02 Oct Morris stars with superb victory at Monza on International GT Open Debut
• Incredible debut in GT Open for British GT Champion Morris
• Victory with Lamborghini Gallardo team-mate Craig Dolby at Monza
• Morris and Dolby just miss out on double podium by 0.4 seconds
Man of the moment Seb Morris added yet more silverware to his heaving collection at Monza in Italy over the weekend, 30th September/1st October, with a sensational race-winning performance on his debut in the International GT open.
Called up to partner Craig Dolby in the Wessex Vehicles Lamborghini Gallardo just a few days after winning the British GT title with Rick Parfitt Jnr in a Bentley Continental, Welsh racer Morris starred as he and Dolby took a fabulous victory in race one of the weekend on Saturday afternoon.
Going on to finish just four tenths of a second shy of the podium in the second contest on Sunday, fourth place still marked an excellent result and capped a superb weekend for BRDC Superstar and MSA Team UK driver Morris.
“I didn’t quite expect it”, said the 21-year-old Welshman after sealing race victory on his category debut, “Thank you to Nigel [Mustill – team owner] and the team, all the boys have been really professional and the car was an absolute joy to drive to be honest, one of the nicest cars I’ve driven.
“Finishing on the podium in race two would have meant we’d have had a success penalty carried over to the next round, so fourth place in the end was a good result – pretty much the perfect weekend. I definitely had some unfinished business at Monza from Formula Renault and GP3, so it’s nice to tick that famous podium off my list!”
He added: “The Lamborghini has completely different characteristics to the Bentley, but I jumped in and was immediately fast. We got our heads down, adjusting the car to get a good trade off with the set-up, and Craig and I worked really well together with our engineer Simon Dowson.”
Dolby took qualifying duties for the race one session and delivered a fantastic performance, posting a best lap of 1m46.780 seconds in the No.39 Lamborghini to secure second on the grid overall and the Pro class pole position for the 70-minute race.
Judging the rolling start for Saturday’s race perfectly, Dolby got the jump on outright pole qualifier Rob Bell but a nudge from behind into the braking zone forced the Lamborghini to run straight on at the Rettifilio Chicane. Rejoining the track still in the lead of the race, Dolby was shadowed by the No.65 BMW for the first 10 minutes before the No.63 Lamborghini Huracan became his challenger.
Under huge pressure from the newer generation Lamborghini, Dolby eventually succumbed to an attack into the first corner with just over 40 minutes to go. Remaining in touch, he held second until pitting with 38 minutes to run to hand over to Morris.
Instantly getting down to some impressive lap times, the Welshman swiftly got into his stride and when the race order settled Morris held second position just under two seconds shy of the McLaren of Shaun Balfe, which emerged from the pits late in the pit-window.
Producing a strong move into the Parabolica early in the final half hour to seize the lead, Morris rocketed into the distance and quickly built an advantage north of four seconds. With 15 minutes to go the lead was still comfortable and although Giovanni Venturini, in the No.63 Huracan, did edge a little nearer into the closing stages, Morris controlled the gap to win by 1.8 seconds.
Morris was behind the wheel for Sunday morning’s qualifying session, setting the grid for race two, and he went on to take sixth on the grid. Getting away well at the rolling start on the outside line for Turn One, he smartly moved into the top five and maintained the position on the exit.
Into lap two, though, the Lamborghini was edged back to sixth at the first corner by the No.54 Lexus but Morris quickly hit back to climb into fifth once more. Staying within touch of the podium battle, the British GT Champion also built a reasonable gap to the Lexus behind as the opening quarter of an hour concluded with the Marford driver just 1.5 seconds shy of fourth position at that point.
Getting the gap down to little more than a second as the pit-stop window neared, Morris continued to close as the two cars ahead battled fiercely and with 35 minutes left the trio were pretty much nose-to-tail. When the third placed BMW pitted a couple of minutes later, Morris followed suit and Dolby climbed aboard the No.39 Gallardo.
When the race order settled after the mandatory stops, Dolby held sixth and soon grabbed fifth before setting off after the cars ahead, circulating up to two seconds per lap faster than his rivals just up the road. Catching and passing the No.88 McLaren with a fantastic move at the Parabolica to climb into fourth place with 12 minutes to go, he then targeted Miguel Ramos’ Ferrari.
Into the penultimate lap Dolby was glued to the back of Ramos and went to the inside into the Rettifilio Chicane to momentarily take third, before running too deep. Rejoining the track in fourth, Dolby readied himself for another attack on the last lap and just missed the podium by a fraction.
After his sensational debut in the International GT Open, Morris now prepares to head to Germany’s Nurburgring-Nordschleife for the latest VLN endurance series event this Saturday, 7th October.