Phillip Island: Paul Morris preview

Paul Morris hopes for improved grip at Phillip Island this weekend. Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris is pinning his hopes on improved front-end grip lifting him through pre-qualifying to secure a start in the second round of...

Paul Morris hopes for improved grip at Phillip Island this weekend.

Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris is pinning his hopes on improved front-end grip lifting him through pre-qualifying to secure a start in the second round of the V8 Supercar Championship at Phillip Island this Sunday.

Morris said he had struggled this year because of a lack of grip, and his Gold Coast-based team had made decisive gains in solving the problem during a test session at Queensland Raceway near Ipswich on April 5.

The 34-year-old evaluated the performance of his team's first 'in-house' built VX Commodore at the test, and also a new model, driving a total of 120 laps on the Dunlop control tyres introduced to the category this year.

"This season we haven't been able to hold mid-corner speed and we've had to slow the car down which has hurt us," he said.

"We made some changes to the car set-up and things seem much better, so hopefully the gains we've made will work just as well down at Phillip Island as they did in testing."

"I've always enjoyed racing down there (Phillip Island) because it's got some high speed corners and there are more places to pass than on a lot of other tracks."

Morris, who had his first V8 Supercar round win at Melbourne's Calder Park in 2001, will be forced to drive in the pre-qualifying session at Phillip Island this Friday because he failed to secure one of the 25 grid positions automatically allocated on results of the championship opener in Adelaide in March.

In pre-qualifying he will be vying for one of the seven remaining starting positions for the two 150km races at Phillip Island, among an expected group of more than 10 drivers.

"Pre-qualifying is risky because if you miss out you're going to be going home early," he said.

"At the same time it will give us some extra track time to find more speed, so if we make it through then we could be better off for the races on Sunday."

"It's no use complaining about pre-qualifying because we didn't have a good weekend in Adelaide and everyone knows the rules when they sign up for the championship."

Morris said that he had decided to compete at Phillip Island in the race-proven Commodore he drove in Adelaide, and delay the debut of his team's new 'in-house' built car until later in the championship.

"We ran both cars at the test (at Queensland Raceway) and the lap times were similar," he said.

"However, the new car has a different power steering system and we need to do more testing to get it to where we want it to be before we race it," said Morris.

"We felt for this weekend it's better to go with a fully-sorted car and I'm confident we can do much better with the extra grip we've found."

Morris qualified 29th in the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, then failed to finish the first race because of an engine failure and struggled to 25th in the second event after being slowed with back problems.

"I've been having physiotherapy just about every day since Adelaide and I'm not expecting any problems at Phillip Island," he said.

He said his back problems could be traced back to crashes he had in the Indy Lights Championship at Michigan in the United States in 1998, and in the Oran Park V8 Supercar round at Oran Park two years later.

The four-times Australian Super Touring Champion, said an encouraging aspect of his team's performance in Adelaide was their efficient pit-stops.

"My crew did an excellent job so and I'm expecting things to go just as well at Phillip Island."

Phillip Island -- Fast Facts:
Circuit Length: 4.5km
Race Format: 2 X 150km
Race Lap Record: Craig Lowndes (Holden) 1-Min 33.438-Secs (1999)
2001 Round Winner: Mark Skaife (Holden)

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 1): Skaife 400, Murphy 288, Tander 240, Richards 208, Lowndes 192, Johnson 120, Bargwanna 116, Kelly 108, Ambrose 104, Longhurst 102. Other: Morris 16

- www.paulmorris.com.au

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Paul Morris , Phillip Island