou to all of my loyal sponsors, Cummins & Valvoline, Tighe Cams, B&P Panel Repairs, C&P plastic Welding, POWERWARE Corp, Accurate Suspension, D Symonds Signs and last but not least my parents Ann & Frank and the whole team, because without the commitment & support of all these people I would not be where I am today.

-Mark Walker www.qrda.asn.au

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Series Road racing
Drivers Mark Walker , Phillip Island