Phillip Island: First practice summary

Bowe pips Morgan by one-hundredth in opening session of crucial Nations Cup round. JUST one-hundredth of a second separated John Bowe, in a Ferrari, and Geoff Morgan, in a Viper, on the opening day of a crucial seventh round of the Australian ...

Bowe pips Morgan by one-hundredth in opening session of crucial Nations Cup round.

JUST one-hundredth of a second separated John Bowe, in a Ferrari, and Geoff Morgan, in a Viper, on the opening day of a crucial seventh round of the Australian Nations Cup Championship at Victoria's Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit today.

Championship leader Bowe set the faster lap time in official practice but the hair's-breadth gap to Morgan suggested an intense battle is in store for three races on Sunday that could effectively decide the title.

Morgan is third in the championship and four points behind Porsche driver Jim Richards, who is 35 points behind Bowe.

With a total of 181 points available this weekend, the championship is wide open, but Morgan knows the fast, open spaces of Phillip Island offer a better chance for his eight-litre Viper to steal points from his rivals than the narrow confines of the Gold Coast Indy street track, venue for the eighth and final round next month.

This weekend is so important to Morgan's chances of winning his first Nations Cup championship that he has also cross-entered to drive the Lamborghini Diablo of Paul Stokell, in case the Viper is unable to start the races for any reason.

"This is a critical weekend for me. The Viper's at its best here and if I can't make up the points on Jimmy and John I'll have my work cut out to do it at Surfers Paradise," Morgan said.

The big GT sports cars were spectacularly fast today, averaging almost 170 kmh and reaching more than 270 kmh on the straight.

Stokell was third-fastest, ahead of Richards, Tony Quinn and Peter Fitzgerald, all in identical Porsche GT3 Cup coupes.

The Nations Cup and the deciding round of the Australian GT Production Car Championship will be among the highlights of an 18-race program for the PROCAR Champ Series weekend.

The GT Production Cars did not practice today, but the faster GT Performance competitors also saw close times in their sessions.

Victorian David Wood was fastest in a Subaru STi sedan, ahead of Bob Pearson (Mazda RX-7) and Brett Peters (Subaru STi).

V8 BRute Series points leader Warren Luff set the fastest time in a Ford Falcon XR8, comfortably ahead of James Brock in a Commodore.

Holden drivers also were third, fourth and fifth - Steve Robinson, Gary MacDonald and Gary Young covered by only three-hundredths of a second.

Other events this weekend will showcase the Australian Formula 3 Championship, the Toyo Mitsubishi Mirage Series and 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.

Tomorrow's program includes practice and qualifying for all categories, plus two Holden HQ races.

RESULTS (Practice)

Nations Cup (Rd 7): 1 John Bowe (Vic.) Ferrari 360 GT 1:35.32, 2 Geoff Morgan (NSW) Chrysler Viper 1:35.33, 3 Paul Stokell (Vic.) 1:35.96, 2 Jim Richards (Porsche GT3 Cup) 1:36.25, 5 Tony Quinn (Qld) Porsche GT3 Cup 1:37.36, 6 Peter Fitzgerald (Porsche GT3 Cup) 1:37.96 .

GT Performance (Rd 7): 1 Dave Wood (Vic.) Subaru STi 1:45.38, 2 Bob Pearson (NSW) Mazda RX-7 1:45.70, 3 Brett Peters (Qld) Subaru STi 1:46.75, 4 Graham Alexander (Vic.) Mitsubishi Evo V 1:47.17, 5 Steve Knight (SA) Mitsubishi Evo VI 1:47.30, 6 Geoff Full (NSW) Mitsubishi Evo VII 1:47.57.

V8 Brutes (Rd 7): 1 Warren Luff (NSW) Falcon 1:54.91, 2 James Brock (Vic.) Commodore 1:55.17, 3 Steve Robinson (Qld) Commodore 1:55.26, 4 Gary MacDonald (NSW) Commodore 1:55.28, 5 Gary Young (Vic.) Commodore 1:55.29, 6 Alan Grice (Qld) Falcon 1:55.55.

Australian Formula 3 Championship (Rd 7): 1 James Manderson (NSW) Dallara Holden 1:27.31, Ricky Occhipinti (Vic.) Dallara Fiat 1:27.61, 3 James Cressey (NZ) Dallara Holden 1:27.69, 4 Darren Palmer (Qld) Dallara Holden 1:28.12, 5 Will Power (Qld) Dallara Toyota 1:28.36, 6 Justin Watt (NSW) Dallara Alfa Romeo 1:29.84.

-www.procar.com.au-

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Series Supercars
Drivers Jim Richards , John Bowe , Tony Quinn , Geoff Morgan , Will Power , Peter Fitzgerald , Paul Stokell , Geoff Full , Graham Alexander , James Brock , Gary Young , Brett Peters , Warren Luff , David Wood , Phillip Island