Italian car rivals John Bowe and Paul Stokell will start from the front row and tied for the lead in round six of the Donut King Australian Nations Cup Championship after qualifying in tragic circumstances at Victoria's Phillip Island grand prix...
Italian car rivals John Bowe and Paul Stokell will start from the front row and tied for the lead in round six of the Donut King Australian Nations Cup Championship after qualifying in tragic circumstances at Victoria's Phillip Island grand prix circuit today.
Bowe, in a Ferrari 360GT and Stokell, in a Lamborghini Diablo GTR, qualified first and second respectively in a session delayed in the aftermath of an accident which claimed the life of GT Performance series driver Stewart McColl, 23.
McColl, from Sydney, hit a bank in his Volkswagen Golf near turn four during the second day's competition at the PROCAR Champ Series meeting.
In a sad twist, the accident happened minutes after McColl and Stokell, who was doubling up as his VW teammate, had clinched the second and first grid spots for round six of the Australian GT Performance Championship.
The official Volkswagen factory team withdrew from the event and in accordance with the rules tomorrow's first GTP race will start with an empty front row on the grid.
Lamborghini team manager Andrew Smith praised Stokell for putting aside the tragedy to contest Nations Cup qualifying.
He said he expected an exciting contest with Bowe, whose three points earned for pole position made him equal-leader with the Lamborghini driver in the Meguiar's Drivers Championship standings.
"Volkswagen is our sister team and shared our garage this weekend and we'd like to do well for Stewart," Smith said.
"I predict three very close races. Bowe is very quick and if he gets away first on the rolling start he could be difficult to catch.
"But Paul is driving superbly this season and has a great car under him, so I hope he can beat Bowe and build our lead in the championship."
Bowe's qualifying performance was spectacular, his lap time of 1 minute 33.65 seconds comfortably under his own lap record of 1:35.22 despite being denied the anti-lock feature of his braking system in a technical rule change.
Behind the two Italian GT coupes, Peter Brock again beat his young Holden Monaro teammate Nathan Pretty to take third grid spot, while Danish driver Alan Simonsen put his Ferrari 360 Challenge into fifth place outright and first in the Group Two class.
With the Volkswagens withdrawn, Mitsubishi Evo VI driver Bob Hughes and Nissan 200SX driver Aaron McGill will start at the front of the GTP field.
Championship points leader Mark King qualified his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII only in 15 th spot after struggling with tyre problems, while key rival Wayne Boatwright managed only slightly better in clinching 10 th in a Subaru Impreza STi.
Officials are planning a tribute to Stewart McColl during tomorrow's 15-race programme.
Confederation of Australian Motor Sport President Colin Osborne, who announced the death, offered the condolences of all the motorsport community to McColl's family and teammates.
Volkswagen Australia spokesman Brad Leach said: "He was a good friend to everyone at Volkswagen. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
John Cowley, Deputy Executive Chairman of event promoter PROCAR Australia, said Stewart McColl had demonstrated the talent to pursue a successful professional driving career.
"Stewart's appointment this year as a Volkswagen works driver was a major career move and today at Phillip Island he achieved his best result for his team just minutes before his accident.
"His loss will be felt by many friends and followers throughout Australia. PROCAR expresses its deepest condolences to Stewart's family."
In the Poolrite V8 BRutes Series, points leader Warren Luff qualified second in a Ford Falcon behind close rival James Brock, who drove a Holden, but won the pole in a post-session ballot.
Qualifying for the Australian Production Car Championship was cancelled because of this afternoon's time delays and the starting grid for the first of tomorrow's two round six races will be set from the order in practice.
Darren Palmer set the fastest lap time of 1 min. 53.93 sec. in a Honda S2000, followed by Steve Grocl (Volkswagen Beetle RSi) and John McIlroy, driving a BA Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo in its first racetrack appearance.