Albert Park: Season opener event preview

Cleanevent Nations Cup, Fosters Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, Melbourne Briscoe's F1 Status No Easy Way Past Nations Cup Regulars In AGP Races AUSTRALIA's youngest Formula One hopeful Ryan Briscoe will get the keys to his first racing ...

Cleanevent Nations Cup, Fosters Australian Grand Prix
Albert Park, Melbourne

Briscoe's F1 Status No Easy Way Past Nations Cup Regulars In AGP Races

AUSTRALIA's youngest Formula One hopeful Ryan Briscoe will get the keys to his first racing Ferrari at next week's Fosters Australian Grand Prix, but he will have to fight past some of the country's toughest drivers to reach the podium in the Cleanevent Nations Cup.

Sydney-born Briscoe, 20, will drive a $750,000 Ferrari 360 Michelotto coupe in four races on the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne and will be a star contender in a record field of more than 30 of the world's greatest sports cars.

But his status as test driver for the Toyota grand prix team will earn no breaks from Nations Cup regulars such as Paul Stokell, in a Lamborghini Diablo GTR, Geoff Morgan, in a Chrysler Viper, or Peter Fitzgerald and Jim Richards, who will debut the latest Porsche GT3 Cup cars.

"I certainly rate Ryan as a contender, but the Michelotto is the first in the country and will be an unknown quantity," said Stokell, who won two of the three Nations Cup races at last year's AGP.

"Albert Park is a fast circuit that suits the most powerful cars like the Lamborghini and my aim is to win again. We'll have to wait for practice to see how quick the Ferrari is and Richards and Fitzgerald are always likely to spring a surprise in the Porsches."

Fitzgerald, for years one of Australia's leading Porsche racers, says the smaller GT3 Cup will be an underdog against Stokell and Briscoe.

"They should set the pace, although I'm hoping the new Porsche will be three or four seconds quicker around Albert Park than last year's car. The GT3's best assets are cornering and braking and I'll be using those to get under the bigger cars."

The entry list for the Cleanevent Nations Cup is a record for the two-year-old category, promising grand prix patrons a feast of motoring exotica worth several million dollars.

It includes seven Ferraris, 14 Porsches, two Lamborghini Diablos, three Chrysler Vipers, two Ford Mustangs and the best from Japan in a Brabham Honda NSX and Toyota Supra Turbo.

Briscoe will be part of a nine-car entry of Ferraris and Mustangs from the Prancing Horse Racing team. Other drivers will include football personality Sam Newman and Sandown 500 winner Tom Waring, from Hong Kong.

The Michelotto will arrive by air today from Maranello, Italy. Briscoe is due to arrive from his Italian base tomorrow.

Prancing Horse Motorsport Director John Bowe said Briscoe was expected to drive the car for the first time on Tuesday in a test at Calder Park circuit.

"A lot of effort has gone into getting Ryan here for this race, so he can get some experience of the Albert Park track for possible future appearances in a Formula One car," Bowe said.

"He is destined for great things and a group of independent Australian supporters is contributing to his development by giving him this chance."

CLEANEVENT NATIONS CUP at the Fosters Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne 28 February - 3 March

TIMETABLE:

Thursday
10.50 Practice (20 min.)
2.30 Qualifying (20 min.)
5.40 Race 1 (8 laps)

Friday
2.25 Race 2 (10 laps)

Saturday
4.15 Race 3 (12 laps)

Sunday
12.15 Race 4 (6 laps).

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Ryan Briscoe , Jim Richards , John Bowe , Geoff Morgan , Paul Stokell