FHOLDEN: Oran Park preview

2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship Round 6 Preview - Oran Park, 23rd July 2001 Kelly To Claim Title At Oran Park ? There's a better than even chance that Victorian Formula Holden standout Rick Kelly (Holden Young Lions/ Birrana Racing - ...

FHOLDEN: Oran Park preview

2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship
Round 6 Preview - Oran Park, 23rd July 2001

Kelly To Claim Title At Oran Park ?

There's a better than even chance that Victorian Formula Holden standout Rick Kelly (Holden Young Lions/ Birrana Racing - Reynard 94D) will secure the coveted CAMS Gold Star at the sixth round of the 2001 Holden Australian Drivers' Championship at Oran Park this weekend. Kelly has been the class of this year's field, scoring seven wins from ten starts, and if successful will become the first driver ever to win the championship in his rookie year. This achievement should not be underestimated, as recent previous winners including Simon Wills, Scott Dixon, Jason Bright, Paul Stokell and Mark Skaife all took two years to secure their Gold Star titles.

It has been a meteoric rise into the limelight for the quietly spoken Mildura born teenager and one wonders what lies ahead for the younger brother of K Mart V8 Supercar star, Todd. After missing out on the 2000 Formula Ford Championship by a solitary point, Kelly has not missed a beat since stepping into the more powerful Formula Holden machines this season, and has already sewn-up the Rookie of The Year honours. Having scored three poles in addition to his swag of wins, if Kelly can leave Oran Park at least 80 points ahead of his closest challenger, he will claim the title with two rounds remaining, becoming the second youngest driver to do so. Kelly's current margin over his closest championship challenger, Singapore's Christian Murchison (Hocking Motorsport/ Dark Dog - Reynard 98D), is 83 points and if the title is to be kept alive for another round Murchison will need a strong run at Oran Park to mount a challenge.

Murchison, last year's Rookie of The Year and four-time race winner with the NRC International team, has been reducing the margin to Kelly with every outing and the high-speed, undulating nature of the Oran Park circuit should suit the exciting bespectacled 20-year-old's style. Not short of bravery and with car-control akin to that of F1 and former CART star Juan Montoya, Murchison is desperate to score a win as a precursor to an international open wheel career.

The title will not be decided by these two alone, as there are a select group of interlopers all looking to play a part in the outcome of the championship, and at the same time, take a maiden victory of their own. Among those to watch is Californian Emerson Newton-John (Nic Nails - Reynard 96D), who returned to the series last time out at Calder with a pair of strong third places and should figure on the fast Narellan layout if his early Phillip Island performances are anything to go by. Melbourne's Peter Hill is another who could spring a surprise. After recording two fourth places from his last four starts, Hill's Murphy Motorsport M ONE 11 backed machine has been right among the action of late, and armed with the latest F1-inspired aerodynamic tweaks a podium spot would not be out of reach.

Calder Park was not kind to New South Wales' nineteen-year-old Alan Gurr. After recording the first front-row start of his Formula Holden career, he was an innocent victim of an opening lap, race one incident that left him with a puncture, and then spun out of podium contention in the second event. Gurr, another fast rookie, will be out to win on what is effectively his home track and team owner Graham Watson is confident he can do the job.

One possible addition to the Oran Park field is New Zealand 17-year-old James Cressey. Cressey is the reigning NZ Formula Ford champion and is looking to follow in the footsteps of 1998 Formula Holden champion Scott Dixon and recent Kiwi Indy Lights graduate Matthew Halliday, himself a former FH winner. Cressey's inclusion would further bolster the field and the Kiwi youngster plans to use the race - and possibly one other - as a full-scale rehearsal for an assault on next year's CAMS Gold Star.

While Kelly appears certain to claim the God Star crown in the near future, one championship yet to be determined is the ever-present battle for Silver Star honours. Canberra's Terry Clearihan didn't win the most recent round at Calder - he had to give way to category returnee Chris Hocking who scored both SS race wins - but he did reduce the championship margin to leader Ian Peters to just six points. Clearihan is a wily competitor and will take some beating at Oran Park, but Peters' consistency will prevail if his Canberra-based opponent is drawn into the battle for outright championship points - a stoush he has been heavily involved in during the last couple of rounds. If either of the aforementioned falter, then Roger Oakeshott will be poised to pounce. Despite not scoring many Silver Star points at Calder last time out, Oakeshott's now Hocking prepared machine is flying and he will be a very real contender on the high speed Oran Park layout, he was the only Silver Star runner to rest there last week.

With lap times approximately seven seconds quicker than those of the V8 Supercars, the Formula Holden cars are sure to be exciting to watch at this weekend's sixth round of the Holden Australian Drivers' Championship. Get yourself out to Oran Park and watch the future stars of the sport do battle in Australia's fastest racing cars.

<pre> 2001 Holden Australian Drivers Championship(Top Ten) 1.Rick Kelly 185 2.Christian Murchison 102 3.Stewart McColl 74 4.Peter Hill 65 5.Simon Wills 60 6.Alan Gurr 53 7.Emerson Newton-John 49 8.Terry Clearihan 44 9.Ian Peters 38 10.Roger Oakeshott 25

2001 Formula Holden Silver Star 1.Ian Peters 136 2.Terry Clearihan 130 3.Roger Oakeshott 93 4.Rohan Carrig 74 5.Mark Ellis 47 6.Chris Hocking 40

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