Weel turns full circle
Paul Weel is going back to where his career started, writes CRAIG DUFF
RETIRED V8 Supercar racer Paul Weel is going back to his motorsport roots with an all-out attack on the 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’s doing the outback enduro in Western Australia with his father, Kees, as co-driver. And their car is one Weel Sr crashed in last year’s event.
Weel is so committed to success he even ran a 500km test last week, the first time he had driven a competition car since a huge crash at Bathurst last year that could easily have been fatal.
He was T-boned at about 170km/h in his PWR Commodore at the top of Mount Panorama.
Weel’s lower back was broken, but he escaped permanent spinal damage.
‘‘It’s been a pretty long road back to normal,’’ Weel says.
‘‘I still get a bit of soreness, so I’m resigned to the fact that that’s just the way it’s going to be.
‘‘I’m still 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.
‘‘I’m learning how to drive on dirt again after so long racing V8 Supercars. You feel as if you’re going pretty quick, racing through the bush at 200km/h, trees flashing past on either side of you.
‘‘It’s going to be seven or eight days of rough track, but the car is not too bad on my back.’’
He says it is like footy — you have to push through the pain barrier.
‘‘But I’ll probably be the first into the massage tent at the end of each day. I probably should take my physio with me. I’m his best customer,’’ he says.
Weel won back-to-back Australian Off Road Championships in 1997 and 1998 before he switched to V8 Supercars.
Weel has not ruled out a return to V8 Supercars, but it’s unlikely.
‘‘I did a promo ride day yesterday for Team Vodafone and enjoyed it and that’s what I’m looking for; enjoyment,’’ he says.
The Safari begins on August 1 and covers 3600km from Perth to Kalgoorlie, with overnight stops at Geraldton, Mt Magnet, Leonora and Laverton.
Safari so good: Paul Weel will drive a V8 Holden Colorado in the Safari (below) with dad Kees as co-driver.