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V8 Wire (Jason Whittaker)

Two months out from the first race of the V8 Supercar season, the search for endurance drivers has already begun. And it seems, these days, specialist stayers are a thing of the past.

Greg Ritter, a most impressive enduro import for Dick Johnson Racing last season, has been invited back to the team for this year's campaign, it was announced today.

But rather than make a cameo appearance come the Queensland 500 and Bathurst V8 Supercar 1000, Ritter will become a full-time employee: testing for the team, working at Johnson's south Brisbane headquarters, and racing a third Shell Helix Falcon, alongside Paul Radisich and Steven Johnson, at selected rounds of the V8 Supercar championship.

DJR joins a number of teams entering supplementary cars in the championship, ensuring, come endurance time, the bulk of the driving squad are in peek form.

After Ritter's attention-grabbing performances in last year's endurance events, including a fourth-place finish at Bathurst with Cameron McLean, Johnson earmarked the 28-year-old Victorian as a rising star.

"Greg did an outstanding job for us last season and together with the competitiveness of the V8 Supercar field, convinced us of the need to work towards full-time V8 drivers in every event," Johnson said.

"Our aim is to build strongly for the future. We see Greg as part of that plan and we are delighted that he will be with us in 2002 and beyond."

Ritter will move from Melbourne to Queensland immediately to take up the position.

"I do have a great relationship with Dick and the entire team already, but working and being part of the team environment full-time will make the situation a whole lot stronger," Ritter, the 1999 Formula Ford champion, said.

"I could have gone for a smaller team and driven in more races, but that would have put me at a major disadvantage at the big races.

"I've guaranteed the Shell Helix Racing team that I won't sit back and wait for things to happen."

Ritter will race with No. 71 this year, though it's yet to be confirmed which events he will participate in.

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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