TOM MORRISON TALKS STEERING AND STUDYING WITH THE FIRST EVER SYDNEY UNI SPORT & FITNESS (SUSF) ELITE ATHLETE PROGRAM MEMBER FOR MOTORSPORT, MATT SOLOMON.
Take us back to where it began. How did you get involved in motorsports?
My Dad has always been a car enthusiast, so I’ve been around motorsports and cars for as long as I can remember. Having attended so many races as a child, it was practically embedded in me at a young age. I had my first taste of a go-kart when I was 6.
You have a very diverse cultural heritage and upbringing. Can you shed some light on this for us?
My Dad is Australian, my Mum is Chinese and I speak Cantonese, Mandarin and English. I was actually born in Melbourne and lived there until I was three years old, before moving to Hong Kong. I lived there until 2014, then to England for a year when I was racing in the European F3 Championship and now I reside in Sydney.
What team do you currently drive for and at what level are you currently competing?
I currently race as a Customer Sports Driver for Mercedes-AMG. I race in a number of GT Sportscar categories around Asia and Australia. GT3 is the top tier of production sportscar racing and features different manufacturers such as Mercedes AMG, Ferrari and the like.
Talk us through how it felt to race in the GT Asia Championships in Shanghai in August?
It was a privilege to be asked by AMG to race for them in Shanghai.
It was their official comeback to the Asian GT scene, after having won in 2013 with myself and two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen behind the wheel. The Shanghai weekend was tough, as the level of competition was extremely high. While we didn’t get the results we wanted, due to unforeseen circumstances, we showed that we had the pace and performance to compete at the front.
How has the SUSF Elite Athlete Program aided your development as a sportsperson?
The SUSF Elite Athlete Program has aided me immensely with preparation for my races and keeping me in good shape. It is easy to lose focus when living in a college environment, however, the program has kept me focussed and on track.
I know you work hard at your strength and conditioning in the new David Mortimer High Performance Gym on campus, how does a workout specific to Motorsport vary from other sports?
People generally don’t understand the physical component of motor racing. But it is among the toughest sports, physically, in the world. We have an average heart rate of 160bpm in the car, over a duration of anything between 40 minutes and three hours, with cockpit temperatures getting up to 70 degrees on a hot day. We experience G-forces of up to four times our body weight, steering forces close to 30kg and braking forces of over 50kg. Imagine doing this 12 times a lap, for over 60 laps. It adds up. Working with my strength coach Dane Gray at the new High Performance Gym has helped me focus on race-specific exercises which include neck training, endurance strength and cardio.
What are the main mental challenges in your sport?
Not only is racing physically challenging, but it requires huge mental capacity as well. Drivers are constantly making decisions throughout the lap.
Whether the surface grip levels are changing, where the bumps are, how much throttle to apply when coming out of a corner, how much steering input is needed to keep the car balanced, and how much brake pressure to apply at the right time in order to efficiently slow the car down into a corner, in the shortest amount of time possible. The list is endless. Take this, and add 30 or more cars around you, travelling at 250km/h.
You are clearly a very good driver when it comes to GT3 motor vehicles but how do you go on the streets of Sydney?
I’ve driven a couple times in Sydney and I have to say it’s quite hectic! Not quite as hectic as driving in Hong Kong, where I grew up, but drivers here are pretty aggressive! Believe it or not, I’m a grandpa on the roads; leave the racing at the circuit!
Who inspires you?
Apart from my family, one particular ex-driver is a huge inspiration to me. His name is Alex Zanardi. He used to compete in Formula 1, but in 2001, he suffered a tremendous crash, losing both legs as a result. Since then, he has continued to compete at a high level in the World Touring Car Championship, and in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, he won his second gold medal for handcycling. This really proves that if you want something bad enough, there is nothing that will stop you.
What advice would you give to aspiring motorsport athletes?
Never give up. There were times last year while racing in Europe, where I thought I would not be in a position to race at the top again. However, hardwork and perseverance during the off-season led to exciting opportunities this year, the highlight being winning the Australian GT Race at the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne and then being selected as a driver for AMG. There will always be ups and downs, but keep pushing through!
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