Australia''s GTP Nations Cup Opener in Adelaide

THE Italians are hoping for an upset, the Americans are bringing heavy-duty firepower and the Germans will have the numbers when the fastest GT production sports cars from around the world do battle in Australia's newest motor racing championship...

THE Italians are hoping for an upset, the Americans are bringing heavy-duty firepower and the Germans will have the numbers when the fastest GT production sports cars from around the world do battle in Australia's newest motor racing championship in Adelaide this weekend.

The Century Batteries GTP Nations Cup has attracted a multi-million dollar field of more than 20 ultra-performance cars for races on Saturday and Sunday comprising round one of the eight-round national series.

Italy will be represented in the final entry list by two $350,000 Ferrari F360s and by a thundering Lamborghini Diablo wearing the devil's number 666, the United States by three V10-engined Dodge Vipers, a supercharged Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet Corvette.

From Germany will come more than 10 relentlessly effective Porsche 911 coupes, led by the new GT3 model of current Australian GT Production Car Champion Jim Richards.

Although Richards has the early form after three pre-season wins, testing of the new Italian contenders suggests they could spring a surprise.

Ferrari F360 Modena Challenge driver Mark Noske tested at Melbourne's Calder Park on Monday and went an impressive 1.2 seconds under the class lap record.

"We've done about 150 laps without a hiccup and a 20-lap race run when the times varied only by two-tenths of a second per lap," Noske said. "We're delighted, but we're not predicting any wins yet."

Triple Australian driving champion Paul Stokell says his 500 horsepower Lamborghini Diablo SVR is very fast over a single lap, but tyre wear is unproven over a race distance.

"These cars are going to attract a huge amount of attention. I can't wait - I missed out on a competitive drive last year and I hope this is my chance to win another championship," he said.

Sports car veteran Rusty French expects brakes will be the weak point of his Dodge Viper ACR, which he tested for only 30 minutes today following its delivery from the United States.

Saturday's first-ever GTP Nations Cup race will be shown live on Network Ten television.

TIMETABLE: Fri. 11.40 am - qualifying. Sat. 1 pm - race (12 laps). Sun. 11.15 am - race (14 laps).

SURFING ironman champion Grant Kenny and Geelong Australian Rules football legend Sam Newman will test their fitness as well as their driving skills in a demanding two-hour night race in the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship on the Adelaide street circuit this weekend.

The two sportsmen, relatively recent converts to motor racing, will be among 40 drivers and cars contesting the second of eight rounds in the national championship.

Unlike many others in the field, Kenny and Newman have chosen to race the entire distance, despite the opportunity to hand over to a co-driver during a compulsory tyre-change pit stop.

The tactic could help the chances of ironman Kenny, who is a front-running contender following a top-10 finish with his Subaru Impreza WRX STi in the championship's first round in Western Australia last month.

Newman's 2.2 litre Holden Vectra is not designed to carry him to outright victory, but he will be fighting for title points in the Poolrite Four-cylinder Touring class and to turn the tables on experienced teammate Melinda Price, who drives an identical car.

Winners are difficult to pick in any of the series' five classes. Outright honors will be a tussle between dominant series leader Ric Shaw, sharing a Mazda RX7 with Geoff Full, and a host of other Mazdas, Subarus, Mitsubishi Lancer RS Evo V¹s and a single Holden V8.

Saturday's race will be shown on Network Ten¹s Trackside program on Sunday 16 April.

1999 ADELAIDE RESULTS (1-Hour race): 1 Jim Richards (Porsche 911 RSCS), 2 Geoff Morgan (Porsche 911 RSCS), 3 Ed Aitken (Porsche 911 RSCS). Pole, Richards 1:34.99.

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after Rd 1): Outright/Autobarn High Perf., Ric Shaw (Mazda RX7) 32; Hippies Sports Touring, David Wood (Honda Integra Type R) 29; Pennzoil V8 Touring, Scott Loadsman (Holden Commodore SS); Pennzoil Six-cyl. Touring, Robert Chadwick (Mitsubishi Magna Sports) 28; Poolrite Four-cyl. Touring, Nathan Thomas (Suzuki Swift GTi) 29.

WEEKEND TIMETABLE: Fri. 5.45 pm - qualifying. Sat. 5.30 pm - race (2 hours).

-Chris Nixon-

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Series Supercars
Drivers Jim Richards , Mark Noske , Geoff Morgan , Ric Shaw , Paul Stokell , Melinda Price , Geoff Full , Scott Loadsman , Rusty French , David Wood