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Bathurst 24 Hours – Pre-Race Report

There’s so much going on here this morning, so many people to talk to, so much to write up. We’ll do our best, but if someone could send out a Goodwin or Gauglica by express delivery please….

Phone lines here are in short supply, so if our race material stops for a while at any time, please understand why. There are 18 phone lines at the circuit, in total. Next year, there will be a whole new pit complex and press centre.

We’re planning a report at three hours, then at six, 12, 18 and 24.

“500% better,” said Martin Short this morning. That’s a reference to both getting over his eye problem (no bins stuck to his face today) and to setting that terrific lap right at the end of the session last night.

Race strategy? Pat Pearce and Charles Lamb helped to fill in any gaps. “Drive round, don’t crash, keep out of the pits off the kerbs, don’t fight anybody, be careful overtaking backmarkers.”

Ralf Rupprecht is the Australian end of the Rollcentre / X-Markets operation this year, and Ralph is putting a very interesting plan together for next year.

“I want to run a Mosler in the Nations Cup, but in fact we have three parties who want to run them. I want our car to be the official Mosler entry, with two others as the customer cars – but I need to talk to Mr. Mosler first! We’re pretty close to sorting out sponsors, drivers etc.”

Short and Rupprecht (below) are so similar in their outlook. “You have to do it right.”

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Further down the paddock were Mark Coffey and Andrew Smith, the pair of them caught in front of ‘their’ Lamborghini. “It’s Andrew’s car, but entered by Mark Coffey Racing,” …. said Mark Coffey (on the right).

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"Andrew and I are good friends, but normally glaring at each other as entrants of different cars in the Nations Cup. We came together here because we found the sponsorship, and we couldn’t keep away.”

Next year, they will be opponents again, starting at the Adelaide Clipsal 500 meeting. For reasons we can only guess at, the Nations Cup teams haven’t been invited to race at the Australian GP meeting in 2004.

Mark Coffey should be at Adelaide with a Ferrari 550. “I’m looking at running one of the Italtechnica cars in Category 1. Subject to testing and the air restrictors we have to run (parity review), we’ll be there at Adelaide with the big Ferrari.”

It will be sprint races again next year in the Nations Cup: “Ross (Palmer) likes the drivers to have a go, over ten or twelve laps.”

So, Andrew Smith, do you want it wet or dry for the race here? “Definitely wet. We have a very strong driver line-up, but the standard parts on the Lamborghini are the problem in a 24 hour race: uprights, driveshafts, input shafts etc. But the V12 has always been bullet proof.”

With the likes of Paul Stokell and Allan Simonsen in the big Diablo, this entry is an intriguing one. Its Pirellis are apparently very good when the track is very wet. “They’re not the same as the European ones.” So not quite so good when the track is drying.

Andrew Smith indicated that there could be several Murcielagos in the FIA GT Championship next year, with a famous Swede as one possible entrant.

Paul Cruickshank (he is PCR Racing) is a significant person here this week. “I set up Prancing Horse Racing in 2000, and we raced Ferraris for three years before I left and set up my own V8 Supercar team. PHR then sold their 2001 Michelotto car to BE Racing, and I’m here helping the Austrian team – so it’s fairly complicated!”

Paul has been very impressed with the performance of all four drivers. “David’s circuit knowledge has been a great help, and put us in a very strong position.

“This is the same car that ran last year, but we had a nightmare then. Brad Jones put it on pole with a 2:15, but then we blew two engines in the race. There was too much going on last year. This year, the 360 is getting the attention it deserves.”

Brabs showed his style in this car in the image David Lord took yesterday evening - the 360 within a few cms. of the wall at the right hander after Skyline. Have you seen it in the gallery? Apologies for the lack of captions - no time!

Paul’s role here is much like Rob Schirle’s at Le Mans two weeks ago. “I’m the Team Manager, and I’m supplying 90% of the labour, the infrastructure and all the pit equipment.”

That man Schirle’s name has cropped up again, as it seems to fairly regularly here. He indicated last night that he was about to sort out the strategy for engine / gearbox changes in the no. 8 and 24 911s, and Ian Donaldson confirmed just now that the green no. 24 has its race engine and ‘box in, and “Floydy drove it in the warm up. This is the nicest GT3- I’ve ever driven, and it’s got a 2:20 or less in it.”

Donaldson and partners (son Andrew, Peter Floyd and Liz Halliday) all set good times in the night session, and they’re all looking forward to a very strong race.”

So is the Morgan team. The electrics problem last night was easily solved, and Keith Ahlers will start, handing over to Tom Shrimpton, Adam Sharpe and Neil Cunningham – the order determined by seat shapes and sharing of.

And finally, so that we can enjoy the last 15 minutes before the start, we’ll stop with a shot of Darrell Dixon and his Mum. Darrell is playing a significant role with the Morgan team (having also helped Rollcentre with their logistics to get here), while his Mum is catering for Morgan and Rollcentre – and dsc. The trouble is, we haven’t had time to sit still long enough to take advantage of the hospitality of these two – and these two teams. Eagle Boys Pizza and the press room staff have delivered food straight to our mouths!

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PS. The weather still looks good out there.

 

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