Series hit by BMW pull-out
THE inaugural Asia-Pacific Touring Car Championship stalled before it even got into gear yesterday when manufacturer BMW withdrew its support from the proposed seven-leg series.
And, in a second major setback, series co-ordinator Promo Marketing International, of New Zealand, also announced it had withdrawn its support.
''The onus is now on the individual tracks to organise their own legs and attract fields,'' Promo senior executive Andrew Maher said last night from Auckland.
Ever since the ground-breaking series was conceived last year, a string of difficulties had been encountered in linking the seven venues.
The series was scheduled to begin in Madras, India, on October 24 then switch to Shah Alam, Malaysia, a week later. Indonesia's new Formula One-standard track at Sentul, near Jakarta, was the next venue scheduled for November 7 and then Macau was to follow on November 21.
The series was then scheduled to head south to the Phillip Island circuit in Australia on November 28 before crossing The Tasman to Wellington, New Zealand, for the sixth leg on December 5.
Thailand was to host the final leg at the Pattaya circuit on December 19.
Karsten Engel, the director of BMW Motorsport, the competitive arm of the car manufacturer world-wide, backed the series with a promise of a four-car factory team last March.
But a disappointed Engel said last night: ''We waited until the last moment before deciding not to take part.
''We just couldn't afford to take part in a series which didn't look as though it would be a success with no other factory teams involved.
''BMW are committed to racing in Asia and we will certainly look again at the series in 1994.'' The BMW factory budget for the series was in the region of US$5 million.
The viability of the series suffered a telling blow last month when the Macau Grand Prix Organising Committee reluctantly decided to withdraw from the event and stage its Guia Touring Car Race independently.
Organising committee chairman Engineer Joao Manuel Costa Antunes said when he made the announcement: ''With no warranty as to how many participants will stay in the championship, we didn't want to jeopardise the standing of the Macau event.'' Also clearly in the mind of the organising committee was the opening of their multi-million dollar pit facilities and their 40th anniversary celebrations this year.
Antunes, who was chairman of the Asia-Pacific series steering committee, said last night: ''I believe the championship has a future. This will be made possible in 1994, if the series has a good organisational structure and well-laid foundations.
''But preparations must begin well in advance.'' Maher believes that pulling the tracks together was not the problem in the end, but the lack of support from leading European car manufacturers.
''With the exception of BMW, there was no commitment. I approached every car manufacturer who produces a two-litre vehicle in the world,'' Maher said. ''And the support I got was virtually nil.'' The Asia-Pacific Series was to be run under the new international Class Two (two lites) regulations.
Maher said that, under the current conditions, Promo International would have no future role in the series.
''I will be talking to FISA [motorsport's international body] officials in September about what went wrong with the series.
''I will say to them they must get the support of manufacturers before backing the series again.''