Qualifying the key to Canberra

Five weeks after the devastating $250,000 theft of his Holden racing car and equipment, driver Philip Polites is back behind the wheel of a borrowed machine and undeterred in the quest to defend his lead in the Century Batteries GT Performance ...

Five weeks after the devastating $250,000 theft of his Holden racing car and equipment, driver Philip Polites is back behind the wheel of a borrowed machine and undeterred in the quest to defend his lead in the Century Batteries GT Performance Series in Canberra next weekend.

Polites will start round three of the Series, part of the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship, in a Mazda RX-7 usually driven by Phil Kirkham, lining up against more than 30 high performance production sedans and coupes.

Three of his opponents will be driving Holden Commodore GTS300i sedans identical to the one stolen from the home of his team manager in Melbourne on 7 May.

The Mazda coupe is less powerful but also lighter and Polites is confident it can be competitive against the V8-powered Commodores and the Ford Mustang Cobra RA of Mark Noske, as well as the all-wheel drive Subarus and Mitsubishis.

"Canberra looks like it's all about qualifying. It's a narrow track and overtaking will be difficult, so the further up the grid you start the better your chances. An RX-7 got pole last year, so I hope we can come away with some points this time," Polites said.

Strong brakes and the ability to ride the bumps and kerbs of the street course will be prerequisites for the weekend's two seven-lap races and, on the strength of winning the 2000 round, GTP champion Mark King is expected to come up with a competitive package for his Mitsubishi Lancer RS Evo V.

Series newcomer Brett Peters, running second to Polites in the GTP pointscore, also rates as an outright contender after winning a leg of round two in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

"Street circuits can be a problem for the Subaru, because hot air trapped between the walls tends to reduce the power in our turbocharged engine, but I hope that won't be an issue next weekend with the cold temperatures in Canberra," Peters said.

"We should have plenty of horsepower and the Impreza is pretty quick through the corners - this is a red-hot chance for me.

"As for the others, Phil Polites will do a good job as will Wayne Boatwright (Subaru). The Mitsubishi Evos will be a threat and that Mustang is quick anywhere."

The competition for drivers in the Hippies Sports Touring class is equally hard to call.

The consistent Anthony Robson leads the pointscore in a Toyota MR2, but any number of drivers is capable of challenging his position in Canberra.

Wayne Russell (BMW) is in form after winning round two at Wakefield Park and the works Volkswagen drivers Tim Leahy and Matthew Coleman are becoming increasingly competitive in their six-cylinder Beetles.

Also in contention are Nathan Pilkington, second in the pointscore in a Mitsubishi FTO, and Honda driver Nathan Thomas, who is third.

Drivers and cars in the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship and Megamantis.com Australian Nations Cup Championship will be part of an official "BBQ with the Stars" in front of the Queanbeyan City Council building in Crawford Street, Queanbeyan, between 5.30 pm and 7 pm on Thursday.

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS:  38 P. Polites, 30 B. Peters, 28 M. King, 26 G    .
Deane, 25 R. Hughes, 17 P. Kirkham. Poolrite High Performance:  38 P   .
Polites. Hippies Sports Touring:  47 A. Robson (Toyota MR2)            .

WEEKEND TIMETABLE: Friday - 8.45 am Practice (20 min), 12.40 pm Practice (20 min.). Saturday - 12.15 Qualifying (20 min.), 4 pm Race 1 (7 laps). Sunday - 8.455 am Race 2 (7 laps).

LAST YEAR: Pole - R. Shaw (Mazda RX-7) 1:58.69. Race 1 - M. King (Mitsubishi Evo V). Race 2 - M. King. Lap record - M. King 1:59.43.

-Chris Nixon

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Mark Noske , Wayne Russell , Mark King , Wayne Boatwright , Phil Kirkham , Nathan Pilkington , Brett Peters , Anthony Robson