Paul Morris reflects on a history making fortnight having claimed an iconic Bathurst triple crown while overseeing the sport’s next rising star Anton de Pasquale secure a breakthrough Super2 victory.
Morris became the first man to win complete the Bathurst triple crown over Easter, with a nail-biting win in the 6 Hour with Luke Searle adding to earlier victories in the 1000 (2014) and 12 Hour (2007, 2010).
A week later (April 21-23), de Pasquale notched up his first race and round wins in the Dunlop Super2 Series at Phillip Island.
QUESTION: Now that you’ve had a chance for the win to sink in, how does it feel?
PAUL MORRIS: I think it’s great. I think it gives a lot of profile to all those races at the Mountain, and I was surprised at the amount of people within the industry and other drivers that thought it was pretty cool. I think it’s something that other guys want to shoot for, for sure, so to be the first guy to do it is a great feeling. I know other guys want to have a crack at it as well.
QUESTION: You said that the Bathurst 1000 was always going to be the biggest prize, but how does the 6 Hour fit in with other things that you’ve done?
MORRIS: It is what it is. It’s a production car race and it takes a different mentality to win a race like that. You’ve got to have mechanical sympathy and a different skillset to your driving and be able to get the most out of a car without beating it to death. If you’re an older driver you can remember how to do that and it’s pretty rewarding.
I don’t think many drivers these days had to do that when they first started driving but when I first started Group A in the early days of even V8 Supercars, you had to be pretty careful with how you managed your tyres and your brakes and your transmission, so I think it’s a race that holds a lot of credibility in a different sort of skillset for drivers.
If they keep that production car base, I think it’s a great fit because it goes back to the roots of the original 500-mile race when it had production cars, and not necessarily the fastest guy that wins but the guys that are smartest.
QUESTION: How do you find jumping between such different disciplines all the time?
MORRIS: It’s just driving. Once you understand how a car works and you’ve got the ability to interpret what it’s trying to tell you, I don’t find it that hard. I think I was pretty lucky when I first started driving professionally because I drove for Frank Gardner and he instilled in me the importance of really understanding what the car was doing and having a technique to driving a car.
Whether you’re driving a car on the dirt, on pavement, a Stadium Super Truck, or whatever you’re driving, if you’re listening or interpreting what the car’s telling you to do, it’s not that hard to work out.
QUESTION: Do you think you’ve proven a few people wrong in winning another big race?
MORRIS: Yeah, there’s always people that want to knock you so I think it shuts a few people up for sure. It’s quite enjoyable.
QUESTION: During the last few laps of the race, what was going through your head while you watched the battle between Searle and Chaz Mostert play out?
MORRIS: I knew Chaz was really driving that car 11 tenths and they’d been really ragging that thing (Ford Focus RS) all day to stay where they were. We’d been pretty conservative all day and to tell you the truth I had a lot of confidence in what Luke can do in that car.
We kept the pressure on them, Chaz ended up pulling the gearbox out of it, and we ended up winning. I know there that you never know until it’s over so for sure in the last couple of laps I knew we still had a chance of winning it.
QUESTION: Can we see you racing for still a while longer? You’ve been out of Supercars (full-time) for a little while but you seem to just keep going and going.
MORRIS: I think it was a good way to go out in Supercars (winning the 2014 Bathurst 1000) and to tell you the truth I really enjoy helping Anton out and those team of blokes that we’ve got there with our little team in the Super2 Series.
I get more enjoyment out of running the team than I would driving the car and while I still get in the car when we go testing and give them a bit of direction, it’s probably more the fun stuff for me now. The Stadium Super Trucks are good, I’ve still got my sprintcar sitting here, and I’ll do whatever’s good fun to go and do and have a good time.
QUESTION: You mentioned Anton and we saw the result he got at Phillip Island. How have you found his progress so far since he’s been in a Supercar?
MORRIS: Straight away when we first tested him, he just had this unbelievable raw speed and if we can give him a car underneath him, he’s capable of doing anything.
The biggest challenge for him and any driver coming into Supercars is to try and understand how the car works, trying to understand what he needs from the car to make it go faster, and he’s really starting to get on top of that now.
That’s where guys like Paul Dumbrell, that have been in the series a long time, just know what they need from the car and that’s the difference between the younger guys and the more experienced guys.
If you could pick up any of those young guys and put them in a co-driver role with any of those top teams where they don’t have to think about car set-up or anything, then they’d do a fantastic job.
QUESTION: Do you see Anton challenging for more race wins through this season?
MORRIS: I think so. He came out of the gate at Clipsal going pretty good but he was either hitting the fence or going to win the race.
The corner we turned at Phillip Island was him getting the most out of the car and making changes to make the car better when it wasn’t good enough and that was the big turnaround.
We’ve got some testing to do and some other things but I don’t see any doubt at all that he’d be up there. His qualifying speed’s always been great. For sure, I think he can go on with it.