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Brock joins strong line-up for most competitive Nations Cup opener at AGP in Melbourne. At least eight new cars, including a Holden Monaro driven by Peter Brock, will launch the fourth and most competitive season yet of Nations Cup racing at the...

Brock joins strong line-up for most competitive Nations Cup opener at AGP in Melbourne.

At least eight new cars, including a Holden Monaro driven by Peter Brock, will launch the fourth and most competitive season yet of Nations Cup racing at the Fosters Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne tomorrow.

The field of Nations Cup sports cars plus invited GT Performance touring cars will contest four events over four days in the Cleanevent Nations Cup, covering more race laps than any other category on the program except Formula One.

Grand prix spectators will see some of the world's fastest sports machines in action, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Viper, Porsche, Corvette, Maserati and TVR, but many eyes will be on 58-year-old Brock and the first appearance of the Australian-built 7.0 litre Monaro since it won the Bathurst 24-Hour race last November.

"If I can maintain similar performance to Bathurst around the (Albert Park) lake we should be able to give the Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Vipers and the like plenty to think about," Brock said.

However, the controversial Monaro has been slowed under parity rules by Nations Cup organiser PROCAR Australia and will race with an engine speed limit of 5800 rpm and two 32.5 millimetre air intake restrictors.

Its performance was checked against the Ferrari 360GT and Lamborghini Diablo GTR in an unusual track test on Monday, after which PROCAR said all three cars were capable of comparable lap times.

At Calder Park circuit, the Monaro was driven by regular pilot Nathan Pretty - who will stand aside for Brock at the grand prix - then handed over to his rivals, Lamborghini's Paul Stokell and Ferrari's John Bowe.

The three drivers also all tested the Ferrari, while Bowe also sampled the Lamborghini.

Bowe, Motorsport Director of PHR Scuderia, will not race this weekend but took part in the test for his Indonesian team mate Maher Algadri.

He declined to comment on his two laps in the Monaro, but Stokell said the big V8 coupe would be a formidable new challenge to Nations Cup regulars.

"I'm glad they've slowed it, but it's still a weapon. It's got plenty of straight-line speed and is very easy to drive," said Stokell, whose five wins and two poles make him the most successful Nations Cup driver around the 5.3 km Albert Park circuit.

Missing from the parity test were any of the 8.0 litre Chrysler Vipers, driven by Geoff Morgan, D'arcy Russell and Rusty French, which traditionally do well in Melbourne.

Stokell's team is one of several which will contribute new cars or drivers to the most competitive start yet to a Nations Cup season.

He will have the backing of a teammate for the first time, in the form of Australian Rules football personality Sam Newman, who has switched to the rival Lamborghini camp and Group One outright contention after two years with Ferrari in Group Two.

"I'm really looking forward to having Sam as a teammate. He's been driving better and better and having him in an identical car will certainly strengthen the overall competitiveness of Lamborghini," Stokell said.

Maserati will be the most notable newcomer in the non-championship Cleanevent races. The entry of two Trofeo V8 coupes for new team Trident Racing marks the legendary Italian brand's return to international sports car competition after several decades.

The cars will be driven by former V8 BRute rivals Rod Wilson and Gary Young. Wilson will be the team's Motorsport Director as it seeks to run up to five Trofeos this year.

He said: "The grand prix fans are really in for a treat, being able to see Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Viper and several other great makes all in competition. The Maserati is un-raced but after testing it on Monday I'm sure it will be competitive. It will be particularly quick on the straights - and it sounds fabulous."

Melbourne also will see the debut of the newly-eligible Porsche GT3 RS, to be driven by Mark Mayall for the British Cirtek team and Melbourne's Martin Wagg.

Production car champion Kosi Kalaitzidis has entered a 5.0 litre TVR Chimera and Brendan Morter will contest Group Two in one of Japan's hottest sports cars, the Nissan Skyline GT-R.

The cars to beat in Group Two are likely to be the proven Ferrari 360 Challenge coupes from PHR Scuderia, to be driven this weekend by Irishman Hector Lester, Swede Allan Simonsen and Australian Ray Ayton.

They will be challenged by the Maseratis and several Porsche GT3 Carrera Cup models.

The GT Performance contingent this weekend features five of Australia's fastest production-based touring cars.

Melbourne's Dennis Gilbert expects a strong showing on Albert Park's fast-flowing layout from his new 400-plus horsepower VY Holden GTS.

Mark Cohen is in a VX GTS, Mark King and Graham Alexander in Mitsubishi Evo VII Lancers and Justin Hemmes, from Sydney, in a Subaru Impreza STi.

Cleanevent is a global company which specialises in event and venue cleaning, presentation services, waste management system design and services, recycling and resource recovery programs and major international event consultation.

The eight-round 2003 Australian Nations Cup Championship will open at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide on 20-23 March and will be covered exclusively throughout the year on the Seven Network.

SPEED CHECK, Cleanevent Nations Cup

TIMETABLE: Thursday - 9.30 am Practice (20 min.), 12.50 pm Qualifying (20 min.), 3.50 pm Race 1(10 laps). Friday - 4 pm Race 2 (8 laps). Saturday - 5.35 pm Race 3 (10 laps). Saturday - 9.30 am Race 4 (8 laps).

RULES: Tyre allowance - 8. Starting grid - Race 1, qualifying order; Races 2, 3, 4, finishing order of previous race. Start - Rolling start.

-www.procar.com.au.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Mark Mayall , John Bowe , Allan Simonsen , Peter Brock , Geoff Morgan , Paul Stokell , Mark King , Rod Wilson , Graham Alexander , Mark Cohen , Hector Lester , Rusty French , Algadri Maher
Teams Nissan Motorsport , Trident