With just one weekend left in the Pirelli World Challenge Series, the closest battle on track and in the all Touring Car point chases, is in the TC-B Class, where it has come down to the wire for seasoned veteran PJ Groenke, just 13 points ahead of the Rookie, Henry Morse, followed by 49 points back another veteran and multi-time national champion Tom O’Gorman, with Ted Hough trailing Tom by 152 points.
The youngest driver in all the Touring Car classes, Morse, a nine-time karting champion who only just turned 16 years old this month, may be in his first season ever racing a car, but is no stranger to last round championship pressure.
With two podiums finishes at the first weekend in March in Austin at Circuit of the Americas, and then a win in Canada at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the season seemed to be off to a commanding start for Morse, who at 15 years of age, became the youngest-in-career professional race winner in Pirelli World Challenge history with his third-race win.
Then a traffic-related crash in the second race in Canada, set off a string of bad finishes due to a wheel hub sensor-related issues that took a few races to diagnose and repair. For a few races, rounds 5 and 6 at Lime Rock and 7 and 8 at Road America, Morse was able to battle up front until the issues kicked in, relegating him to the back of the pack with intermittent ABS failure, narrowly avoiding some harrowing collisions and off track excursions.
Morse noted: “Being new to car racing and the youngest, least experienced in the series is challenging enough. Going full speed into a turn, lap after lap, race after race, and not knowing if the brakes will come on or not, is a different level of challenge.”
With the car finally fixed for the races at Utah Motorsports Campus, Morse was able to finish both races on the podium again, but not nearly as high as he wanted. “The Mazda2 handles beautifully, and it was great to have it back in top form, but the high speeds of UMC gave a natural advantage to the Chevys and of course the new Honda, which tends to have an unusually large advantage come the straights,” said Morse.
Morse, who leads the Rookie of the Year standings now as well as being part of Hale Motorsports Team Championship lead, is twelve points off of the Driver’s Championship going into the last weekend, but the gap isn’t as small as it seems.
“Our team, like TechSport Racing and others, made the choice to race the ‘surprise’ Lime Rock Park race, which on paper looked to be a points grab, without Hough and O’Gorman present. But because we had poor finishes after being hit off track and suffering damage by a lapping TC car in the first race and then mechanical failure in the second, we got nowhere. As a result, both Hough and O’Gorman have two double points races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next weekend, and the rest of us don’t, so it will take a miracle at this point to win the championship,” said Morse.
“I have to thank MorseGPS powered by Cal Amp, Rolling Hills Prep, FreeM USA, Bell Racing, and Leatt Protectives, for making it possible for me to race the Mazda Motorsport Mazda2 with Hale Motorsports this season. 2017 is still a big question mark for us,” continued Morse. “We have been speaking with some fantastic teams and are excited and honored to be considered for opportunities to race in both TC and GTS, but for us it is a matter of finding the right balance of partnership to make it work. We have some truly exceptional offerings on the very near horizon, we anticipate will be a game-changer. Stay tuned.”
DLT and Aston Martin Racing, talking with Henry before observing his race at UMC. DLT and Morse plan to run an Aston Martin GT4 in GTS and possibly Sprint X in 2017.
One of the teams that has been the most involved in our planning for 2017, is Del la Torre Racing. Jorge De la Torre said:
“Our team has been impressed with Henry on a number of levels, on and off the track. Henry’s a very nice person to work with, always a positive face in the paddock, but his ability to bring 100-600 HP cars up to top, consistent times on a range of circuits, is uncanny for someone his age. His maturity and decision-making, his race craft and in depth understanding of vehicle dynamics, combined with his coaching skills are some of reasons we are investing in Henry. We look forward to his involvement and are hopeful he will join our team and Aston Martin Racing for 2017 and beyond.”
Do not miss the incredible action at Pirelli World Challenge Season Finale Oct 7th – 9th at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, presented by Nissan. Tickets are still available: http://www.mazdaraceway.com/pirelli-world-challenge If you can’t make it to the track, the racing can be watched live at: http://world-challenge.com/streamvideo/ and at https://www.motortrendondemand.com/watch-live/