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A young cham­pion is rar­ing to go af­ter be­ing el­e­vated to the top tier, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - What’s On -

STEVE Owen is still scratch­ing him­self af­ter an early Christ­mas present has given the Fu­jitsu V8 Su­per­car champ a seat in the main game.

He has been named as the driver of the VIP Pet­foods-backed Paul Mor­ris Mo­tor­sports Com­modore for the 2011 V8 Su­per­car Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Owen is the newly crowned Fu­jitsu V8 Su­per­car se­ries cham­pion and part­nered TeamVoda­fone star Jamie Whin­cup in the three en­durance events this year, fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Su­percheap Auto Bathurst 1000, be­fore win­ning the Armor All Gold Coast 600.

‘‘This is my biggest op­por­tu­nity to forge a ca­reer at the top level so I’m go­ing to grasp it with both hands and give it a damn good shake,’’ Owen says.

‘‘They have good equip­ment and good peo­ple so I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to work­ing with them. I can’t thank Paul Mor­ris, Tony Quinn and the peo­ple at VIP Pet­foods enough.’’

VIP Pet­foods man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Tony Quinn says the tim­ing is right for his com­pany to re­turn to the top level of Aus­tralian motorsport.

‘‘We’ve known Paul for a long time. He’s a good op­er­a­tor and VIP Pet­foods is very proud to be spon­sor­ing one of his cars,’’ Quinn says.

Paul Mor­ris ex­pects Owen to be com­pet­i­tive from the pre-sea­son test day at East­ern Creek Race­way on Jan­uary 29, es­pe­cially with tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance from Triple Eight En­gi­neer­ing and hav­ing for­mer Team Voda­fone crew chief Steve Robert­son in pit lane.

‘‘We looked at a num­ber of driv­ers but hav­ing re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence with a top-level team def­i­nitely helped Steve’s case,’’ Mor­ris says. ‘‘ We ex­pect him to be up front and fight­ing for race wins when we get stuck into the 2011 sea­son.’’

Owen will re­place Greg Mur­phy in the Mor­ris camp next year, with Mur­phy and Ja­son Barg­wanna talk­ing to Kelly Rac­ing and Brad Jones Rac­ing re­spec­tively for a slot be­hind the wheel.

BJR needs to find a re­place­ment for Ja­son Richards, who will miss the start of the 2011 se­ries as he con­tin­ues his treat­ment for can­cer.

Steve Richards is with­out a full-time drive in the V8 Su­per­cars next year af­ter Ford Per­for­mance Rac­ing didn’t re­new his con­tract.

Richards isn’t re­tir­ing, though, and hopes to drive in the en­durance events.

‘‘Clearly there are many very good op­tions in re­la­tion to driv­ing at the L&H 500 at Phillip Is­land and the Su­percheap Auto Bathurst 1000 en­durance races and a fi­nal de­ci­sion on driv­ing at those events will be­come clearer to me in the com­ing days and weeks,’’ he says.

The Ir­win Rac­ing out­fit also un­veiled its 2011 liv­ery this week (be­low) and driver Alex Dav­i­son hopes the min­i­mal­ist new de­sign will put the team back at the front of the grid.

The V8 Su­per­car sea­son launches in Abu Dhabi on Fe­bru­ary 10-12.

VIP on the race­track: Steve Owen is thrilled with his Su­per­cars role in a Com­modore next year.

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