It’s been a ground breaking year for the Production Touring Car Championship – the series launched in Queensland, Lakeside hosted a State of Origin showdown, won by the more experienced New South Wales Production Touring Car competitors, and now more history will be made at Queensland Raceway, with the first night race for the series being staged as part of the annual Ipswich Classic, and the final round on the inaugural Bilstein Suspension Queensland Production Touring Car Championship.
Originally, NSW competitors were scheduled to make the trek north, to compete in the historic night race, but with those competitors now scheduled to contest three non-championship races at Sydney Motorsport Park, supporting the Muscle Car Masters, the QLDPTC will welcome competitors from the Tradie Ute series, and also the Queensland Saloon Car Championship to their grid this weekend.
Saloon Cars are no stranger to the Production Touring Car Championship, with Jonathon Fishburn and James Herrington competing in ‘Class S’ in the NSW series in recent years, but for the Tradie Utes, it’s their first appearance with the category, after racing with the QR Sports and Sedans field during their infancy.
The move to involve the two categories means an expanded grid of eighteen cars will now contest the two races, adding another ingredient to the spectacular show the category is set to put on for those watching trackside.
The opening two rounds have featured two sprint races, plus a 60-minute enduro. For Round 3, the sprint races are out the window, in favour of a second 60-minute race, making it a double-header weekend for the series, ahead of a champion being crowned on Sunday.
This round will also see a change to the Qualifying format, with just ONE 30-minute session set to take place. A thirty minute session will allow entries with two drivers enough time to send both out to record a time, and the session will set the grid for both races.
Race 1 will be held under lights on Saturday evening, with the final race of the season scheduled for early Sunday morning.
Karl Begg won the opening round at Lakeside for BMW, and was the best placed Queensland competitor in Round 2, when Aaron Seton and Greg Symes scored victory at Lakeside, as NSW cars claimed the first five places in the Origin Showdown.
Since that second round, the Motorsport Life stable has been a hub of activity, with Karl Begg and Justin Anthony preparing, developing and racing their new toy – the Mercedes C63 AMG, which will make its Production Touring Car Championship debut in this final round.
After running in the Queensland Round of the Australian Production Car Series, and the recent Lakeside 300, Begg and Anthony’s C63 will be the first Mercedes to participate in the QLDPTC Championship, adding to the impressive list of manufacturers that have been present during the inaugural season.
Lakeside 300 winner Gerry Murphy will be on the grid as well, but not alongside Jim Pollicina this time around. Instead, Murphy will team up with experienced racer Coleby Cowham, from the Queensland Saloon Car Championship.
After Karl Begg and Justin Anthony’s defection from BMW, Murphy leads BMW’s charge in this final round, with Bruce Forsyth’s E46, and Christian Yates-Round’s 130i also flying the BMW flag.
Mitsubishi will be represented by Wade Scott and Robert Gooley, who’ll run their Evo that they took to second outright in May’s Willowbank 300, and also Thomas Muller, who drove so beautifully to third outright in the Origin Showdown in his Class B1 Evo. The New South Welshman committed to making the long trek north before the non-championship round was announced for his fellow NSWPTC competitors, and will be the sole competitor in Class B1, but one to watch in the outright battle as well.
Husband and Wife combination, Peter and Robin Lacey will make their return to the track this weekend, in their Production Touring Car debut. The Queensland pair will compete in a VW Scirocco, straight out of the Targa Racing stable, alongside Tony Bonanno and Paul Keffer, who’ll race a VW Golf R, after fielding the Mazda 2 last time out.
Class D regulars, Michael James and Troy Rolley are back again – the sole Toyota entry on the grid – and will be looking to take their 86 to another class win, after missing out at Lakeside in the second round.
With the presence of the Saloon Cars and Tradie Utes comes a strong presences of Australia’s favourite makes, Holden and Ford.
Brock Mitchell, Brad Carr and the family team of Tony and Matt Shanks will all line up in their Class S Ford Falcon AU’s. In the Tradie Utes, John McLaughlin will be on double-duty this weekend. He’s running one of the four utes entered in the PTC enduros, and then will co-drive in Sunday’s 200km Excel race as well.
In total, seven manufacturers will be represented in the eighteen car field, with eight of those entries running two drivers.
Both races will feature compulsory pit-stops, and it’s that window of 20 minutes where the Lakeside Origin round was won and lost, so teams will have that in the back of their mind when planning race strategy on Saturday afternoon.
It promises to be a thrilling weekend to cap an extraordinary and historic first year for the new championship, which has already confirmed its return in 2018, but not before their first visit to Queensland Raceway, where history awaits again.
NB: For those of you heading trackside, spectator admission is $20 on Saturday, $30 on Sunday, or $40 for the weekend pass. Kids 12 and under are FREE. Commentary comes from Mark Jones and Zak Caban, and can be heard on 87.6FM.
If you can’t be trackside, 2MCE Sport will present a FULL REPLAY of both QLDPTC Championship races, next Monday and Tuesday Night from 10pm-1am AEDST.