Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Jnr won the 2017 British GT3 Championship in style last weekend, scoring the Bentley Continental GT3 its second ever title, and making Parfitt Jnr the only driver with both British GT4 and GT3 championship wins under his belt. For Morris, it was a notable triumph too, his first GT championship, which he hopes will do wonders for his career going forward.
In conversation with DSC, Morris said that extensive work over the off-season was the key to the big win, explaining that there was so much more to the tale away from the race track for Team Parker’s duo.
“We took the attitude that we should be chilled out before each weekend, we remained calm when fighting for a championship,” he said. “We treated the finale like any other meeting. Barwell and the other teams felt the pressure a bit, but we ignored it.
“In British GT, you have to be consistent because of the success penalties, which is good for the championship, but it means you can expect to dominate every weekend, even with the best drivers and car.
“In terms of our performance we made a huge step this year. The car has gone backwards because of the BoP, we struggled with it more this year than last year and also they made some of the other cars quicker,” he explained. “Last year we had it all, everyone thought the Bentley was too quick. But Rick and I were a bit out of our depth, I think the team was too. We got shot straight into the limelight at Brands last year when we took Pole, and struggled with the pressure.”
As well as perfecting race-craft, Morris said that Parfitt’s improvements this year also came on the psychological front, after work with driver coaching guru Rob Wilson and the use of MSA methods to cope with pressure.
“Over the winter, myself and Rick worked on the psychological aspects of things, how to approach a race weekend, deal with pressure and because of that we didn’t really put a foot wrong all year,” he explained. “We knew we’d be pegged back this year, so we knew we’d have to improve our performance in other areas, and we did that.
We knew we’d be pegged back this year, so we knew we’d have to improve our performance in other areas
“It was all the stuff I’ve learnt with the MSA, I’ve done so many things with them, as people forget the psychological aspects. You learn how to handle it, you know, if you make a mistake you have a reset word, all that sort of thing. Rick being an Am had never had that, so I basically used my insight and transferred it to him. We also did a few days with Rob Wilson, who focused on that too.
“I enjoyed that, in addition to teaching Rick the physics of driving, what really goes into driving a car fast. There’s little tricks you can do with the car, with weight distribution and transfer. After a few days with Rob, he knew so much more about what was going on away from the steering wheel.”
While development of the Continental GT3 is frozen for its homologation period, there were places where improvements could be made. Morris explained that tweaks to Traction Control and ABS were key in making the car more competitive on the UK’s tight, narrow and twisty circuits.
“Last year our BoP was significantly better but the car wasn’t as advanced. Over the off-season M-Sport and Team Parker all worked on improving traction control, and that’s where we found our biggest gains; in TC and ABS, the actual electronic systems within the car. That enabled us to fight at tracks we usually wouldn’t be able to.
Over the off-season M-Sport and Team Parker all worked on improving traction control, and that’s where we found our biggest gains
“So basically, with the way GT3 development works, you can work to improve your own systems. In terms of TC, we improved how it comes in, how aggressive it is and what triggers it. Everyone has worked hard all winter to do that. We looked at our data from Donington and we were four and a half tenths quicker than last year which is why we were able to fight last weekend. If we had the systems from last year we’d have been out of the game completely. It really is marginal gains that win championships.
“That and our personal efforts meant we went into the season knowing more prepared than ever. I personally felt the best I ever have this year and I knew I’d worked as hard as possible with Rick without boring him. We were always quietly confident.
“Then we got to Oulton Park for Round 1, and I made a couple of big errors which were totally my fault (a poor start and later a drive-through for a collision with another car). But it was the best thing that could have happened to me. The problem was that I wanted it too much, I made heroic moves in the race and got caught out. I haven’t really made a mistake since.
“The (championship challenging Barwell) Lambo had a massive lead in the points after that though, it won both races. But after that we got Poles, wins and the Lambo slipped up when we were consistent. That’s what cliched it, after Oulton Park we had a reset and got on top of it.
“We went testing at each track before the race weekend too, so we weren’t messing around in practice, and it all worked out.
“It meant that in the final race, the stress wasn’t there, as on the radio during the race all I wanted to know is whether the Lambo had overtaken any of the Astons, because if it didn’t we knew we’d have to come just sixth or seventh to win. And by then, I was already in fifth battling for fourth anyway. I spent the whole race chilled, I had a good time.”
After the final race was over, the celebrations at Team Parker started, but due to media commitments, (and massive stomach cramps!) Morris had to wait to spray the champagne and let it all sink in.
“After the race it was quite strange, especially for me, as I was working so hard during the race and didn’t eat beforehand like I usually do,” he revealed. “I actually had massive stomach cramps when I got out. I didn’t even see much of the team until ages after the race either, but it hit me at hospitality, they were all waiting for me and Rick. Everyone jumped up and cheered and that’s when I had a tear running down my face, that’s when it sunk in.
“Having this title under my belt means I’ll looking to do more in Europe,” he concluded. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive in VLN with BMW, and I have a drive in GT Open with Craig Dolby at Monza this weekend. I want to have a full programme like that next year though, ideally with Bentley. British GT has been nice and I would continue if it doesn’t conflict with anything in Europe. I need to push to further my career.
“I feel I’m good enough now to be a factory driver, racing at Daytona this year and with big boys in British GT. I’ve raced against guys who are not on the verge of F1 before, and had to improve as much as I can, this is what I have to show for it.
“It’s a critical point now, I need to make sure I can open as many doors as possible and progress my career further.”
Featured image courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography