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10 Minutes with Ex-Le Mans Driver John Morton

We sit down with a nine-time Le Mans driver to get his take on racing and the era that raised him

Toni Avery
Aug 22, 2013
Photographer: Ron Avery
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These cars would tell a story if they could talk, but all they can do is roar.

The Monterey Motorsports Reunion race is one of the highlights of Monterey Car Week, featuring vintage cars from every marque going full out on the famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. Watching someone race through the legendary Corckscrew is one thing, but actually experiencing it for yourself is another. Although your author has taken to the track numerous times, piloting a vintage race car in a competitive sprint and participating in a racing school behind the wheel of modern technology are wildly different undertakings.

We set out to speak with a participant within this year's Monterey Motorsports Reunion that successfully raced these vehicles before they were considered "vintage." While walking through the rows and rows of beautiful race cars we happened to find one such racer who has more experience than most anyone at the Reunion. John Morton is a nine-time Le Mans driver among other series and was willing to give us a few minutes of his time fresh off the track.

John Morton Le Mans driver interview 002 Photo 2/13   |   John Morton Le Mans Driver Interview 002

Morton started sports car racing in 1963 and is still going strong today. Racing almost anything you can think of, Morton doesn't have a preference, just as long as he gets to drive it. Like some of us, his obsession started because of his dad, who took him to the Midget races. From there he decided he wanted to race sports cars.

It ['40 Ford Jalopy] wasn't much, but it was enough to ruin my grades.

The very first sports car Morton raced was a Lotus Super 7 in 1963. But even before then he also had raced a '40 Ford Jalopy on dirt tracks during college. "It wasn't much, but it was enough to ruin my grades," he stated.

He then set focus on racing Le Mans, one of the best-known and most exciting four-wheeled races on the planet. Accomplishing that goal occurred. Driving it nine times, Morton described it as "thrilling" and "my favorite." He also mentioned that it is an event like the Indy 500 - one rich with prestige, history and a large fan base. "Getting to go there is a big deal, my favorite place to go race," he recalled.

John Morton Le Mans driver interview 007 Photo 3/13   |   John Morton Le Mans Driver Interview 007
Getting to go there [Le Mans] is a big deal, my favorite place to go race.

Out of all the tracks he had driven, Morton named just a few that stood out: Road America, Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen. But his favorite race was at Riverside, a CA track that no longer exists. It's no wonder Morton chose the 1987 race at Riverside because it was the very last Times Grand Prix before the track closed for good. He also won that race.

Past that final race at Riverside something else noteworthy occurred. Morton originally came out to California to attend Carroll Shelby's racing school. Soon, Shelby gave him a job and he started to become more involved in the racing scene. Morton even recalls the car he drove at Shelby's school as the very first prototype Cobra (in 1962). At the time Morton did not see or appreciate the significance of this, but today he remembers it fondly.

When we asked what he thought about the Historic races here at Laguna Seca, he explained, "These cars would tell a story if they could talk, but all they can do is roar." Couldn't have put it better ourselves.

John Morton Le Mans driver interview 003 Photo 7/13   |   John Morton Le Mans Driver Interview 003
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By Toni Avery
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