AUSF3: UTE: Phillip Island: Event preview

GTP set for exciting '02 finale as Procar Series returns to the birthplace of production racing. - Aussie Utes to Italian exotics fill 18-race program. Victoria's magnificent Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit will host the deciding round of the...

GTP set for exciting '02 finale as Procar Series returns to the birthplace of production racing.
- Aussie Utes to Italian exotics fill 18-race program.

Victoria's magnificent Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit will host the deciding round of the Australian GT Production Car Championship next weekend with a scenario truly worthy of the birthplace of production car racing.

After seven previous rounds, the national series for showroom-based cars is set for an exciting finale, with seven drivers in the running for the outright title or class championships for 4-Cylinder Touring and Sports Touring cars.

Two GT Production Car races will be part of an 18-race program for the PROCAR Champ Series.

A huge entry of 135 cars showcases the spectrum of production-based motorsport from Holden and Ford V8 utes to mega-dollar Ferraris, Vipers, Porsches and a Lamborghini.

Other events will feature the seventh and penultimate rounds of the Australian Nations Cup Championship, Australian GT Performance Championship, V8 BRute Series, Australian Formula 3 Championship and Toyo Mitsubishi Mirage Series. There will be three races for HQ Holdens.

At trackside, the highlight is expected to be the Ute Muster, a display and competition featuring several hundred roadgoing utes from throughout regional Victoria.

It's 42 years since Frank Coad and John Roxburgh won the inaugural Armstrong 500 at Phillip Island in a Vauxhall Cresta.

Although the race moved to Bathurst in 1963 and eventually developed into today's 1000 enduro, the 4.5 km oceanside track has remained a favourite with drivers who submit cars in near-standard trim to the ultimate test of competition.

There are 120 points up for grabs by the outright and class winners in the GT Production Car races.

A successful handicapping system introduced this season has set up the outright showdown between drivers of three widely differing cars - Colin Osborne, from New South Wales, in a 4-cylinder Toyota Celica coupe, on 597 points; Steve Cramp, from South Australia, in a six-cylinder BMW 323i sedan (586) and Scott Loadsman, from New South Wales, in a 5.7 litre V8 Holden Commodore SS (543).

The fact that Loadsman's car inevitably will be faster on the grand prix circuit than his rivals' does not guarantee him the championship.

"The handicappers will look at our lap times after practice and qualifying and if they do their job well, will come up with a start delay that should allow me to catch up with Colin and Steve near the end of the eight laps and have a great race to the finish," Loadsman said.

Osborne added: "It's been a terrific competition all year and we've got where we are through consistency, the Toyota's reliability and the team's sheer hard work. We'll need everything going our way on Sunday, but I'm looking forward to the final battle.

"I've raced in this category for many years and covered thousands of kilometres on track - to finally win the Australian GT Production Car Championship would be a dream come true."

Cramp, Osborne and Osborne's Celica teammate Aaron McGill have 747, 739 and 655 points respectively in the tightly-balanced Sports Touring class championship.

Martin Doxey, with 679 points in a Holden Astra, David Runkel (626) in a Proton and Rick Bates (614) in a Daihatsu Sirion - the smallest car racing next weekend - will fight out the 4-Cylinder Touring class.

With little or no direct competition during the season, Loadsman and Daryl Coon (Ford Falcon XR6) will wrap up the V8 Touring and 6-Cylinder Touring classes, respectively.

The biggest Nations Cup field so far this season will contest three races, with the results vital to the finale at the Gold Coast Indy event next month.

Points leader John Bowe is one of four drivers in four different cars who have won races this year.

He has a margin of 35 points over Porsche's Jim Richards, who leads Chrysler Viper driver Geoff Morgan by a mere four points. The fourth winner, Paul Stokell, in a Lamborghini, is fifth in the series but out of title contention.

The pointscore in the Group Two section is similarly tight, with PHR Scuderia Ferrari teammates John Teulan, Sam Newman and Steve Beards covered in the first three positions by 33 points.

Nations Cup drivers rejoining the series at Phillip Island include D'arcy Russell and Rusty French, in Vipers, veteran Murray Carter in a Chev Corvette Z06 and David Scaysbrook and Max Warwick, in Porsches.

In the GT Performance series, defending champion Brett Peters will debut a new Subaru Impreza STi in a bid to regain the 2002 points lead from Geoff Full, who drives a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Holden star Peter Floyd, who spectacularly destroyed his Commodore GTS at the Sandown 500 two weekends ago, has confirmed he will start at Phillip Island, although he is yet to arrange a replacement car.

Falcon driver Warren Luff has a comfortable lead of 112 points over Damien White, also in a Falcon, in the V8 BRute Series.

A total of 27 Falcon and Commodore utes will contest three races in their first visit to Phillip Island.

At a glance : PROCAR Champ Series at Phillip Island

* Competing categories. Australian Nations Cup Championship (Rd 7 of 8), Australian GT Performance Championship (Rd 7 of 8), Australian GT Production Car Championship (Rd 8 of 8), V8 BRute Series (Rd 7 of 8), Australian Formula 3 Championship (Rd 7 of 8), Toyo Mitsubishi Mirage Series (Rd 7 of 8), HQ Holdens, Ute Muster.

* Friday. From 9.15, official practice for all cars except GT Production.

* Saturday. From 9.15 am, qualifying for all cars, plus two races for HQ Holdens.

* Sunday. From 9.15 am, total of 16 races for all cars. Ute Muster display and competition; judging at 2.00. Last race 5.15 pm.

* Tickets. Adults Saturday $15, Sunday $25. Children 12-16 Saturday $10, Sunday $10. Children under 12 free all weekend. Ute drivers enter free on Sunday with paying adult passenger.

* Circuit location. Back Beach Road, Cowes, Vic. Approx. 130 km south-east of Melbourne, via Monash Freeway then South Gippsland Highway to San Remo; cross bridge to Phillip Island.

* Information. Phillip Island (03) 5952 2710, or Ute Muster entry forms at or at the track.

* Television. On SBS Speedweek - Nations Cup Saturday 28 September 3.30, GT Performance Saturday 5 October 3.30, V8 BRutes Saturday 19 October 3.30, GT Production & F3 Saturday 26 October 3.30. Also on Inside Speed on Fox Sport 2, Thursdays at 8.30 pm. Check local guides.

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About this article
Series Supercars , F3
Drivers Jim Richards , John Bowe , Rick Bates , Peter Floyd , Geoff Morgan , John Teulan , Paul Stokell , Geoff Full , Steve Cramp , Aaron McGill , Scott Loadsman , Brett Peters , Warren Luff , Damien White , Rusty French , Phillip Island