20 years on: Underdog winner for iconic circuit's last hurrah

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 10/09/2021
  • By James Pavey, Main Pic by AN1 Images

Twenty years have passed since the 2001 season, which saw Mark Skaife win his fourth title in dominant fashion.

Skaife won nine races in the season, and only failed to win at six of the 13 events.

One of those events was at Calder Park, which hosted its 25th and final ATCC/Supercars round in 2001.

Calder Park holds a special place in championship history, despite not hosting a round since 2001.

Between 1969 and 2001, the Victorian venue staged 38 championship races.

Holden claimed a record 20 Calder wins, ahead of Ford (13), Nissan (two) and one each for Chevrolet, Mazda and BMW.

Peter Brock and Allan Moffat were the most successful drivers at Calder Park with five wins apiece.

It also held the first points race under lights in 1980 before opening the V8 Supercars era in 1997 with night racing.

Perhaps most infamously, Calder Park is remembered for Craig Lowndes' terrifying rollover during the 1999 event.

Two years later, however, Calder Park got the perfect send-off with an underdog round winner, who won two of the three races.

Skaife started on pole for Race 1, but was challenged by Steven Johnson.

Johnson had been enjoying the 2001, having won his first race and round in Canberra a month earlier. Contact with Skaife saw the latter slapped with a penalty gifting Johnson another win.

Second behind Johnson was Paul Morris, who aboard the iconic yellow Big Kev Commodore, was closer than ever before to his first championship race win.

Ingall hounds Morris Pic: AN1 Images

To 2001, Morris had had a chequered past in Australian motorsport. A Gemini and Formula Ford junior, Morris made his Bathurst debut in 1991, and joined the BMW works team the following year.

He won four Australian Super Touring Championships, and also claimed a class Bathurst victory in 1994.

Third alongside Skaife at Mount Panorama in 1999 was his brightest Supercars moment, with his darkest day coming the following season following a horrific firey start-line accident at Oran Park.

Four top 10s in 14 starts to the Calder round didn’t make for bright reading for Morris. However, second behind Johnson were signs his luck had turned.

Morris leads Ingall Pic: AN1 Images

Victories in Races 2 and 3 blew everything out of the water, Morris claiming overall round honours for his eponymous team.

Russell Ingall was second with Jason Bright third in Race 2, with Ingall third behind Paul Radisich in Race 3.

The margin between Morris and Radisich in Race 3 was a miserly 0.146s, Morris doing his damnedest to keep the Shell Falcon behind.

A Race 3 spin saw Skaife’s weekend come to a sloppy end, with the championship hopeful only 14th overall.

'It's pretty exciting after a year and a half of hard work' Pic: AN1 Images

Skaife retained his series lead over Bright, which had been chopped to just 17 points.

The day also featured some strong results for future stars; 2006 series champion Rick Kelly won two Formula Holden races, while Will Davison and Will Power shared the Formula Ford wins.

However, the weekend belonged to Morris, who ended Ford's three-round winning streak.

"It's pretty exciting after a year and a half of hard work," Morris said.

"It's a round win and not a championship win, but it is great in that it will give the whole team a big lift.

Morris' greatest success came in 2014

"It has been a tough initiation... it's hard to work out this category all by ourselves.

“We didn't start from the basis of an established team and with restrictions on test days and the competitiveness of the whole field it is a big job to become a winner.”

After retiring from full-time competition in 2008, Morris became at co-driver.

His final starts came in 2014 alongside Chaz Mostert, with the pair combining for a famous Bathurst 1000 win from last on the grid.

Morris is now a key figure in the Supercars paddock, mentoring the likes of Anton De Pasquale, Brodie Kostecki and 2022 Red Bull Ampol Racing driver Broc Feeney.

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