Paul Morris Bathurst preview

Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore racer Paul Morris is being driven by sporting and commercial goals as he aims for a top-three podium finish in the Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar event on Sunday week (October 12). The 35-year-old from...

Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore racer Paul Morris is being driven by sporting and commercial goals as he aims for a top-three podium finish in the Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar event on Sunday week (October 12).

The 35-year-old from the Gold Coast has been on the podium once before in the 'Great Race' at Mount Panorama, finishing third in 1999 with Mark Skaife in a Holden Racing Team Commodore.

In this year's 161-lap race he is sharing a VY Commodore, designed and built at his team's headquarters at the Holden Performance Driving Centre, with John Faulkner.

Morris makes no secret of his desire for success in his 11th start at Bathurst, but he is equally motivated to take advantage of the high television ratings and profile of the race to promote his team's principal sponsor, Sirromet Wines, established and owned by his father Terry Morris.

Sirromet Wines, which commenced operations in 2000 and is located at Mount Cotton between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, recently launched a national sales and distribution campaign, after previously operating primarily in Queensland.

Morris believes Network Ten's Bathurst television coverage, which peaked at more than 2-million viewers in 2002, will boost Sirromet's national sales drive if his team is competitive in the 10th round of this year's V8 Supercar Championship.

"First and foremost I want to do well at Bathurst because I race cars and this is Australia's biggest race," he said. "This is the one every young kid with an interest in motorsport wants to win one day."

"Bathurst captures the public's imagination. For many people it's the only race they watch all year and it's the one they remember -- ask anyone how many times (Peter) Brock won Bathurst and they know it's nine, but they're probably not sure exactly what else he won."

"With the television ratings higher than other races, there's a lot to gain for sponsors of all teams, especially those circulating at the 'pointy end' of the field. If we can do that it will be a big plus for Sirromet's move into national wine markets."

Sirromet's Chief Executive Officer Adam Chapman said the timing of the Bathurst race was ideal to promote the company's new national push through liquor chains Beer, Wine and Spirits (BWS), a partnership between Woolworths and the MGW Hotel group with 198 liquor outlets, and Cellarbrations, which has 50 stores.

"There's no doubt if Paul (Morris) and his team have a good day at Bathurst it will put our brand firmly in the spotlight," said Chapman. "Sirromet is on an upward growth pattern, in production and sales, and being involved in major events such as Bathurst adds some excitement to the public's perception of the company and its products."

In 2002 Sirromet produced 1.2-million bottles of wine and it has since installed a $1.1-million fully-automated bottling facility capable of processing 4,500 units an hour. The winery, which has won more than 120 awards since it opened, aims to be producing 5-million bottles annually in five years.

Morris has shown considerable improvement since the debut of his 2003-specification VY Commodore, fitted with a Holden Motorsport engine, in round seven of the championship at Queensland Raceway near Ipswich in July. He qualified third and finished fourth.

In the following round at Sydney's Oran Park he again qualified third and set the second-fastest lap in the race, but his podium aspirations were thwarted by a 'drive-through' penalty in the opening stages. During September he and Faulkner finished 13th in the rain-affected Sandown 500 in Melbourne after incurring two 'drive-through' penalties.

"We've made the (Top 10) Shoot Out at the past three rounds, so we've been carrying good car speed since we put the new car on the track," said Morris. "In the last couple of races things haven't gone our way, but maybe we're due for a change of luck at Bathurst."

"John (Faulkner) has a lot of experience at Mount Panorama. The weather can change this race around completely during the day, but you have to roll with whatever happens. Our aim will be to keep out of trouble and have a strong car for the sprint to the finish over the last 30 to 40 laps."

Faulkner has made 17 Bathurst starts with a best result of fifth in 1997 in a Commodore with Englishman Win Percy. He competed regularly in the championship for seven seasons up to the end of the 2002, but had not raced this year until Sandown because he was concentrating on managing the Holden Young Lions team in the Konica Series.

"Sandown was my first race for many months, and there was a lot to learn with a new car and team," said Faulkner. "We had every element thrown at us at Sandown. The guys were under the pump after the warm-up with an engine change, and in the race the weather was all over the place."

"It's probably good to have been through all those types of situations before going to Bathurst. The team is very dedicated and professional, and we all want to do the best possible job."

Morris' team has not tested since Bathurst, but Faulkner had the opportunity to drive 50 laps in a Holden Young Lions test in late September.

"It's a different car to what I'll be racing at Bathurst, but it's still a Commodore," said Faulkner. "It was good to get in something and have a run."

Morris' team at Bathurst will comprise 19 personnel, including drivers, team management, technical staff, engine and suspension technicians, mechanics, and catering staff.

The team's equipment on-site will include a transporter, the race car, two 'spare' engines, valued at approximately $120,000 each, plus 'spare' gearboxes, differentials, a complete suspension, 40 wheels, refuelling gear, body, panels, tools, computers, and other components.

"It's a major logistical exercise, but this is Bathurst and you can't leave anything to chance," said Morris. "We are as well prepared as we can possibly be."

Pit-stops during the race will be overseen by Technical Manager Paul Ceprnich, with Paul McQuay, Simon Chapman, Ryan Maddison, and Mark Burns performing the wheel changes.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers John Faulkner , Paul Morris , Bob Jane , Win Percy
Teams Holden Racing Team