ASTC: Brad Jones, Audi Team Get New Look

AUDI CONFIRM NEW-LOOK SUPER TOURING TEAM TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23: BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Champion Brad Jones has a new team-mate and is switching to a front-wheel-drive car for his attempt to win a record third drivers' title in 1999 ...

ASTC: Brad Jones, Audi Team Get New Look

AUDI CONFIRM NEW-LOOK SUPER TOURING TEAM

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23: BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Champion Brad Jones has a new team-mate and is switching to a front-wheel-drive car for his attempt to win a record third drivers' title in 1999 with German manufacturer Audi.

Victorian Matthew Coleman, a ski coach who won the 'Rookie of the Year' award in the Commodore Cup category in 1998, was today named to partner 38-year-old Jones in the works Audi Sport Australia team in the 1999 championship. Jones announced the team would race the front-drive A4 works cars campaigned by Yvan Muller and John Bintcliffe in the 1998 British Touring Car Championship.

Jones said the new Audis would arrive in Sydney from Great Britain this week and would be taken to the team's Albury base and prepared for testing before the championship starts at Lakeside Raceway in Queensland on April 18. The cars will also be raced in the Bathurst 1000 on October 3. Team manager Kim Jones confirmed the team's 1999 race program on two visits to Audi Sport in Germany in the past month.

Brad Jones said he was unconcerned about switching to a front-drive Audi this year after racing four-wheel-drive quattros since 1995. He won the drivers' championship title in 1996 and again two years later in A4 quattros, and also spearheaded Audi to two manufacturers and teams titles. Queenslander Paul Morris is the only other racer with two drivers' championship titles since the series began in 1994.

Jones said he was relishing the opportunity of racing his new Audi A4 against other front-drive competitors, including the works Volvo team led by six-times Bathurst 1000 champion Jim Richards. In 1998 the Audi quattro raced with a weight of 1,040kg, while the works Volvo S40 and other front-drive cars were 975kg.

"Some people say Audi had an advantage in the past with the quattro system, but our cars were much heavier so in some ways we actually had a handicap," said Jones. "This year I'm going to enjoy racing the others in a front-drive car - now we're all equal in weight and we'll be on the same Yokohama control tyres so there's no room for excuses. It's going to come down to the best team and preparation and that's the way it should be. I'm confident our guys can do the job, as before."

Jones said Coleman had shown impressive form in a pre-season test in an Audi A4 quattro at Calder Park in Melbourne earlier this month. According to Jones, Coleman shows similar potential to his former team-mates Greg Murphy and Cameron McConville when they joined the Audi squad.

"Matthew (Coleman) isn't well known at this stage, but history shows the young guys we take on win races," said Jones. "I expect Matthew to play an important part in the team's success."

Coleman's motorsport career began in the 1980s racing motocross, and he switched to four-wheels with karting in 1992. Since 1995 he has raced in Legends support events at NASCAR meetings at Calder Park. In 1998 he entered the Commodore Cup series and after winning races was named 'Rookie of the Year'. The 25-year-old admits he now faces a stern challenge advancing to Super Touring.

"This is a big step, but it's also a big chance," said Coleman. "You don't get many opportunities to join one of Australia's top touring car teams so I'm going to give it my best. I haven't set any targets. I'll just do my best and hopefully I'll be competitive and run at the front as the season goes on."

Coleman's other sporting interest is coaching the Mt Buller Ski Race Team, comprising elite junior competitors. For the past three years he accompanied the team to Europe for racing in the Austrian Alps.

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of championship organisers TOCA Australia, today described Audi's commitments for 1999 as positive news for the BOC Gases series and the Super Touring category.

"This year could well prove to be the most exciting in the championship's history, with both the Audi and Volvo works teams using front-drive cars and our growing list of Independents becoming increasingly competitive," he said. "The introduction of the Yokohama control tyre will make the playing field even more level so the championship is looking extremely healthy."

Mike Porter, mikep@qldnet.com.au

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