After a four-and-a-half-month summer break, the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship bursts back into life this weekend, with the first outing for 2020, when the category heads to the iconic Lakeside Park, where it’ll headline the Lakeside Tribute meeting.
For the first time since 2018, the Kurwongbah venue will host the opening round of the season, as normal programming resumes at Lakeside Park in 2020. Last year, the venue played host to just ONE round of the Queensland Touring Car Championship, but in 2020, there’ll be three visits to the 2.41km circuit, just north of Brisbane.
The 2020 championship will be contested over the usual six rounds, with Willowbank’s Queensland Raceway hosting Rounds 2, 3 and 6, while Warwick’s Morgan Park Raceway drops off the championship schedule, after debuting in 2019.
Unlike 2019, all six rounds, all championship races will count towards the final points standings.
For another year, the category welcomes Brisbane Collision Centre on-board, as a major series sponsor, alongside the continuing naming rights sponsor of Racer Industries.
However, there is significant change coming to the championship in 2020. Not only will there be a new points structure, but there’ll also be an emphasis placed on outright results once more. For the last two seasons, the category has crowned three separate champions’ – one for each Group – without recognising an overall championship winner, but that will change this year, and it’s a change that will benefit drivers competing in A2 and B.
The QTCC Group structure is based on sporting regulations rather than technical regulations. Historically, this has led to drivers changing Group mid-season, as a result of being too fast for the Group they’re competing in (through either development of the car, driver improvement, or a combination of both). Furthermore, under this individual Group points system of the last two years, moving up proved to be a disadvantage to those drivers, as their Group points acquired didn’t carry over with them, forcing them to start afresh.
Now with the move back to an outright points structure, it eliminates this problem, as a championship campaign won’t be brought undone if a competitor moves up a Group. So, expect drivers to be pushing their cars to the limit even more so throughout 2020.
As per usual Holden, BMW and Ford dominate the 33-car field entered for the opening round of the season, however a lone Nissan – to be driven by Steve Harris – will be lurking amongst A1. Two of the three defending champions – Chris Sharples (A1) and Stuart Walker (A2) – will begin their title defence this weekend, while the 2019 Class B champion, Steven Harper, is missing in action from the field for Round 1.
Sharples’ championship triumph was a hugely popular one. The culmination of a standout season for the Monaro driver, where consistency was the key, as he finished every race he started, en-route to a comfortable championship win.
Not so for the other champions – Stuart Walker and Steven Harper – who had to wait until the very last race of the season to achieve their glory. Whilst Matthew Haak was dominant in the early rounds in A2, various misfortunes plagued the second half of his season leaving him trying to catch Stuart Walker in the final round of the championship.
Despite a gallant effort, Haak was unable to stop Walker from claiming his fourth Touring Car title.
Harper provided a sting in the tail to Mark Giorgio – clean-sweeping the final round of the year, to overtake his fellow Ford compatriot, and clinch his first title.
This season in A1, Steve Hay is back, having finished third in 2019. You can guarantee he’ll be looking to go better in 2020, in a huge push to claim his first title since 2016. Amongst the speed of McMahon, and two-time champion Brown, one of the standout performances in 2019 came from Piers Harrex, who finished second in the A1 championship.
As the lone BMW driver in A1, Harrex really punched above his weight throughout the season, and you rest assured that he’ll be determined to take the fight to the Holden’s once more.
Also in A1, Shannon Cane is sporting a new look for 2020. With backing from EFS 4×4 Accessories, the 19-year old has a Perkins Motorsport Castrol inspired livery for the new season. On-track, she’ll be hoping for a clean run, minus the mechanical issues that have plagued her for the last two years. Time just ran out for the two returning stalwarts of Spence and Cuda, both bringing new cars to the category. Spence was fast before, and he will be lightning fast with his new HRT replica, WSM sponsored VE Commodore Supercar – one to watch throughout the season.
Despite missing out on the A2 championship last year, Matthew Haak has stepped up to Group A1 for 2020.
In A2, Stuart Walker can expect stiff competition from a competitive and deep field including a returning runner-up champion in Dean Rice, along with a brigade of BMW’s, including Jurgeleit, Phoenix, Begg and Swarbrooke amongst others.
Michael Woodcroft returns to the grid, in his re-built replica Brock/Sampson SL/R Torana, as do Leonard Meiers and Rob Droder, which ensures the General is well and truly represented in A2.
Maddison Crowe also returns to the field in 2020, joining Shannon Cane as the only two female competitors in the category, of which QTCC is very proud. Crowe will be behind the wheel of her fast E46 BMW competing in A2.
In Group B, Mark Giorgio won’t be contesting a full season – he’s taken on the role of Category Manager within the Queensland Touring Car Championship, and has a wildcard drive in Alwyn Bishop’s Falcon for this weekend.
Elsewhere, Mark Hyde will be hopeful of a far better showing than his 11th place finish – hardly a true reflection of what we’ve come to expect from the 2018 Group B champion. Andrew Knight, Scott Kelly and Malcolm Douglas will lead the BMW Brigade within B – Kelly, of course, finished third in the Group B title race last season.
Unofficial practice takes place on Friday. Many drivers have spent the off-season building, rebuilding, testing, tuning, training and preparing themselves, and their cars. This weekend will be the first hit-out for the category since November’s Ipswich Classic, but will it be an indication of who to watch out for in 2020 season?
Only time will tell.
As per usual, the race weekend will consist of a qualifying session, and four races. As this is a Lakeside round, the grid will be split – Groups A1 and A2 will run together, while Group B will race separately.
Given how difficult overtaking can be at Lakeside, a strong qualifying result will be a key advantage this weekend.
2020 Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship Calendar
|1||March 13-15||Lakeside Tribute||Lakeside Park|
|2||May 15-16||Top Gear #1||QLD Raceway|
|3||June 26-28||2 Days of Thunder||QLD Raceway|
|4||July 17-19||Lakeside Classic||Lakeside Park|
|5||September 25-27||Lakeside 300||Lakeside Park|
|6||October 24-25||Ipswich Classic||QLD Raceway|
The 2020 Queensland Touring Car Championship is proudly sponsored by: Racer Industries, Brisbane Collision Centre, FiFotos, Prestige Stripes & Signs, Andrew Knight Electrical Contracting, SVO Transport & Towing, TyreBusters, Western Suburbs Mechanical, Swarly Road Construction, Uniglide, Hullys Automotive, Hyqual Australia, and Pacific Motorgroup.
Report: Zak Caban | Photos: FiFotos