Damien White: Remembering Jim Morton

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/12/2014
  • By Damien White

Of all the columns I have written this year I have mentioned "passion" in every one. The passion of our teams, our drivers, our staff, our fans and indeed our uncompromisingly committed volunteers is simply incredible. It's a crucial ingredient that is envied by the industry the world over.

In centering my focus again on passion, I would like to say this public farewell to a very close friend of mine, my family and the motorsport industry as a whole - Jim Morton.

Passion and commitment was evident in everything JimSpa (a name I affectionately used) did. Although I wasn't around to see his early exploits in a turbo charged Ford Anglia in the 1960's, nor his dig at karting in the 1970's, I do recall watching him in the early 1980's.

My recollection from that period was not of his results on the track, but more so the way he presented himself and his equipment. Everything was always immaculate and precise. For that memory to be so firmly embedded in my mind as a 9 year old speaks volumes of the passion which Jim poured into his work.

I, many years later, learned that during the same era Jim was instrumental in promoting and organising some of the biggest and best karting events in Australia. One of these was the Castrol Kart Prix that completely redefined what everyone thought about Australian Karting.

Jim was convinced our country deserved an event of international standing, and ensured the world's best karters of the day were here to challenge our best. These included Peter Koene (the guy that beat Ayrton Senna to the Karting World Championship), Terry Fullerton, Alex Zanardi and more.

Jim's passion to put Australian karting on the map changed the face of the sport to what we know it as today.

After a quiet period in mid to late 1980's he embarked on his next challenge. No longer a driver he focused his efforts on fostering future talent. He became the importer of DAP karts and after a stint with a young Jason Bright, he shifted to Tony Kart in the 1990's.

The Tony Kart era proved to be highly successful with drivers like James Courtney, Mark Winterbottom, Michael Caruso and Ryan Briscoe steering to victory. One of Jim's proudest achievements was being a fundamental role in Courtney becoming Australia's first and only two-time World Kart Champion.

After his successes in karting Jim sought his next challenge and built a 65 Mustang for the historic touring car series. With Brad Tilley driving they won the championship in 2003.

2004 saw Jim take the almighty leap into the world of V8 Supercars. A mid-season driver change from Tilley to Greg Ritter delivered SpeedFX Racing's first Development Series Round win at Mallala. The momentum continued in 2005 with Warren Luff steering the entry to second in the Series.

Jim brought more talent to the sport in 2006 with Michael Caruso joining the Ford Rising Stars. In 2007 Jim expanded to a two-car team recruiting Grant Denyer as the second pilot. Caruso delivered another second place in the Series that year.

In 2007 I too was competing in the Development Series and in a somewhat strange complexity my Dad was working for Jim's team. Not only did Jim encourage my Dad's involvement in what I was doing, but Jim himself guided and encouraged as only Jim could. He was simply passionate for everyone else's success.

In 2008, Jim's passion for motorsport saw him take on his biggest challenge and debut into the V8 Supercars Championship with recruit Michael Patrizi.

His desire to be at the top and conquer the V8 Supercars field was robust. I remember saying to him at the Oran Park round that simply reaching this level was successful. I could tell he appreciated the sentiment, but it was obvious he wanted more.

It was during this challenging year that Jim learned that he had cancer. He was to face the biggest challenge of his life. He did it with class, dignity and with an unwavering love and support of his wife Janelle and daughters Jessica and Nadine - and his best four legged buddy, Harry.

Not to be kept down, after a year away from the Pit Lane, Jim returned to the Historic circuit in 2010, joining the Touring Car Masters in an XB Falcon. In my opinion, he redefined the standard for that class and in a statement of his clear intention he recruited Glenn Seton as the driver.

Jim was instrumental in the development of the careers of many race drivers; many of whom we enjoy watching today. As well as fostering passion, he also taught young drivers the importance of treating this not only as a sport, but also as a business.

The outpouring on Jim's Facebook page and karting websites demonstrates his vast influence in Australian motorsport. Karters from yesteryear, mechanics, truckies, category managers and sponsors all sharing stories of the positive, passionate and lasting impression Jim made on their lives.

He always saw things through and would quietly chip away in the background to ensure the success of others; a passionate gentleman to the end. To Janelle, Jessica, Nadine and their respective husbands and children and to dear old Harry, your pit lane family is here for you; and our passion remains unwavering.

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