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18 July 2016 | General

FAST FACTS: BATTLE TO CONTINUE IN QUEENSLAND

EIGHT WINNERS from the first 12 races headline the 2016 Touring Car Masters series stats book as the series heads to Queensland Raceway this weekend.

With Steven Johnson and Wayne Mercer adding their names to the lengthy winners list in June it set a new TCM record for the most different winners in a season – and QR could very easily keep that streak going.

Just nine points split old teammates John Bowe and Steven Johnson at the top of the standings heading into the Rare Spares-supported Ipswich event – a round won last year by second placed Johnson.

Here’s the lowdown as the 2016 TCM epic enters the second half of the season in the sunshine state.

Jason Gomersall will be looking to add his name to the winners list this year.

Of all the drivers to have won this season – Ritter Garwood Richards Bowe Fisher Seton Johnson and Mercer – the Holden Torana A9X driver has looked the most likely to do the business especially since the debut of his stunning new car at Winton in May.

The Queenslander has twice qualified second to Bowe since the debut of the Brock-inspired car and has run at the front at both Winton and Hidden Valley – proving the all-round strengths of the hatchback.

What’s more QR is Gomersall’s home track and the test circuit for Matt Stone Racing who prepare the car – so they’ll be hoping home town advantage also plays a role.

Gomersall may be a ProAm to his rivals’ ProMaster status but his eyes will surely be on the outright victories as much as they are class success.

Eddie Abelnica – who has six TCM race wins to his credit – is also yet to win this year despite several strong performances in his iconic red Falcon coupe.

Eddie A last won at Bathurst in 2013 and has been in the top three on 19 occasions since. A strong third in race two at Hidden Valley was a promising sign that his ‘close but no cigar’ fortunes are set to change.

Of course the Waeco Trophy Race has also thrown up a variety of winners this season adding to the lengthy list.

Three of the four trophy races – race three in each TCM weekend – have been nabbed by first time winners. Adam Garwood Andrew Fisher and Wayne Mercer have all tasted their first wins in the category during the reverse grid affair with Glenn Seton the only existing winner to do the job when he won via a last-lap move at Winton.

What surprises will QR – a circuit perhaps easier to overtake on than others we’ve visited this year – offer in race three?

For a car with such a storied and famous history Steven Johnson’s round win at Hidden Valley was just the second ever in TCM history for the Falcon XY GTHO.

Brad Tilley is the only other driver to hustle the big Falcon to an outright round success in the history of the category when he won at Bathurst in 2011.

What’s more with Johnson and Wayne Mercer splitting the wins in Darwin it was the first time an Aussie-built Falcon had swept all three races in a round.

Having said that the GTHO has now won 14 TCM races – the fourth most successful model in the categories history.

Incidentally the third most successful car in TCM history makes a big return this weekend.

Jim Richards has upgraded his Falcon Sprint with a new engine (a 302 Ford V8 up from the existing 289) and some new bodywork (in the form of front and rear spoilers) this weekend in a bid to return the famous Falcon to the front.

One of the defining cars in TCM the Falcon has won 19 races in its history – placing it behind only the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro on the category winners list.

Jim’s timing couldn’t be better either because he’s got a good track record at Queensland Raceway in the Shannons-sponsored car.

JR poled and won two of the three races en route to the 2009 Ipswich round victory and won again in 2013 when he edged out John Bowe for race two success.

Fun Fact: The Falcon Sprint was the first car other than a Camaro or Mustang to win a TCM round when Jim took overall honours that Queensland round in ’09 – the 19th round in series history. Every round victory prior had been won by the two iconic ‘pony’ cars.

The news that Keith Kassulke would make a welcome return to TCM comes at a track where he’s always performed superbly.

Keith scored his first of two TCM pole positions at the venue in 2013 out-qualifying John Bowe by 0.2s driving his Ford Falcon XB Coupe.

He replicated that effort at Sandown two rounds later.

Keith finished second overall at Ipswich that year backing up the third placed round result scored at the same venue in 2012 – QR accounting for two of his six TCM round podium finishes in his career.

This year he’ll race his HQ GTS Monaro for the first time in years as the category welcomes him back to competition this weekend.

QR has the closest average pole margin out of any track Touring Car Masters has visited.

In four trips to Ipswich the average pole-winning margin has been just 0.2218 seconds and four different drivers have done the job to grab P1: Jim Richards (2009) John Bowe (2012) Keith Kassulke (2013) and Steven Johnson last year.

Bowe’s pole in 2012 – where he out qualified Jim Richards by a scant 0.0270s – is the second smallest pole margin in category history.

Interestingly QR is the only track on the calendar where JB has not scored multiple pole positions!

He has however never missed the front row at Queensland Raceway – qualifying second in 2009 (in a Camaro) 2013 (in the Mustang) and last year (in the Torana).

QUALFYING RECORD: 1m15.9050 (John Bowe Torana SL/R 5000 2015)
LAP RECORD: 1m16.7815 (Steven Johnson Ford Mustang 2015)