Brad Morris bought a prepared car, broke it, stuffed a larger engine in it, pressed on, and took home 2WD championship honors in the Atlantic Rally Championship in 2009. If you show up to check out his team, they’ll put you to work! What’s your name? Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
Brad Morris. Charlotte, NC. I am the Co-Owner of Promotional Management Group Inc. We do produce and operate tractor-trailer based promotional tours. Basically we take tractor-trailers and turn them into simulation labs, movie theaters, showrooms, etc.
What got you interested in rally?
I worked at Precision Preparation Inc. when it was the off road team for Toyota and my boss, Jeff Tezer asked me to co-drive in a Toyota Corolla at Rim of the World. My first and only time co-driving, but I was hooked.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. How long have you had it?
I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer that I purchased from Rhys Millen in 2004. It’s the same car Lauchlin O’Sullivan used to win the Group 2 SCCA championship in 2002.
Did you buy your rally car or build it?
I purchased the car done. All it needed was updated belts and basic prep for the first rally. I bought tires but could have used the ones that came with the car. Rhys gave me a fairly full set of spares and a ton of advice. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the help that I received form Rhys when I was starting out.
What challenges did this cause? What benefits did you realize as a result?
My first challenge was figuring out what I needed to take to the rally’s and what I didn’t need. The good news is that we have only broke once at a rally and not been able to continue. We broke the flywheel on the first stage at Laughlin a few years ago. Who knew that would break?!?
Buying a well prepared, well built car saved me huge amounts of time and money. I had to pay for it all at once, but in the end I could never build the car I bought for the same money. And that’s not including the time it would take to produce it.
The other advantage for me was that I did not know what a rally car was supposed to handle like. By purchasing a complete, fast, car that was already sorted I knew that it handled well. I just needed to learn to drive it. Still working on that part.
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off).
At Black River Stages I managed to hit a rock on the inside of the road that kicked me off the left side, were I managed to hit a small rock so that I could fly through the air and hit a BIG rock!! The big rock hit the rear crossmember hard enough to bend it 90 degrees. And then roll us. We had gone to a new tire (Yokohama) and were flat flying…..right up to impact. We ended up on our sides. After we got out I couldn’t see the bottom so my Co-Driver, Doug Nagy, and I pushed it back on it’s wheels and tried to get it back on the road. That’s when we realized we had a “problem”. I was impressed that Doug was willing to get back in the car with me right then. That’s brave!!
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in rally? The most challenging?
I love the challenge of rally. To me the best part is trying to get the maximum out of yourself, your car and your team. It is so hard to run a perfect rally. I haven’t done it yet. I’ve had a couple of good runs and won some races, but every time there are areas that you can get better. Sometimes much better.
I love the feeling of accomplishment when you finish a rally. If we’ve done well that’s a bonus.
The other thing I love about rally is racing with my competitors. I don’t really care if we are racing for the lead or for 10th, what makes it fun is going at it hammer and tongs with your fellow racers. I will help anybody to keep them in the race. It’s not fun to win unopposed. There isn’t any accomplishment there. I would rather get 5th against 40 guys than 1st against 5. That’s one of the reasons that I support the two or three class system. 4wd open, 4wd “light”, and 2wd. My car is a Group 2 car in Rally America and a 2wd Heavy in NASA. Same car, same motor, doesn’t matter. We won with a 112hp 2.0 liter motor and we are winning with our current 2.4 liter motor we bought out of a junk yard and put in the car. People always want to talk about power to weight ratios and horsepower when they should be concentrating on driving. That’s where the biggest difference in results come from for me.
How many events did you enter last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
We did four events last year. We are doing more events this year in order to compete for the Atlantic Rally Championship. We won the 2009 ARC in M1 (Open 2wd). Now that it’s all 2wd cars combined in one class it should be fun.
What kind of cash prize structure would entice you to enter more rallies or push the car harder?
That’s a tough question for me. I would love to see some prize money and I love the Max Attack events though I have not done one yet because of my work schedule. I’m not sure prize money would make me push harder but it would probably change the amount of money I spent on preparation. I would like to see some payback for the top three or five in class, but only of the class is well subscribed. If you only have 5 cars in class it doesn’t make sense to offer prize money. 10 cars, maybe. 30 cars absolutely.
