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Jul 3, 2015

WELCOME RACING RETURN FOR NATIONALS CHAMP

REIGNING Kumho V8 Touring Cars series champion and Shannons Nationals Racer of the year Justin Ruggier made a welcome return to national-level competition today at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Having won the Kumho series last year driving an Eggleston Motorsport-prepared Holden Commodore, Ruggier is this weekend checking out Sydney Motorsport Park from a slightly different viewpoint – and one significantly closer to the ground.

The Melbourne-based sim racer-turned real racer is racing a 250cc National Superkart in the opening round of the Australian Superkart Championship – and says he’s having the time of his life.

“I’ve got a newfound respect for the guys who race these things week in and week out,” Ruggier said.

“They are absolutely unbelievable! It’s just a completely different driving style and a completely different feeling to the V8.. or anything I’ve ever driven.

“In a V8 you’re closed in the car and you’re vision isn’t great but you’re just so exposed and open on one of these things. It’s such a buzz, especially in a 250cc kart.

“The biggest thing that got me was the braking. I’ve never been in anything where you feel like you’re being pulled out of the thing when you stop.

“I’m having a blast being back at a Shannons Nationals round and on this program.”

Ruggier hadn't driven his kart prior to the weekend and said he was looking to improve as the event progressed.

"I've done about 15 laps, in total, in this thing so it's a big learning process," he explained.

"But it looks like we're on the pace of the guys around us in the class and that's promising. With more laps I'll get better and better as the weekend goes on. It's going to be fun!"

Ryan Simpson and Geoff Emery each topped a Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli session today – and ended the day separated by the tiniest of margins.

Simpson’s 1m31.9364s lap in the first session was only 0.0146s quicker than Emery’s 1m31.9510 effort in the second session – setting up a close contest between the pair this weekend.

Both drivers were comfortably quicker than the existing Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge lap record, however, after the Winton benchmark was also destroyed at the series most recent round three weeks ago.

A busy day in open wheel racing saw Luke Ellery commence his much-publicised ‘Open Wheel Double’ – undertaking practice in both the Australian Formula 3 and Formula Ford Series’ today.

He topped the Kent class in the Formula Ford Sessions and improved throughout the day in his first taste of Formula 3, despite running old rubber and learning the car all at the same time.

New championship leader Jon Collins topped the charts in practice for this weekend's fourth F3 round of the year, however Mackay youngster Roland Legge was impressive on his way to the second quickest time in a still-new Dallara prepared by R-Tek Motorsport.

The 18-year-old adapted quickly to the new car and looks likely to mix it up with title protagonists Collins and Ricky Capo this year.

Capo struggled with engine issues today but rebounded strongly in the third and final session to end the day third and within one second of Collins' outright pace.

Series leader Cameron Hill dominated practice for the fourth round of the Australian Formula Ford series, lapping comfortably underneath the lap record and 0.4s clear of rival Christian Morina today.

Hill’s 1m34.69s lap was 0.6s underneath Jordan Lloyd’s existing race lap record, set in late 2014.

Sydney driver Andrew Kahl impressed with the third fastest time in his Spectrum 012, breaking the Mygale monopoly at the pointy end of the pack.

Ben Grice was fastest of all who logged laps in today’s Dial before You Dig Australian Super Six Touring Car Series, before another gearbox issue sidelined his Commodore for the second session – topped by defending champion Gavin Ross.

The biggest news for the six-cylinder brigade today however was the debut of Ian Chivas’ BA Falcon, a car that will future-proof the category moving into the future.

More than 10 new Falcons and several new VY Commodores are either close to completion or under construction prior to their introduction in time for the 2016 series.

The PRB Clubman Series joins regular Shannons Nationals categories this weekend in a competitive six-category program, with practice, qualifying and races set to commence tomorrow (Saturday, 4 July) and continue through a bumper program on Sunday.

Tickets are available from the Sydney Motorsport Park gate for $15 on Saturday and $25 Sunday ($30 for a weekend pass), whilst all of Sunday’s action will be streamed live on thenationals.com.au.