The Auto One Wildcard Entry for Bathurst has been announced and former V8 Ute Champion Marcus Zukanovic will take the reins for Round 5 of the 2011 Auto One V8 Ute Racing Series - protected by Armor All at Mount Panorama, 6 - 9 October.
Zukanovic was one of the first V8 Ute drivers to move up to V8 Supercars following in the footsteps of Warren Luff, Damien White, Chris Pither, James Moffat, Luke Youlden, Dean Canto, Gary MacDonald and Grant Denyer (to name a few.) The Victorian has gone from strength to strength since. He has spent three years in the Fujitsu Series and driven in the V8 Supercar main-game with Greg Murphy Racing at the 2010 Phillip Island L&H 500 and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
"I'm definitely looking forward to driving utes again. It's a tough competition, they are a great bunch of guys and I can't wait to have another go. I'm looking forward to being the first driver to put the car on podium for Auto One," he said.
The Auto One car will again be prepared by Williams Race Tech and Zukanovic will juggle the duties with his full-time Fujitsu drive.
"I'll also be driving my Fujitsu car so it will be a busy weekend but I'll manage," he said.
Zukanovic's first V8 Ute appearance was in 2003, when he teamed up with Jack Elsegood in a two driver legends event at Mount Panorama. He raced against Peter Brock, finishing 8th behind the Bathurst legend who won the race with his son James. From that point, Zukanovic was hooked on the series.
"I raced with Jack in 2003 for a one off event and fell in love with the Utes. I ended up buying Denis Gilbert's Ford for the 2004, 05, and 2006 series'."
In 2005, he narrowly missed the title by only two points to two-time V8 Ute Champion Damien White but returned in 2006, taking out the Series title in his well known Ford "Black Betty." The same year he also claimed the Commodore Cup title and was named CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsports) Personality of the Year, which he shares with the likes of Grant Denyer, Simon Evans, Marcos Ambrose and Craig Lowndes.
After dominating both Commodore Cup and V8 Utes, Zukanovic decided it was time to try his hand at V8 Supercars and bought Garth Tander's 2006 Championship car, the TOLL HSVDT Holden Commodore VZ, which started his three year stint in the Fujitsu Series. Unfortunately in testing at Winton, Zukanovic had a coming together with the wall at 200kph, after brake failure, which saw him take a break from racing for 12 months to recover from a broken leg, collar bone and ribs.
Zukanovic's first time back in the car after his accident was at the 2010 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour with Jason Bright and Allan Simonsen in his Shelby Mustang GT500.
The red-headed Melbourne based tow truck entrepreneur has also driven at Bathurst in Commodore Cup, the Fujitsu Series, also teaming in a Ute with former Bathurst winner David Parsons in 2006, the pair winning the Bathurst "Legends" event.
Zukanovic's last Ute appearance was in the 2010 "Ten Years of Legends Race" at the Clipsal 500 where he teamed up with Gary Carson in his Ford BF. This will be the first time that the Victorian has driven a Holden V8 Ute but he's up for the challenge.
"It would be nice to get a test day in before we get there but if we can't manage it I'm sure I'll get my head around it fairly quickly. My aim is to get on podium on the weekend, I know there are a lot of great competitors in the Series now, old and new, and it won't be an easy feat but I'm looking forward to it," he said.
Zukanovic will be the fifth driver to step behind the wheel of the Auto One Wildcard car including: Charlie O'Brien, Marcus Marshall, Tim Blanchard and Dean Canto.
Auto One CEO Peter Henry is excited about the prospect of the Auto One Holden being a frontrunner at Australia's most famous motorsport event.
"All the Auto One Wildcard drivers have done a great job this year, and I am sure Marcus will be right on the money given his Bathurst experience. With 2 LIVE races telecast from Mount Panorama, it is important the Auto One Wildcard entry maximises our exposure opportunity, and Marcus fits perfectly with the Auto One philosophy of giving young drivers the opportunity of mixing it with the regular V8 Ute frontrunners."
The 2011 Auto One V8 Ute Racing Series - protected by Armor All features 32 Ford and Holden production based V8 racing utes - covering 8 championship rounds, and 27 races through five states of Australia. The series is televised nationally on the SEVEN Network, through Fox Sports, TV3 New Zealand, Motors TV Europe and over 40 countries worldwide.
See below remaining 2011 Calendar.
Round Event Venue Date 5 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Mount Panorama, NSW 6 - 9 Oct 6 Armor All Gold Coast 600 Surfers Paradise, QLD 21 - 23 Oct 7 Norton 360 Sandown Challenge Sandown Raceway, VIC 18 - 20 Nov 8 Sydney Telstra 500 Olympic Park, Sydney, NSW 2 - 4 Dec
Make-A-Wish® Australia is the official charity of Australian V8 Ute Racing who will endeavour to assist the foundation with their mission, which is to "To grant the Wishes of Children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope strength and joy."