Hidden Valley: Paul Morris preview

V8 Supercar Championship - Round 4 Hidden Valley, Northern Territory; May 17-19 Paul Morris struck down by mystery virus in Darwin. Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris is bunkered down near Darwin today trying to shrug off a ...

V8 Supercar Championship - Round 4
Hidden Valley, Northern Territory; May 17-19

Paul Morris struck down by mystery virus in Darwin.

Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris is bunkered down near Darwin today trying to shrug off a mystery virus that threatens to put the brakes on his long-awaited comeback to the V8 Supercar Championship this weekend.

The virus is another set-back for the Gold Coast racer, who missed the previous two rounds at Phillip Island in Victoria and Eastern Creek in NSW in April after being eliminated in the controversial pre-qualifying series which has since been scrapped.

Morris became ill after travelling to Darwin last Saturday to acclimatise to Northern Territory weather in preparation for taking his position in the field of 36 cars entered in the fourth round at Hidden Valley, comprising a 20-mins race on Saturday, and two 100km events the following day.

"After all the dramas in pre-qualifying I need some good results, so I came up to Darwin early to get my body dialled into the weather because it's about 10-degrees hotter than the Gold Coast," said Morris.

"Unfortunately I've picked up some sort of virus and I'm now on antibiotics. I'm lying low for a few days at Channel Point (100km south-west of Darwin) trying to get myself right before practice starts on Friday."

The 34-year-old, who won the Calder Park round of the 2001 championship, said that if he regained full health this week then he expected to be competitive at Hidden Valley following two days of successful testing in his VX Commodore at the Queensland Raceway circuit near Ipswich on May 7 and May 9.

"It was good to go testing and get some decent track-time to work away on improving the car, and put some miles on the new Dunlop control tyres," said Morris.

"Missing those two rounds of the championship put us behind the eight-ball because we've been at home watching on television while the other guys were out there racing and getting information."

"There's nothing wrong with our car, speed-wise, but we need to put some race distances together to get the data we need to keep improving."

Morris believes that engine performance and fine-tuning the suspension of his car to suit Hidden Valley's layout and track surface will be crucial to fast and consistent lap times around the 2.9km circuit.

"There's a slow corner coming onto the long front straight so you need plenty of horsepower," he said.

"Around the back section there's some tight corners where you're changing direction quickly, so you've got to get the balance of the car right."

"Despite the heat I don't think tyre wear will be a problem -- this track is probably harder on brakes."

Morris said that he supported the recent decision to scrap the pre-qualifying system used in previous championship rounds this year, which required drivers to compete for the final seven positions in a restricted grid of 32 cars. The change has expanded the field to 36 cars at Hidden Valley.

"Teams with good sponsors were being sent home early and that wasn't in the best interests of the sport," said Morris.

"I wasn't the only one who missed out, but this weekend we all know we're going to get the chance to race and that's what you want when you commit to the championship at the start of the season."

Mark Skaife leads the championship for the Holden Racing Team with 820 points, followed by Kmart Commodore driver Greg Murphy on 442. Pirtek Ford Falcon racer Marcus Ambrose won the Hidden Valley round of the 2001 championship.

HIDDEN VALLEY -- FAST FACTS Circuit Length: 2.9km
Race Format: 1 X 20-Min Race, 2 X 100km Races
Race Lap Record: Jason Bright (Ford) 1-Min 9.419-Secs

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 3): Skaife 820, Murphy 442, Ambrose 398, Lowndes 371, Kelly 341, Tander 328, Richards 295, Johnson 233, Longhurst 222, Bright 219. Other: Morris 16

- www.paulmorris.com.au

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Mark Skaife , Paul Morris , Phillip Island
Teams Holden Racing Team