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09 Jun 2021

A racing start: Tarmac optional

Whether on the road or off it, Club member Richard Morris happily turns to Porsches

Richard Morris has been a busy chap. Now semi-retired after a long career as an optician that saw him end up as national sales manager with one of the largest optical groups in the UK, he is married to an ex-go kart racer and has two enthusiastically petrol-head children and two grandsons. Today, you can find him combining the running of his mail order contact lens company with locum consultancy.
But you are just as likely to find him behind the wheel. Richard’s admiration for Porsche started in the 1960s and he drives a 3.2-litre Boxster S, but he has also enjoyed a spectacular career in rallies that has taken him and his family both all over the country and further afield.

It all began in 1964, shortly after Richard left the armed forces and began training as an optician. His employer at the time was a rally driver with a Saab Sport and an event coming up shortly. “Richard, you used to do map reading in the forces, didn’t you?” he asked. “How about being my navigator next weekend?
An entire career as a rally navigator began out of this offer and, from then until 1975, Richard regularly entered both national and international events, the latter sometimes as long as 1500 or even 2000 miles. Returning in 1987 after a hiatus, he went on to enjoy a lively second act in the sport until the pressures of work finally prompted a more permanent retirement in 1992.

Richard’s record is an impressive one, with a generous number of firsts in class and other podium finishes at events including the Manx International Rally, the International Rally of Wales and the Circuit of Ireland International. His rallying interests also led to the start of his connection to Porsche. “While out spectating on the Gulf London Rally, I watched a Porsche driven by Vic Elford go through one of the Welsh forest stages and I was mightily impressed,” he recalls.
However, it was to be 10 years before I got the chance to drive a Porsche and then co-drive in one, although there were many Porsches competing in the same rallies I was competing in.”
This chance came unexpectedly and very shortly before the 1975 B&I Cork National Rally. “On a Wednesday in 1975, I got a phone call from Harold Morley, the 1972 British Rally Championship winner, who won in a Porsche RS,” says Richard.
Harold explained that he had an entry that weekend in the 400-mile B&I Cork National Rally, but his regular co-driver, Peter Bryant, was unavailable. Was I free?"
“I was free, but there was one caveat. Harold was working until late on the Friday evening, so I would need to collect the car from Manchester in the afternoon and drive it to Swansea in time to catch the boat to Cork. Harold would fly down and meet me at the docks. It took me all of two seconds to say yes!
I collected Harold’s 911 Carrera 2.7 RS as planned and began a journey which was the one that decided it for me that I must own a Porsche one day. I did the first part of the journey on the M6 and M5, then turned off into the wonderfully twisting, turning and undulating roads of South Wales to get the feel of the car."
This was undoubtedly the finest handling car I’ve ever driven, either before or since. It was perfectly balanced, neither understeering nor oversteering, it had outstanding brakes, there was exceptionally smooth power delivery right through the rev-range – in short, a joy to drive. It only needed a gentle lift of the throttle to bring the tail out just enough to then need only the slightest throttle application to catch it going through the bends."
The boat was late docking in Cork next day, so we had to chase to the start and arrived with only two minutes to spare. I signed the starting sheet and was given my road book on the start ramp while receiving the countdown from 30 seconds."

We had been seeded number three and, despite having never rallied together before, Harold and I got on well. We had a faultless run, during which I was treated to a demonstration of just what one of these cars can really do in the right hands."
On several of the twisty stages, we closed up behind the eventual winner, Cahal Curley. He was also in a Porsche and we could see flames bursting from his exhaust pipes as he went into corners. He ran away from us on the longer straights and I recall he had a bigger engine, maybe even a turbo."
In the final results, we finished in third behind Cahal Curley and Brian Evans, who was also in a Porsche,” says Richard. “That made the end result a Porsche on every step of the podium, with only a few seconds between each one."
There was another driven by the songwriter Phil Coulter in sixth place. Four Porsche 911s in the top 10 confirms my view that they are one of the finest rally cars ever built.
Perhaps surprisingly given Richard’s appreciation for Porsche, this would be his last experience with one of Stuttgart’s finest for another 40 years. However, his son eventually persuaded him that it was time he bought one and his Boxster S duly arrived in March 2015.

The car would go on to become his daily drive for the next four years and Richard put more than 50,000 exhilarating miles on the clock “without missing a beat” until, in 2019, the realisation that his grandson’s baby seat wouldn’t fit led him to switch to a more convenient four-door saloon.
However, he’s put another couple of thousand miles on his Boxster since then and is still clearly fond of it, making sure it receives the care it deserves. He says: “The car has always been maintained by my local independent, OCD Porsche Specialists, in Wallasey, where no expense has been spared to correct all the usual things – coffin arms, top mounts, etc. The bodywork was attended to by Roberts Refinishers, my local bodywork specialist.
Looking back on the experience after all these years, Richard has picked up a well-informed appreciation of what it takes to compete and excel on the famously demanding rally circuit.
And he admits: “I soon discovered that, although I deemed myself to be a better than average driver, I was definitely not good enough to be a rally driver."
I became very aware that it is a very special skill set, way beyond that of racing drivers. In rallies, there is no practising. You continue in all weather conditions and have to cope with many kinds of changing road surfaces while constantly listening to advice from the co-driver and taking the appropriate action – still at maximum speed.
But Richard has also come to another conclusion, and it is one that very probably dates right back to the great time he had behind the wheel of Harold Morley’s 911 Carrera 2.7 RS after receiving that unexpected phone call almost half a century ago.
“It’s still my belief,” he says, “that the Porsche 911, when properly prepared and in the right hands, is the ultimate tool for the task.”

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