AUSF3: UTE: Symmons Plains race report

Pretty wins Nations Cup round for Monaro, but Bowe still the series leader. Nathan Pretty took the Holden Monaro's first race win in the Donut King Australian Nations Cup Championship, but John Bowe retained the series lead with his Ferrari in...

Pretty wins Nations Cup round for Monaro, but Bowe still the series leader.

Nathan Pretty took the Holden Monaro's first race win in the Donut King Australian Nations Cup Championship, but John Bowe retained the series lead with his Ferrari in round two at Symmons Plains circuit near Launceston today.

Pretty drove his Bathurst 24 Hour-winning Monaro to a first, a second and a third place to grab the overall round honours ahead of Bowe and Lamborghini driver Paul Stokell, each of whom also won a race.

Peter Brock, in the second of the 7.0 Monaros built and run by Garry Rogers Motorsport, celebrated the end of his five-year retirement with a vintage performance.

The nine-time Bathurst champion scored a third, a second and a fifth place, fastest lap in race two and fourth overall and already is fifth in the Meguiar's Drivers Championship points standings despite missing the first round.

Greg Crick's aggressive driving in a Chrysler Viper was another highlight, resulting not only in fifth on the day but also ensuring that Tasmanian-born drivers - Bowe, Stokell and Crick - finished their home event in the first three championship positions.

A record crowd of 12,800 turned out today - and 16,000 over the three-day PROCAR Champ Series event - to see some of the most exciting Nations Cup racing to date.

In other categories, Subaru driver Wayne Boatwright won three races to take over the lead in the Strathfield Australian GT Performance Championship.

Charlie Kovacs, from Adelaide, put himself on top of the Poolrite V8 BRutes Series standings with two wins from three starts in a Holden SS ute.

Bowe started race one from pole position and on the rolling start just managed to squeeze his V8 Ferrari ahead in the short run to turn one.

As Bowe lowered his own lap record time on the second lap, Stokell dropped from second place to the back of the field when the Lamborghini's gear lever broke.

Bowe continued unchallenged for the rest of the 21-lap event, while Stokell used the mighty power of the Lamborghini's V12 engine to climb back up to seventh despite being able to use only third gear.

Behind Bowe, the racing was intense with Pretty, Brock and Crick seemingly glued together and using their cars' respective strengths in speed, cornering and braking on different parts of the circuit. However, the positions remained the same until the finish.

The battle between Ferrari, Lamborghini, Monaro and Viper and five of Australia's top GT sports car drivers resumed in race two.

Pretty and Brock immediately went on the attack and by lap two already had passed Bowe, whose car was carrying a 68 kilogram success handicap from race one.

Crick and Stokell followed as Bowe began to suffer selection problems with the Ferrari's Formula One-style electronic gearshift.

Brock and Crick were locked in a bumper-to-bumper fight for second place over the final 11 laps and on the 21st and last circuit the pair rubbed doors at more than 220 kmh as they raced through the right-hand kink on the main straight.

Crick appeared to have the advantage for the approaching last corner, but Brock was able to use a backmarker to box-in the Viper and hold on for second place.

The tables were reversed for the critical 42-lap third race as the Lamborghini and Ferrari lost their success handicaps by virtue of finishing off the podium in race two. But Bowe had another setback, as the Ferrari stalled before the formation lap and he was forced to start from the rear of the grid.

The two Monaros stormed into the lead, but it was the un-ballasted Lamborghini and four new tyres the team had saved that had Stokell in second on lap seven and first on lap nine.

Bowe turned on a magnificent effort from the back of the field and was in fifth place before quarter-distance. He took Crick then Brock on lap 27 and Pretty four laps later in a late-braking move at the hairpin corner.

However, Stokell had the race under control and with the triple Gold Star champion's mother watching him race for the very first time, he went on to take the win by 1.5 sec.

In the Group Two class, Rusty French took overall honours ahead of fellow Porsche driver James Koundouris, with Gary Young third in a Maserati.

The leading drivers agreed they had enjoyed an outstanding day's racing.

"That was the best way to come back to racing. I had absolute ball," Brock said.

Crick commented: "That was a fanastic day, racing against these drivers and against all the different makes of cars. I rpredict the popularity of Nations Cup is going to explode this year."

Racing was no less explosive in GT Performance, where Wayne Boatwright overcame tyre problems to score three wins, his first of the season. In race three, he was followed in second place by ProTecnica teammate and Sydney hotel identity Justin Hemmes, 30, who had never been on a racing circuit until last October.

Boatwright now has a substantial 31-point lead over Mitsubishi driver Mark King, who had led the series after taking two wins in round one in Adelaide.

Apart from Boatwright's hat-trick, the most consistent driver was Graham Alexander, from Geelong, who finished second overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer and is now equal-third in the series with Mazda RX-7 stalwart Bob Pearson.

Charlie Kovacs, from Adelaide, took the Poolrite V8 BRutes Series lead for Holden, but a win and two second places meant a round victory for Falcon driver Grant Denyer.

Scott Loadsman, in a V8 Commodore, continues to lead the Siemens Mobile Australian Production Car Championship. He won the first 13-lap handicap race, while Steve Grocl took his first victory of the season in a Volkswagen Beetle RSi in race two.

The Symmons Plains PROCAR Champ Series round will be shown on the Seven Network from 12 midday to 1 pm on the following dates - 10 May Nations Cup, 17 May GT Performance, 24 May V8 BRutes, 31 May Production Cars/Formula 3.

Round 3 - 30 May to 1 June, Wakefield Park, Goulburn, NSW

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About this article
Series Supercars , F3
Drivers Nathan Pretty , John Bowe , Peter Brock , Grant Denyer , James Koundouris , Greg Crick , Paul Stokell , Mark King , Wayne Boatwright , Scott Loadsman , Charlie Kovacs , Gary Young , Rusty French