2002 Nations Cup preview

New 'Eliminator' Qualifying Format heads exciting changes for Nations Cup in 2002 THE contest for pole position at rounds of the Australian Nations Cup Championship for exotic sports cars will take on extra excitement and importance this year...

New 'Eliminator' Qualifying Format heads exciting changes for Nations Cup in 2002

THE contest for pole position at rounds of the Australian Nations Cup Championship for exotic sports cars will take on extra excitement and importance this year with the introduction of a new qualifying format called Top 8 Eliminator.

Also to be introduced is a performance penalty system, with weight handicaps imposed on the overall first, second and third finishers at each of the eight rounds.

And in further changes, races will be run to three different formats, depending on the circuit, and cars will compete in two groups for professional and semi-professional teams.

The championship, featuring the world's greatest makes such as Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Viper, Jaguar and Mustang, will open its third season at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide on 15-17 March, following a feature appearance two weeks earlier at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Chairman of Nations Cup organisers PROCAR Australia, Ross Palmer, said the new-look championship would be the most exciting yet, with the format changes complemented by the entry of new cars and drivers.

PROCAR has developed the Top 8 Eliminator as a 30-minute run-off for the fastest eight drivers from the main qualifying session.

But instead of the traditional one-by-one contest for the fastest time, the Top 8 Eliminator will determine pole position in a series of one-lap heats between two cars at a time.

And instead of one championship point for pole, as in previous seasons, the top four from the Eliminator will score on the following scale - 1st 5 points, 2nd 3 pts, 3rd 1 pt, 4th 1 pt.

The new-season Sporting Regulations will see round placegetters incur a performance penalty, or success ballast, for the following round. The handicap will add four percent to the regulated weight of the winning car, three percent for second and two percent for third.

The performance penalty will apply for one round only and PROCAR will reserve the right not to apply it at all, should that be in the best interest of the category.

Ross Palmer said the new measures would add to the spectacle of Nations Cup, especially for Saturday spectators at qualifying and for viewers of exclusive PROCAR editions of the Speedweek program on SBS Television and Fox Sports.

"The Top 8 Eliminator is something completely new to circuit racing in Australia - so new we have applied to patent the concept - and will be truly exciting for everyone.

"The performance penalty system has been used very successfully in other formulae and is a fair way of improving the competition by handicapping individual driver-car combinations, rather than every car of a particular model," Mr Palmer said.

"Finally, introducing Group One and Group Two will accommodate the needs of a growing and diverse body of competitors operating at various levels."

In the Top 8 Eliminator, the winners of four initial heats will progress to two further heats and the two drivers who emerge winners of those heats contest a final run-off for pole.

The heats will be contested in the following order of qualifiers from the main session -

Round One
* Heat 1 - 1st qualifier versus 5th qualifier. Winner progresses to second round, loser starts race from 5th grid spot.
* Heat 2 - 2nd v. 6th. Winner progresses, loser to 6th grid.
* Heat 3 - 3rd v. 7th. Winner progresses, loser to 7th grid.
* Heat 4 - 4th v. 8th. Winner progresses, loser to 8th grid.

Round Two
* Heat 5 - Heat 1 winner v. Heat 2 winner. Winner progresses to final, loser to 3rd grid.
* Heat 6 - Heat 3 winner v. Heat 4 winner. Winner progresses to final, loser to 4th grid.

Round Three - Final
* Heat 7 - Heat 5 winner v. Heat 6 winner. Winner takes pole, loser to 2nd grid.

Mr Palmer promised the Top 8 Eliminator would be a fast-moving event, with pairs of cars completing a warm-up lap behind the safety car before a rolling start for the one-lap sprint.

The next pair should be on their warm-up as the previous pair is completing its heat. Cars that fail to make the heat will forfeit and take the loser's grid position, while a driver who jumps the rolling start will go to grid position eight for the first race.

PROCAR Australia also has decided to run Nations Cup races to three different formats this season. In the past two seasons, the standard championship format has been three races of 20 minutes' duration, with a full-field reverse grid for the second.

Under the new regulations, two rounds will comprise a race each of 20 minutes and 45 minutes, two will be run as two 35-minute races and four will be run in the original three-race format, but with the race two grid reversed only for the top 12.

All races, starting with four non-championship sprints at the Australian Grand Prix meeting in March, will accept entries from Group One and Group Two competitors.

Cars eligible for the faster Group One include the $700,000 Ferrari 360 Michelotto and Lamborghini Diablo GTR, Porsche GT3 Cup, Holden's new Monaro coupe, the Chrysler Viper, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette.

Group Two, featuring the current Porsche GT3 and Ferrari 360 Challenge among others, will be eligible for the outright championship as well as a separate pointscore.

Summary of changes for the 2002 Australian Nations Cup Championship -

* Top 8 Eliminator for qualifying
* Success ballast for round placegetters
* Three different race formats
* Cars eligible in Group One or Group Two

Australian Nations Cup Championship - 2002 race calendar

* 1-3 March (Non-champ.) Albert Park, Vic. Australian Grand Prix
* 15-17 March (Round 1) Adelaide street Clipsal 500
* 5-7 April (Rd 2) Symmons Plains, Tas. PROCAR Champ. Series
* 10-12 May (Rd 3) Oran Park, NSW PROCAR Champ. Series
* 21-23 June (Rd 4) Winton, Vic. PROCAR Champ. Series
* 12-14 July (Rd 5) Queensland Raceway PROCAR Champ. Series
* 9-11 August (Rd 6) Wakefield Park, NSW PROCAR Champ. Series
* 6-8 September (Non-champ.) Sandown, Vic. Sandown 500/PROCAR Champ.
* 20-22 September (Rd 7) Phillip Island, Vic. PROCAR Champ. Series
* 24-27 October (Rd 8) Surfers Paradise, Qld Honda Indy


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Series Supercars
Drivers Phillip Island