Former Champ Car champion and Gold Coast Indy 300 winner Paul Tracy will return to Australia to compete in this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Tracy will replace fellow North American Boris Said in a MARC Car which he will share with 2014 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris and car owner Keith Kassulke.
Said, who drove for Paul Morris Motorsport in the 2008 Supercars enduros and as an international co-driver on the Gold Coast in 2011 and 2012, was injured while training on his dirt bike with his son last week.
Tracy began the transition to retirement late last decade and has made a name for himself since 2014 as an IndyCar television commentator with NBC Sports in the United States.
He works in that role alongside Australian Leigh Diffey, who played a part in the Canadian hard man’s Bathurst drive.
“It was a pleasant surprise to be asked to come back to AU and compete in a class-winning car with a guy like Paul Morris.,” Tracy told Speedcafe.com.
“He is a legend down under and making a name for himself in the States driving in Robby’s (Gordon’s) SST trucks.
“I must thank Leigh Diffey for teeing this up for me. We have become great mates working together.”
Tracy has always been big in stature and has battled his weight after retirement, but has been back in full training since the Bathurst 12 Hour opportunity presented itself.
He is also planning multiple hours on iRacing around Mount Panorama ahead of the event.
“I always come to win,” stressed Tracy, who turned 50 in December.
“I am training like a mad man to be ready for the challenge of arguably the toughest track in the world.
“It will be a great start to a year where I plan to do a lot more racing.”
Morris said he was delighted to have a driver of Tracy’s experience and profile in the car.
“I think it is a fantastic thing for everyone involved,” ‘The Dude’ told Speedcafe.com.
“Obviously it would have been great to have Boris back here and we wish him a speedy recovery, but there are not too many bigger names in world motorsport than Paul Tracy.
“He was excited to get my call and has been working flat-out on his fitness ever since.
“I think shots of him training so hard on his Twitter account sparked up a few comeback rumours and I guess this confirms it.
“PT is a tough, hardarse racer and I think he will fit in perfectly at our team where he does not have the pressure of racing for an outright win.
“He can come here and have a good time, tick the box of racing at Bathurst and hopefully go home with a class trophy.
“The commitment of Paul will obviously not do the profile of MARC Car any harm in the US, which we see as a major market for it.”
Morris is the only driver to have won each of the three Bathurst enduro races, namely the 1000 (2014), the 12 Hour (2007, 2010), and the 6 Hour (2017).
The car also has a strong history with Kassulke, Will Brown, and Rod Salmon driving it to a 14-lap class victory at last year’s Bathurst 12 Hour.
Tracy spent 15 years in the CART/Champ Car World Series, winning seven races and taking six poles on his way to the 2003 championship with Forsythe Racing.
He won the Gold Coast Indy in his sole year with Newman/Haas Racing in 1995, and scored a third with Team Kool Green in 2002, in 15 starts on the streets of Surfers Paradise.
Tracy also has experience in NASCAR with a handful of starts in the second tier national series (now known as the Xfinity Series) and Trucks, as well as sportscars.
In 2012, he finished seventh outright in the Daytona 24 Hour and last year competed in Trans-Am races at Road Atlanta and Indianapolis.
There are four MARC Cars in the 43-car field, split evenly between Focus-bodied and Mustang-inspired second-generation models.
The 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour takes place from January 31-February 3.