THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13: V8 Supercar racer Paul Morris announced today he is expanding his Gold Coast-based Holden Commodore team to two cars after recruiting multiple New Zealand champion Ashley Stichbury to contest next year's Konica Series.
Morris has operated a one-car team in the Shell Championship Series the past two years, and broke through for his first round win at Calder Park in 2001.
The 34-year-old will drive a new VX Commodore in the 12-round championship in 2002, and Stichbury will have a VT model for the Konica series, which starts at Wakefield Park in NSW on March 31.
Stichbury, a dual Formula Ford and current Tranzam champion in New Zealand, will also team up with Morris in two championship endurance races, the Queensland 500 and the V8 Supercar 1000 at Bathurst.
The 30-year-old Aucklander will race in the five-round 2002 Konica series in the VT Commodore Morris drove to victory at Calder Park this year, which was originally built by the Holden Racing Team for triple V8 Supercar champion Craig Lowndes.
"Getting this drive is a fantastic opportunity, and it will give my career the momentum I need," said Stichbury.
"My aim will be to win the Konica series and Paul (Morris) and his team are giving me the gear capable of doing the job."
"Apart from that I'm also keen to get in the car with Paul in the endurance races later in the season and help the team get the best possible results."
Stichbury previously drove for Morris' team as a late replacement for Englishman Matthew Neal in this year's V8 Supercar 1000 at Bathurst during October, and they finished 12th.
However, Stichbury said the race had been a difficult assignment because it was his V8 Supercar debut and also the first time he had driven on the 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit.
"Next year I will be much better prepared for Bathurst, especially with a whole season in the Konica series behind me."
Stichbury said his 2002 racing commitments would also include the proposed event for Konica series cars on the 2002 V8 Supercar Bathurst program.
Morris, a four-times Australian Super Touring Championship winner, said expanding to the Konica series was a natural progression for his team, which is based at the Holden Performance Driving Centre and has its own in-house design, component-building, and engine development facilities.
"We've been looking at running a second car and Ash (Stichbury) is the type of driver we wanted," said Morris.
"He's fast, but like all of us, you need race miles and testing to be competitive in these cars, especially at Bathurst."
"I think he will do a great job in both the Konica series and also in the enduros with me."
Morris said it was likely his fulltime staff would swell from 12 to 14 to cater for the additional workload from preparing Stichbury's race car for the Konica series.