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Around the tracks July 24 2009


RETIRED V8 Supercar racer Paul Weel is going back to his motorsport roots with an all-out attack on the 2009 Australasian Safari.

Weel began as an off-road racer and is heading back into the bush for the Safari, driving a V8-engined Holden Colorado.

But there is a twist.

He is doing the outback enduro in Western Australia with his father, Kees, as his co-driver. And their car is one that Weel Snr crashed in last year's Safari.

Weel is so committed to success he even ran a 500-kilometre test last week, the first time he drove a competition car since a massive crash at Bathurst last year which could easily have been fatal. He was T-boned in his PWR Commodore at the top of Mount Panorama.

"I'm pretty excited. It's been quite a while since my Bathurst accident, so it's great to finally be back behind the wheel of a racing car again," Weel says.

"I'm learning how to drive on dirt again after so long racing V8 Supercars. You feel like you're going pretty quick, racing through the bush at 200km/h with trees flashing past on either side of you."

The Safari begins a week from tomorrow, August 1, and covers 3600 kilometres from Perth to Kalgoorlie, with overnight stops in Geraldton, Mt Magnet, Leonora and Laverton.

DAVID Wall continued his romp towards the Australian GT championship title when he swept two of three sports car races at Eastern Creek last weekend with his Porsche GT3 Cup S. The other star on the packed Shannons Nationals program was Mat Sofi, who broke through for his first win in Formula 3 while Tim Macrow reduced overseas raider Joey Foster's lead in the championship battle.

CHAD Reed continues to lead the chase for the 450cc title in the AMA Pro Motocross championship following a 1-2 result at Millville last weekend. He is now 37 points clear on his Rockstar Suzuki with five rounds to run.

NEAL Bates is looking for more speed this week from his Toyota Corolla as he prepares for the winner-take-all showdown with his former team-mate, and championship leader, Simon Evans at Rally SA next weekend. Bates knows Evans has a top-speed advantage with his Mitsubishi Lancer and has several tweaks to test in Canberra before packing for the trip to Adelaide and the last event of this year's national championship series.

Off-road superstars Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki will tune up for next year's Dakar Rally by competing in the 2009 Australasian Safari with their Isuzu D-MAX ute in Western Australia. The five-time Safari winner was third last year and expects better in his latest beast thanks to engine upgrading, which he also believes will allow him to improve on his 11th overall in this year's Dakar in South America.

FRENCHMAN Jamie Alguersuari will become the youngest driver to race in Formula One, at 19 years and 125 days, when he replaces Sebastian Bourdais in the Toro Rosso team at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Alguersuari is a former British Formula 3 champion who was groomed through the Red Bull young driver academy.

CHRIS Atkinson is back in Monaco to try and revive his stalled career in the World Rally Championship, including a start in his home event, Repco Rally Australia, in September. His trip to Europe included a stopover in the USA to visit Ken Block, a Subaru driver who also stars in the X-Games, perhaps pointing to more American action for the speedy Australia.

DANIEL Ricciardo continues to lead the race for the British Formula 3 championship despite finishing slightly off the pace in both races at Donington Park last weekend. The young Aussie was quickest in qualifying but fell back to seventh in the first race before recovering for third, but in the second heat could do no better than fifth with the Carlin Motorsport team.

THE son of John Surtees, the only racer to win world championships on both two and four wheels, was killed last weekend in a Formula 2 crash in Britain. Henry Surtees had taken his first F2 podium at Brands Hatch in the first of two heats, but died after being hit in the head by a wheel from another car that crashed in the second race.

 

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