Weel turns full cir­cle

Paul Weel is go­ing back to where his ca­reer started, writes CRAIG DUFF

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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