ANOTHER former Bathurst 1000 and 12-Hour winner will be a last minute addition to the field for the inaugural Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour at Mount Panorama this weekend.
Illness to long-time regular co-driver Barry Graham has forced Luke Searle’s Roadchill Express BMW team to draft in 2014 Bathurst champion Paul Morris at the last minute, ahead of today’s third practice and qualifying sessions.
The Roadchill BMW was quickest across the pair of 50-minute practice sessions on Friday, however Graham reported a motion-sickness style illness throughout the day before ultimately making the tough decision to pull out.
“Barry has a motion sickness – as soon as he goes up and over the Mountain, It’s like a car sickness or travel sickness,” Luke Searle told local radio, 2MCE.
“He’s pulled out and it has broken his heart because he’s looked forward to this for the last 12 Months and he feels like he’s let us down, but he can’t put a lap together, he’s just sick.”
Morris flew to Bathurst immediately on being drafted and will drive the car for the first time in practice this morning – however he’s not unfamiliar to tackling Mount Panorama’s 6.213km behind the wheel of a BMW.
The Queenslander won the Bathurst 12 hour in 2007 and 2010 driving a BMW 335i for Garry Holt’s Eastern Creek Karts team. Prior to that, he won three Australian Super Touring Championships driving for the factory Diet Coke BMW team prior to switching to V8 Supercars full-time.
Searle competed against Morris in the Super Touring ranks in the 1990s.
“(Paul) was top of the list and I’ve always wanted to drive with Paul pretty much my whole life,” Searle said.
“He’s been my kind of hero to look up to. We started off in Super Tourers which he was the king of so my whole life he’s been the guy I’ve always wanted to drive with, so I’m excited about that.”
The illness to Graham aside, Searle was pleased with the progress of the BMW hatch ahead of today’s qualifying session that will set the grid for Sunday’s 6-Hour enduro.
“The car is brilliant. We had good conditions and perfect for a turbocharged car this (Friday) morning, it was cold and you can’t get better conditions. It was optimum. It was a bit hotter in the second session this afternoon so we didn’t go quite as quick.
“I think there’s a (2m)26 there but it’s hanging on for a good ride there.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the balance on it and across the top it’s just lighting. I don’t think it has the legs down the straight but across the top I don’t’ think there’s a better car out there.
We put a lot of time into the balance of the car but if weather comes into play the two wheel drive cars might suffer.”
Morris join former Bathurst 1000 champions Chaz Mostert and John Bowe amongst a strong 50-car grid for this weekend’s 6-Hour debut.