After six years of trials and tribulations – and some success, Queenslander Ian Palmer has today confirmed that he has retired his popular Brabham Honda NSX from competition in the Speed Energy Drink Australian GT Championship – at least for this weekend.

That was the news following Friday’s opening practice for the fourth round of the 2006 Speed Energy Drink Australian GT Championship at Phillip Island Raceway.

Palmer, this year inducted as an Australian GT Championship Platinum driver thanks to his support of the championship in its formative stages, will instead compete this weekend’s fourth championship round in a Porsche GT3 – last driven by John Kaias.

The car finished second in the Australian Porsche Drivers Challenge last season.

This weekend will mark just the second time Palmer has driven something other than his popular Honda in Australian GT-style racing, having driven a Holden Monaro in a limited Nations Cup campaign in 2003.

“I’ve become a works driver this weekend,” Palmer grinned today, who will have the experienced Fitzgerald Racing team running his car this weekend as a teammate to John Kaias.

“It’s so much different to what I’m used to – I just rock up and jump in, it’s great!”

“The only problem is that I’ve gone from the big and burly Honda into a
hairdresser’s car,” he joked.

“It’s a lot different to drive – today was more about learning the ropes and coming to grips with the car. You have to be a lot smoother with this, whereas you needed to be a lot more aggressive with the Honda.”

Palmer wasn’t the only one becoming accustomed to new machinery this weekend, David Stevens and John Teulan both making the Australian debut of the Ferrari F430 Challenge at the 4.45km Island circuit today.

Both cars completed solid runs today with both teams expecting constant
improvement over the course of the weekend.

The battle for outright honors this weekend is set to be the major feature of the event, a number of drivers looking to become the fourth different winner from four rounds this season.

So far Allan Simonsen (Ferrari), Greg Crick (Viper) and Bryce Washington
(Porsche) have scored race victories this season, James Koundouris, David Wall and D’Arcy Russell looking to be the most likely contenders to add their name
to the 2006 winners list.

Koundouris (Dare Coffee Shots / Supabarn Supermarkets Porsche GT3 Cup) is
coming off the back of his best ever round finish at Oran Park last weekend, whilst Russell won his first ever race at Phillip Island last season and has posted competitive outings this season.

Allan Simonsen will make his return to the championship this weekend after
missing two rounds, Car owner Ted Huglin confirming that the Danish superstar will take the wheel of the consolidated Chemical Company Ferrari F360GT once again.

Simonsen is coming off the back of an outstanding opening round of the 2006 FIA GT3 Championship, scoring a win and a second place-finish at Silverstone – driving a Ferrari – two weeks ago.

This weekend’s round marks the half way point of the 2006 Championship, Greg Crick leading Bryce Washington in a close battle for the series lead.

The round will be decided over the course of three races on Sunday this weekend.