Hard-charging Brisbane driver Wayne Wakefield will join Paul Morris in the Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore for this year's V8 Supercar Championship endurance races, the V.I.P. Petfoods Queensland 500 and the Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 at Bathurst.
Wakefield, 32, drove with Marcos Ambrose in a Stone Brothers Racing Ford
Falcon at Bathurst in 2001, and the previous day he won a 30-lap race for V8 Konica Series competitors on the 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit.
Before that Wakefield contested the two championship endurance events at Queensland Raceway and Bathurst in Holden Commodores with Dean Canto in 1999 and Ryan McLeod in 2000.
Morris said his decision to recruit Wakefield as co-driver for the Queensland 500 on September 15 and Bathurst on October 13 followed a series of impressive testing sessions at Queensland Raceway with the Gold Coast-based team in recent months.
"It's great to get this opportunity for the endurance races in a top-shelf car with a good team," said Wakefield. "I've done four days of testing with Paul's team and I feel comfortable in the car."
"It's got a strong engine and puts the power down exceptionally well.Overall I'd say it compares very favourably with any V8 I've driven before. The testing I've done has also enabled me to get to know the guys in Paul's team and learn how they do things, and that's going to be a plus."
Wakefield is driving an Imrie Motorsport Commodore in three championship rounds to prepare for the endurance races. He has already contested the Stegbar Canberra 400 in June, and is also racing at Oran Park in Sydney this weekend, and at Winton in Victoria next month.
"When you're not doing the whole championship like me it's important to drive these V8s as often as possible, whether it's testing or taking racing opportunities that come along," said Wakefield. "My aim is to be as close as I can get to the speed of the guys racing regularly in the championship."
Morris, who finished 10th in the Queensland 500 and 12th at Bathurst in 2001, in addition to winning the Calder Park round of the championship that year, said Wakefield would be a valuable asset to his team in the endurance races.
"Wayne has always been quick in any car he's raced, and he's also been a big help to us this year with his technical input in testing and that's helped us improve our car," said Morris. "I've got no doubt he will be on the pace for the endurance races with the testing and racing he's doing."
Wakefield developed a cult following when he won the Queensland Club Car Championship with his spectacular driving in a Mazda 808 wagon.
"Wayne used to raise a few eyebrows in those days by getting sideways everywhere, but we've found him to be very smooth and precise with his driving in our car," said Morris. "He's goes about his business in a cool and calculating way, which is what you need in long distance races."
Wakefield said that he hoped to perform sufficiently well behind the wheel of Morris' newly-built VX Commodore in the endurance races to push claims for a fulltime V8 Supercar drive in 2003.
"Hopefully I can get the job done and go on to bigger and better things next year," said Wakefield. "I won't be short of 'miles' around Queensland Raceway for the 500, and Bathurst is a fantastic track - it's very demanding with a high average speed and you're concentration has to be spot on."
WAYNE WAKEFIELD - PROFILE
DATE/PLACE OF BIRTH: 13.9.70, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
LIVES AT: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
OCCUPATION: Tyre shop proprietor
RACING DEBUT: 1993, Queensland Gemini Championship
2002 RACE CATEGORY: V8 Supercar Championship
2002 RACE TEAM: Paul Morris Motorsports (V8 Supercar endurance races)
2002 RACE CAR: Sirromet Wines Holden Commodore (V8 Supercar endurance races)
QUEENSLAND 500 STARTS: 2 (1999-2000)
BATHURST V8 1000 STARTS: 3 (1999-2001)