Big names on grid as Asia Pacific tour becomes reality
THE Asia Pacific Touring Car Championship looks certain to quickly establish itself as the premier motor racing series in the Asian region if the first of the six legs in Fuji, Japan, is a guide.
Reigning British touring car champion Joachim Winkelhock in a BMW Motorsport Schnitzer will headline the 40-car grid on October 30.
Attempts were made to get the series off the ground last year but time and differences between the series promoters and the individual track operators saw the concept still-born.
But with the involvement of Englishman Barry Bland and his Asia Pacific Touring Car Company handling the European end plus Ron Meatchem in Australia, the series has finally come together.
Following the Fuji race, the series moves on to Macau on November 20, Sentul, Indonesia, on November 27, Wellington, New Zealand on December 4 and then on to Melbourne, Australia on December 11.
The final will be staged in Madras, India, on December 18.
The drivers read like a ''Who's Who'' of touring car racing with Britons Tony Soper and Paul Radisch involved in a BMW and Ford Mondeo respectively.
Former Formula One driver and current British Touring Car Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini in an Alfa Romeo will compete along with two other F1 campaigners, Aguri Suzuki and Yannick Dalmas.
Australian championship leader Tony Longhurst in a BMW and German championship contender Markus Ostereich and teammate Klaus Panchryz in Ford Mondeos will add spice along with Hong Kong's Charles Kwan who won last year's Macau Guia race.
Bland said: ''Although this is the very first time the championship has been run, the support and enthusiasm expressed reflects both the importance of the event in terms of motorsport and the value of exposure to the region for sponsors and manufacturers.''