John Morton (racing driver)
|This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)|
John Morton (born February 17, 1942) is an American racing driver from Waukegan, Illinois. After his father took him to a race at Road America in 1957, Morton became an avid racing fan. He went on to race jalopies in South Carolina before he dropped out of Clemson University to attend Carroll Shelby's racing school at Riverside Raceway in California. Taking a menial job working in Carroll Shelby's race shop, Morton saved his money to purchase his first race car, a Lotus Super 7 which he raced in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) amateur races in 1963.
In 1964 he drove with Ken Miles at Sebring in a 427 Cobra for Shelby American Racing. Teaming with Miles and Skip Scott, Morton won the GT class at the Road America 500, second overall, in a team Cobra. That year he bought his second race car: a Lotus 23B, which he still races today in vintage races for current owner Tom Griffiths.
John raced mostly SCCA Club races through 1968 until Peter Brock (the American designer, motorsports writer and photographer, not the Australian racer) hired him for his new BRE Datsun team. The period between 1969 and 1972 were fruitful for John, Peter and Datsun. The team disbanded after the 1972 season after dominating both SCCA C Production with the 240Z (National Championships in 1970-71) and the 2.5 Trans-Am with the 510 (Championships in 1971-72).
Racing in F5000, Can-Am and IMSA occupied the next few years. A short almost accidental foray into the movie industry in 1975 led to stunt work on a couple of feature films (Gumball Rally and Greased Lightning) and several TV shows (Rockford Files and Fantasy Island). In 1981 Phil Conte joined John's small Can-Am team as a sponsor for two years after which Phil formed his own IMSA team with John as one of his two drivers in the GTP category.
In 1985 Jim Busby hired John as team driver in one of his BF Goodrich sponsored Porsche 962s with Pete Halsmer. The pair won the Times GP at Riverside in 1985. In 1987 John drove for the Group 44 Jaguar team of Bob Tullius and won the last Times GP at Riverside and the West Palm Beach GP, both sharing the car with Hurley Haywood. The Walkinshaw team replaced Tullius' Jaguar team for 1988 and the Electramotive Nissan Team signed Morton. John and Geoff Brabham won several races that year setting the stage for Nissan's domination of the IMSA series for several years.
Other notable Nissan races for John during 1989-95 include an overall victory at Sebring and several class wins, including Le Mans in 1994, one of nine times he has competed at Le Mans. Several races in various other classes and categories include Sprint cars and karts. Morton also made 6 starts in the CART Championship Car series. He first entered a CART race at the Riverside International Raceway in 1982 but his entry was declined due to a lack of experience in those cars. He attempted that race again in 1983 but failed to qualify. He made his CART debut in the first race of the 1984 season at the Long Beach Grand Prix and finished 9th. He made four more starts that year and failed to qualify for two other races, but couldn't match the 9th place finish of his debut. He also entered the 1984 Indianapolis 500 but the car never appeared. He made a one off appearance in the 1986 Molson Indy Toronto and finished 12th. He failed to qualify for the 1990 Detroit Grand Prix and 1993 Indianapolis 500 in his other CART attempts.
In his most recent professional races, 1997–2001, John raced Porsches in both the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series. Currently most of John's competition is in vintage races driving a variety of cars, which include Cobra coupes, Corvettes, Porsches, a Sunbeam Tiger and his favorite race car: the Scarab that he saw race at Road America while still a teenager.
Morton has competed at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races several times. In 2010, he suffered a horrific crash when his Scarab flipped end over end near turn two of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, landing on its roll bar. He was taken to the hospital, and was determined to be fine. The Scarab was seriously damaged, but is due to be rebuilt and restored to original specifications.