Should rallies be run as for-profit corporations?
Absolutely. If organizers made 20k or 30 k for putting on a rally how many rallies do you think we would have? When events don’t make money they go away, fast. I know that in the current environment it’s tough to break even, but it’s in everyone’s best interest for the organizers to be profitable.
How important are car classes? What class/region do you race in? How many competitors in your class at each event?
I don’t think car classes are very important at all. Bring what you have out into the trees and let’s see what you got. I race in the NASA Atlantic Rally Championship in the 2wd class. Usually we have 10 to 15 2wd cars at each event. I wish it was more.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes?
I like pacenotes. I have done a few events with recce and I go much faster after recce but it adds a lot of days that I have to be out of the office. That makes it harder to do those events for me.
Spectators: Dream come true or worst nightmare? Why?
I’m not sure. I like the idea of spectators at events and I think it will improve the popularity of rally in the US, but the logistics of having spectators is tough. You need enough spectators to charge a cheap admission, but for that you would have to provide bleachers, security etc.. Not sure what it would take to make that happen.
How do you get local gearheads involved in rally?
I have a couple of great guys who help me maintain and race the car. I met my crew chief, Mitch Barbato, through work. He has put in innumerable hours prepping the car and the car is much better for it. I let anyone who is interested help. We get some fantastic ideas from people that don’t have much knowledge about rally. We make sure that everyone is involved and included in the team. We could not do it without all the help.
What do you see is the most critical issue needing addressed by the rally community today?
I think the low number of entries is an issue. I think that 50 to 60 cars is an awesome number for rally entries. Big enough to make the organizers confident that they will have the needed resources to put the event on, small enough to keep organized.
The other issue that I see is the high cost of doing your first rally. I think that a class of semi-prepped cars, or cars that have strict preparation rules might help. Don’t sacrifice on safety, but figure out a way to make cars cheap and upgradeable.
How would you address that issue if you were in charge?
For entries, I would try and find outside sponsors (a tall order) in order to lower the entry fee a little and use some of the proceeds to promote the event. Unfortunately it’s a chicken and egg scenario. As soon as we get some exposure sponsors will be more interested in rally. Unfortunately it takes money and time to promote ourselves.
For cheap cars I would provide a basic template with rules that discourage long build times and big money. Something with a bolt in cage, stock odometer, maybe dot tires, etc..
How do you help out at rallies when you aren’t racing?
I know this sounds bad, but I have only been to a rally one time that I wasn’t entered in. Rim of the World when it was freezing cold and raining. Huge fun!
If you could enter any WRC event, which rally would that be? Why?
Probably New Zealand or Australia. Both gravel rallies, which I prefer and the people of New Zealand and Australia have always been great fun to be around.
Your favorite Group B car?
Audi Quattro S1. Simply amazing.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
Michele Mouton and John Buffum.
Do you have a local rally club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
I’m not sure were a club, but Charlotte has a good rally community. Maybe I need to get us organized so we can drink together as an organized group.
How often do you get together with other rallyistas to talk shop?
As often as possible. Last year we got together a few times as a group and we spend a ton of time at the shop were people tend to drop by. I love it.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
My wife Terri has given me huge support. She worked in racing when we met and knows the obsession. She has done everything from fund the entry to scrape mud off the wheels at Sandblast. Now that’s dedication.
Mitch Barbato started helping me about three years ago and has done an amazing job on the car. I would not be able to race without the countless hours of help and the amazing ability he bring to the team. There is no problem that he can’t solve.
Certainly the two guys who have been crazy enough to ride with me more than one, Ryan Gutile and Doug Nagy. Both guys are fantastic and bring a new level of skill to the team. Ryan was an engine builder and built an Indy 500 winning engine. Doug owns Streetwise Performance and builds and maintains a wide variety of race cars including rally cars. It helps to have guys of this caliber.
Larry Bartell is another guy from Charlotte that helps us build, fabricate and prep the car.
I can never thank Sue Robinson enough for helping me get through my very first rally. She practically held my hand to get me through that first event.
Image Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
I appreciate all of the volunteers that come out and help put the events on. Recently I joined the Mecklenberg Amateur Radio Society and they brought out a group of volunteers to Sandblast for the first time. It’s great to have them!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
Persistence and preparation beats luck everyday!