ASTC: Morris wins at Oran Park

Gold Coast driver Paul Morris today raced past a half-century of race victories in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship when he dominated the final round of the 2000-2001 series at Sydney's Oran Park circuit. The 33-year-old won...

Gold Coast driver Paul Morris today raced past a half-century of race victories in the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship when he dominated the final round of the 2000-2001 series at Sydney's Oran Park circuit.

The 33-year-old won both races in his Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i, which took his career tally of championship victories to 51 from 116 starts since the series began in 1994. Morris' results on the 1.9km circuit also left him with 16 wins from the 17 races in this season's championship. His only blemish in an otherwise all-conquering season was in race one of the previous round at Goulburn's Wakefield Park on January 28 when a loose wheel forced him to withdraw.

Morris scored the maximum 32 points at Oran Park, which boosted his championship tally to 255, and gave him a winning margin of 109 ahead of second-placed John Henderson of Sydney, who was followed by Queenslander David Auger on 113. Henderson scored 22 points at Oran Park from second and third placings. Newcastle's Luke Searle, driving a Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i, was the leading Independents Cup competitor in the first race, and Auger won the class in race two. Victorian Ray Sidebottom secured overall honours in the V8 Future Tourers category with first and second places from the two races in his APS Racing VT Holden Commodore.

In the first race, over 36 laps, Morris won in 33-mins 30.88-secs, finishing 1.41-secs clear of Henderson in a Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra, who was followed by Sydney teenager Alan Gurr in a Hi-Tech Motorsport Nissan Primera. The race featured two periods under Safety Car conditions after two separate incidents.

Gurr later had his 10 championship points disallowed, but retained his finishing position, after Race Director Peter Wollerman said he had been found guilty of a driving infringement in an incident which also involved Searle and the Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry of Sydney's Jamie Miller. Gurr and Miller made contact at the end of the main straight, which left the Toyota with a broken wheel and a flat tyre. The car then spun after glancing Searle's BMW and then was struck from behind by the Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo of Canberra's Mark Zonneveld. Miller and Zonneveld were forced to retire.

Tasmania's ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore driver Tim Shaw, the V8 Future Tourers champion, was disqualified after a separate incident with Auger which left both in a trackside sandtrap. Auger's Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo was damaged and could not continue in the race. In a race of high attrition, NSW trio Jim Cornish (Visit Your Vet Honda Accord), Greg East ( Mitsubishi Magna), and Sam Dale (Mumbo Racing Ford Mondeo) suffered mechanical problems and did not finish. Damage to Dale's car followed contact with Searle and Auger on lap two.

Morris won the second race, over 31 laps, in 23-mins 51.53-secs and finished 0.50-secs ahead of Tasmania's Owen Kelly in a Thermo King BMW 320i. The result left Kelly with four second-place finishes from six starts in the final three championship rounds since his debut at the Symmons Plains circuit near Launceston in December. Henderson finished third. Searle spun out of the race on lap 22 after attempting a passing move on Miller.

PAUL MORRIS (Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i): "Today was a great way to finish off what has almost been a perfect season. Reaching 50 wins in the championship is a good feeling because it shows I've been consistent over many years and that's something you always aim for as a driver. I've always had good teams behind me and that's a big plus. It's hard to pick out any particular (race) win as being the best, but I think winning the '99 championship against Jim Richards in the works Volvo (S40) was my best season. The Volvo had won the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) the year before, and everyone knows Jim is one of the best drivers around -- that's probably my best memory in this championship."

JOHN HENDERSON (Sydney Cranes & Transport Holden Vectra): "Once again we tried hard and we were competitive, but Paul (Morris) and the BMWs were too good. Today we had bad understeer, and it got worse and worse, but I'm still stoked to finish second in the championship."

DAVID AUGER (Leatherman Racing Alfa Romeo): "My aim today was to finish third in the championship. It was tough, but in the end we got there. Finishing in the sand in the first race was not part of the plan and the pressure was really on after that. I didn't take any risks in the second race and made sure we finished with the points we needed."

JAMIE MILLER (Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry): "In the first race the Nissan came up the inside and hit me. The impact broke the back-left wheel and the tyre went flat. My car started to weave and Luke (Searle) swiped me and I spun. Then I got tagged from behind and it smashed the rear of the car."

ALAN GURR (Hi-Tech Nissan Primera): "I pulled to the inside of (Jamie) Miller -- I could see his face and I braked with him side-by-side. He went to turn into the corner and bounced into me."

LUKE SEARLE (Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i): "The Toyota was going down the Esses with a flat tyre and he hit the brakes when I was right behind him. I had nowhere to go and we hit."

RAY SIDEBOTTON (APS Racing Holden Commodore): "We've been developing the VT (Holden Commodore) all season and today we saw the hard work starting to pay off with some good results. Our main problem before was a lack of reliability, but I think we're now getting on top of it.".

SAM DALE (Mumbo Racing Ford Mondeo): "On the second lap (of race one) three of us were going for the same corner. I tried to pull out, but unfortunately I was hit by (David) Auger and (Luke) Searle. It broke the suspension and that was the end of my race."

-Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Jim Richards , Paul Morris , Owen Kelly , Alan Gurr , Luke Searle , David Auger