The Chris and The Dude bring excitement back to the track

by Arin Der Vartanian
The Mini Challenge Series has solidified this season as a competition the fans love to watch, as the Series is attracting big name celebrities from on and off the track every round. The big announcement this round, was made on the day before the Townsville 400 event, that V8 Supercars legend Paul Morris would team with Chris Alajajian to form what many saw to be an exciting duo for the duel-driver round. It was party time at Townsville, and the crowd was given what they were promised by the electrifying pair.
 
Paul Morris, aka The Dude, is very well known around race fans about his eccentric edge, and a vibrant driving style. So when 22-year-old Chris Alajajian, aka The Chris, asked The Dude to pair off for the duel-driver race in Round 3, it was an easy decision for 41-year-old Morris, as this turned out to be a revitalising change for motorsport fans to see a dynamic duo behind the same wheel.
 
A buzz surrounded the Townsville track as fans waited to see what will ensue once the boys hit the racetrack. In the practice sessions Alajajian pulled the fastest time, while Morris was fourth fastest in only his first drive with the Jack Hillermans Smash Repair Team. The team qualified behind the Carrati brothers, Paul Stokell and Grant Sherrin, taking the first, second and third spots respectively on the grid for the start of Race 1.
 
The Chris was in the driver seat for Race 1 on late Saturday evening, where a sizeable Townsville crowd hung around after the V8 Supercars finished their first Race of the weekend. The crowd faithful were entertained from beginning till the end of the 12-lap race. Alajajian couldn’t ask for a better start, jumping out and taking second spot after turn 1 from Tasmanian, Paul Stokell. Stokell drove on Alajajian’s tail, with Chris covering his lines well and attacking the chicanes so hard that he went airborne on a few occasions, much to the crowds’ liking. Whilst Alajajian and Stokell battled one another, Nathan Carrati drew out a large lead and held that to win Race 1 with Alajajian and Stokell passing the chequered flag respectively in 2nd and 3rd place after their fierce battle.
 
“What a nerve-wracking race” exclaimed Alajajian afterwards, “he tailed me from the beginning of the race and really put the pressure on”.
 
Race 2 saw Morris jump into the #9 John Works Mini Cooper, and everyone wanted a piece of The Dude, in the top 6 reverse grid race.  Starting from 5th on the grid, Morris looked very impressive and very aggressive in the race, holding 4th spot for majority of the race, fighting off a number of attacks by Owen in the BMW Uber Star car. But Morris was eventually pipped on the last straight of the final lap by Owen to steal 4th spot away from Morris. Stokell, Bargwanna and Emery took the top 3 spots in Race 2.
 
11:30am Sunday morning was the start of the 3rd and final race of the weekend, with it being an 18-lap duel-driver race. As the light flashed green, The Chris who started second on the grid, strikingly stormed into the lead ahead of Paul Stokell. Almost simultaneously as Chris hit the lead, the middle pack entered the first corner, a spectacular crash entailed, which took out Scott Bargwanna and John Modystach. A safety car was inserted into the race for 3 laps, and Alajajian was taken back into second spot behind Stokell. The race resumed on the 5th lap and Stokell exploded ahead, with The Chris hot on his tail. Alajajian once again hitting the chicanes aggressively put on an entertaining display for the crowd and gained ground on Stokell. By the 11th lap he entered the pits for the compulsory 1-minute driver change, vacating his Jack Hillermans Smash Repair Mini Cooper for the change over with Morris.
 
As Morris was on his first lap, Stokell went in for his compulsory pit stop on lap 12, and all eyes were on the Morris/Alajajian Mini Cooper. Stokell pulled out of the pits with a clear lead on Morris, and held his lead till the end of the race. Morris found himself in a battle once again with the Atkinson/Owen Uber Star car, and was eventually overtaken with a great battle taking place between Owen, Morris and Carrati till the end. Morris drove superbly and had the car under complete control whilst entertaining the crowd with his eccentric racing. The cameras, commentary team, and fans were in awe of both Morris and Alajajian throughout the weekend, proving that the 155KW Mini Coopers are a delight to watch on the track.
 
The team of The Chris and The Dude finished with an overall second place behind Paul Stokell, and they gave the fans exciting and dynamic racing throughout the whole weekend. “A strong end result considering Paul has never driven our team’s Mini and the minimum seat time that the duel-drivers get in the 18-lap race. So we’re really pleased with the overall second result, and it strengthens our teams’ desire to take out the 2009 Mini Challenge Championship title for 2009” explained Alajajian. The next stage of the Mini Challenge will be held at Sandown 400 on July 31.

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