Big guns set to throw weight behind series
BRUCE MACDONALD reports from Zhuhai
AT least three leading motorcar manufacturers have expressed firm interest in participating in Asia's first regional touring car championship scheduled for later this year.
The Asia-Pacific Touring Car Championship looks set to boast as many as seven legs beginning in Madras, India, on October 24.
Asia is still a lucrative market for motorcar manufacturers and BMW, Mercedes and General Motors are eager to parade their wares in a competitive environment.
Phil Taylor, touring car representative for the region for the international motorsport body, FISA, is one of the driving forces behind the creation of the series and remains quietly confident that it will go ahead.
''I have done about as much as I can do now to get the series up and running from FISA's stand point, it is now up to the various organising committees to thrash out the proposal amongst themselves,'' Taylor said.
He said a set of regulations governing the series were due to be published in the near future.
''It's a matter of them reaching a collective decision,'' added Taylor, who is also executive director of the Hongkong Automobile Association and Clerk of the Course for the inaugural Zhuhai race meeting.
Taylor described as ''unlikely'' the prospect of Zhuhai being part of the series this year.
''Let's deal with the first meeting and worry about being part of the Asia-Pacific series later,'' he said.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of the series at the moment is the logistics of transportation and how to apportion the cost.
''There are also questions of standardising entry fees and prize money and whether there should be overall prize money but these are minor compared with the question of transportation,'' he said.
The biggest obstacle with transportation is the short lead time between events.
After the proposed opening race at Madras on October 24, the cars must then be shipped to Shah Alam in Malaysia for the next race seven days later.
''It isn't difficult to imagine the potential problems in shifting cars within that very short time frame,'' Taylor said.
After Shah Alam it's then on to the new purpose-built track at Sentul in Indonesia for the third leg on November 11. There is then a two-week break until the next meeting at Macau on November 21.
The series moves to Eastern Creek near Sydney on November 28, then across the Tasman Sea to Wellington, New Zealand on December 5, before the final leg in Pattaya, Thailand on December 19.
''In terms of transportation there is nothing to compare with it short of Formula One. It's terribly complicated,'' Taylor said.
''It's got to be a smooth operation and personally speaking I would be happy if we could get five legs up and running this year,'' he added.
Taylor said it was not for him to single individual track organisers who were causing problems.
''I'm simply handling the overall organisation from FISA's standpoint and it's up to the race track officials to take it from there. We are simply a rule-making and supervisory body,'' he said.
One thing that is unanimous amongst the various tracks is that the series will adopt the FISA Class Two classification for cars up to two litres in capacity.
''We may run a couple of Group A cars at the various tracks to fill up the grids but the factory teams will all be Class Two,'' Taylor said.
Taylor said that a decision must be made by the middle of next month by the respective race track officials to give the factory teams ample time to prepare for the series.