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Paul Mercurio, Dancing with the Uber-Stars - (Australia)

June 5th, 2008

Whether its cooking up a storm in a Hunter Valley vineyard, judging Dancing with the Stars, choreographing a Hollywood blockbuster or presiding over the brew of his own boutique beer – Paul Mercurio has just about done it all, except for being a fully-sponsored race driver. That changes this weekend at the Midas 400, Sandown (June 7-9), when he is the latest MINI CHALLENGE UBER-STAR.

Mercurio and race tracks aren’t unfamiliar with one another – the host of Mercurio’s Menu and judge on Dancing with the Stars on the Seven Network has taken victory in the Australian Grand Prix Celebrity Challenge in 2000 and in his second appearance in 2005, finished third after starting on the front row.

He has also appeared in a PRO-AM at the Race of 1000 Years ALMS race on the Adelaide Grand Prix circuit and driven a MINI in the Classic Adelaide tarmac rally, where he finished second.

“It is every boy’s dream to be a sponsored racing car driver and I’m getting to live the dream – fantastic!” Mercurio enthused. “It’s a fantasy to be a sponsored driver.”

The tables will be turned on Mercurio, though, when he comes up against former Dancing with the Stars victor and fellow Seven Network property, Grant Denyer – who currently leads the MINI CHALLENGE Series.

“I gave him a perfect 10 for his Pasa Doble, but I’m not so sure I’ll get a 10 from Grant for my mid-corner apexes,” Mercurio laughed. “I just want to make it through the race without denting the car and preferably not come last.

“Just secretly, though, I am going to try and win. Realistically, I don’t have a hope in hell. Perhaps I’ll do a Steven Bradbury, where the others fall off the track and I take the chequered flag!”

After starting in dance at the age of nine, Mercurio shot to prominence in the Australian film, Strictly Ballroom, where he was nominated for an AFI Award. He was the lead choreographer for the hit Will Smith movie, I,Robot, as well as directing his own films and managing his own dance studio.

More recently, he has turned his attention to his passions of food and beer, brewing a boutique beer – Mercs Own – and hosting a Series of cooking and lifestyle programs on the Seven Network.

MINI CHALLENGE is the newest motor racing phenomenon in Australia, utilising identical MINI John Cooper Works CHALLENGE racecars that develop 210 horsepower. The eight round Series supports many of the V8 Supercar Championship Series’ biggest events, including the L&H 500 at Phillip Island, the Super Cheap Auto 1000 at Bathurst, and the Jim Beam 400 at Oran Park.

Mercurio takes to the track for opening MINI CHALLENGE practice at Sandown International Raceway, Melbourne, as part of the Midas 400 V8 Supercar Championship Series round on Saturday morning at 9:00am, with qualifying at 11:30am. Races 1 and 2 will be conducted Sunday, whilst the final race will be run on the Queen’s Birthday Holiday Monday.

NOTE: A media opportunity will be available at Sandown International Raceway on Friday, June 6, 2008 at 12:30pm where Paul Mercurio, Jason Bargwanna and Leanne Tander will officially unveil the new UBER-STAR CAR livery. For more information, contact Matt Payne on 0437 20 20 03.

POINTS AFTER ROUND 3 of 8 (Top 10):

1. Grant Denyer – 444
2. Neil McFadyen – 432
3. Paul Stokell – 345
4. Paul Fiore – 330
5. Nathan Geier – 330
6. Gary Young – 288
7. Todd Fiore – 198
8. David Turner – 180
9. Damien White – 156
10. Nathan Callaghan – 138


Round 1: March 7-9 – Eastern Creek, Sydney, NSW (Round Winner: Neil McFadyen)
Round 2: April 4-6 – Wakefield Park, Goulburn, NSW (Round Winner: Nathan Geier)
Round 3: May 9-11 – Barbagallo, Perth, WA (Round Winner: Damien White)
Round 4: June 7-9 – Sandown, Melbourne, Vic
Round 5: September 12-14 – Phillip Island, Vic
Round 6: October 9-12 – Mount Panorama, Bathurst, NSW
Round 7: November 21-23 – Symmons Plains, Tasmania
Round 8: December 4-7 – Oran Park, Sydney, NSW

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