13th August 2004 - Paul Morris has fired the first shots at Oran Park, topping the times in an incident packed opening practice session for Round 8 of the 2004 V8 Supercar Championship Series, and declared he is the one to watch ...
13th August 2004 - Paul Morris has fired the first shots at Oran Park, topping the times in an incident packed opening practice session for Round 8 of the 2004 V8 Supercar Championship Series, and declared he is the one to watch this weekend.
Morris topped the times ahead of seven Holdens, the fastest Ford being that of John Bowe down in eighth position.
In a battle of the small teams of pitlane, Simon Wills was second ahead of Jason Richards in the locally prepared Tasman Motorsport Commodore, with Mark Skaife and Series contender Rick Kelly occupying the next two positions.
Morris, who started from third at the same event last year, said he sees no reason why his car can't keep keep improving and believes he can better last year's Shootout time. His quick lap time this afternoon on old tyres was only three-tenths slower than Ambrose's pole winning lap in last year's Shootout.
"We brought it here how we had it last year and just worked away at it," Morris said. "With a little more time I think we could have got another three-tenths out of it.
"The biggest problem here is following people and they clip a kerb and you have to drive blind through their dust, you are just doing it by feel.
"I've got nothing to lose, I'm 14th in the Championship so we'll give this a real shot. We are pretty confident, but anything can happen."
Simon Wills was next quickest; the Team Dynamik driver battled through the session with a broken alternator, but enjoyed what he rated as his best session of the year so far.
"We had one of our best sessions ever as a team today, we sat up near the top early on old tyres and we've saved our best two sets of tyres for tomorrow. We are pretty happy, but it is only Friday."
Jason Richards is the only regular driver in the Series who tests at Oran Park, and he is hoping the lessons learned from a recent test session will serve the small Sydney team well. "This is one of the few circuits that have a long series of corners, and you've got to get it right, and the set-up is critical for that."
Mark Skaife in fourth echoed his thoughts on the demands of the 10-turn 2.7 km track.
"I wouldn't think that anyone could have rolled their car out and it was a jet, but having said that this is a hard track to get the car right. I think it a wise thing to make the races shorter at this place, you'll see more starts and you'll still get tyre wear and better racing. I'm sure you'll see a cracker in at least one of the two races."
Rick Kelly was fifth fastest, declaring his intent this weekend on improving on his third spot on the championship points table.
"We weren't too bad, we were just out there chugging on," Kelly said. "My car hasn't been the best on tyre wear this year, and that is something we are looking to improve on this weekend or we'll be in a fair bit of strife."
Kelly was the best placed of the top four in the Series, Steve Richards dropping in a sixth fastest with Marcos Ambrose down in 11th and Jason Bright not getting one lap completed.
Ambrose also had a rare off mid-way through the session, bringing out the sixth and final red flag for the session after he went too fast into Turn 1. The front splitter on the Falcon was the only panel damaged. He said he wasn't worried at this stage by his times, adding that a good set of tyres here is worth more than a second a lap and that no damaged was sustained in his high-speed spin.
Series leader Jason Bright failed to set a time during the session, firing off the track on his opening lap when his throttle stuck open and damaged the engine on the PWR Commodore. The team tried to change an engine, just firing it into life as the chequered flag was waved just oevr 90 minutes later.
Tomorrow's action sees two practice sessions before qualifying and a Shootout.
<pre> Top 10 Friday Practice 1. Paul Morris Sirromet Lifestyle Wines Commodore 1m09.2659s 2. Simon Wills Team Dynamik Commodore 1m09.4683s 3. Jason Richards Tasman Motorsport Commodore 1m09.5425a 4. Mark Skaife HRT Commodore 1m09.6899s 5. Rick Kelly Kmart Commodore 1m09.7798s 6. Steven Richards Castrol Perkins Commodore 1m09.8889s 7. Greg Murphy Kmart Commodore 1m09.9230s 8. John Bowe OzEmail Falcon 1m09.9686s 9. Craig Lowndes CAT FPR Falcon 1m09.9687s 10. Cam McConville Repco Valvoline Cummins Commodore 1m10.0618s