SUNDAY, JUNE 22: Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris today heads for Darwin by helicopter as part of an aerial convoy flying to the Northern Territory for this weekend's sixth round of the V8 Supercar Championship at the Hidden...
SUNDAY, JUNE 22: Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore driver Paul Morris today heads for Darwin by helicopter as part of an aerial convoy flying to the Northern Territory for this weekend's sixth round of the V8 Supercar Championship at the Hidden Valley circuit.
Morris is flying a Robinson R44 helicopter, and will be joined by multiple Bathurst 1000 champion Larry Perkins in a Cessna, and former 500cc grand prix motorcycle rider Daryl Beattie in a Russian-built six-seater aircraft with passengers including trainee pilot Marcos Ambrose, winner of the past three championship rounds.
They will cover approximately 3,300km on a flight path which starts in Brisbane and includes overnight stops at Winton in outback Queensland tonight, Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory tomorrow evening, and Daly Waters in the Top End on Wednesday.
Morris, who estimates the trip will involve about 17-hours flying time, said the air convoy planned to link up with many of the V8 Supercar team transporters at Daly Waters before heading into Darwin on Thursday to prepare for the opening practice sessions at Hidden Valley the following day.
"It should be pretty spectacular with all the trucks, plus the planes and 'chopper' rolling into Darwin," said the 35-year-old from Queensland's Gold Coast.
Morris, who previously travelled to the Northern Territory by helicopter for the 2002 championship round, said this year's trip was organised after discussions with Beattie, a qualified pilot who is also Darwin-bound as part of the Channel 10 television commentary team covering the championship.
"Daryl was keen to join in, and he's bringing Marcos (Ambrose), who's learning to fly, plus some of the Channel 10 guys," said Morris. "Larry (Perkins) is joining us at Winton, and when we get to Tennant Creek we're catching up with the Kellys (Rick and Todd). They're driving up to Darwin in Holdens."
"It's going to be an adventure. The scenery and terrain in the 'Territory' is like nothing else with the Red Centre, and things like those big termite mounds when you get further north."
"Daly Waters should be interesting. The population is usually 23, and the pub is famous for the steak and barramundi barbecues. The local airstrip where we land was an RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) station in World War II."
This year's Hidden Valley round comprises a sprint-race format, with the opening event on Saturday, and two 100km races on Sunday.
Morris, whose team is located at the Holden Performance Driving Centre on the Gold Coast, believes the Northern Territory round is a valuable asset in the championship.
"It's good to take our sport to Darwin where there is a huge V8 Supercar fan base and we get incredible support," he said.
Morris said his aim on the 2.9km Hidden Valley circuit was to qualify for the Top 10 Shoot Out, and move forward in each of the three races. His best qualifying result this year was seventh in round four at Winton in Victoria on May 25.
"In the past few rounds we've been around the top 10 in terms of car speed, but that hasn't always shown up in our results," said Morris. "Since this is a sprint round it's extra important to be in the Shoot Out. Heat is another factor at Hidden Valley, and the track is tough on brakes."
Morris is 18th in the championship with 375 points. Team Brock Commodore racer Jason Bright leads on 851 points, followed by Steven Richards in a Castrol Perkins Commodore on 834, and Ambrose on 783 in a Pirtek Ford Falcon.