We all love to drive, but we also need to make a living. So this driver is using ProFormance to launch a motorsports career.
Plenty of track enthusiasts drive just for the thrill of it, and a few compete seriously. Then there’s Will Morris, a ProFormance instructor, who has taken a third course: he’s building a motorsport career, but not exclusively in the driver’s seat. Instead, Will is using his driving expertise to pursue a career behind the scenes in the racing world.
It all begins with HPDE
At age fifteen Will started piloting go-karts, but things really began for him when he took the One-Day High Performance Driving Experience at ProFormance. When he told his instructor Manfred Duske how much he enjoyed it, Manfred connected him with a novice program at IRDC. Soon Will was racing BMW E46s. “The cars were not terribly fast, but it was good to experience wheel-to-wheel for the first time. That got me wanting more.”
While his devotion to racing grew, Will also knew he had to make a living. The less sexy part of racing – the financing side – was daunting, so he decided to scout around for solid career opportunities that would keep him close to the racing action. The answer was a motorsports marketing program at the University of Northwest Ohio, an online course program that lets him be a full-time racer and instructor while getting his degree.
Eventually Will intends to intern for a major racing team, possibly in NASCAR. “I’ve driven cars, worked on cars, and been a coach. Now I’ll get a chance to see the business side of it.”
An Enduring Passion
Racing persists in Will’s life, however. This year he’s joining another ProFormance instructor, Colton Edwards, in a mini endurance championship. He finds endurance racing a little more forgiving because the task is split between three or four drivers. Still, there are challenges particular to the sport.
“You need to be more aware of hydration,’ he notes. “A couple of days before the race I’ll drink four or five bottles of water a day. And if, say, I’m running the Portland 8 Hour race, where I’ll be in for two hours, I’ll run a Sim rig for two hours straight, to make sure I don’t zone out.” Will considers Sim racing an excellent tool for race preparation.
Apart from driver preparation, endurance racing requires a different car setup. You can’t use sprint car tires and expect to survive an eight-hour race in a 3300-pound BMW.
“The car must also go the distance. I remember once we changed the front left tire before the eight hours of Portland. It was down to the core by the end – a couple more laps and it would have popped!”
Plotting the course
You could say Will Morris is at a crossroads. One path is safer and guaranteed. The other offrers more risk, and perhaps more glory.
The riskier path is a driving career. “If you’re going that way, my advice is, the younger you start the better. You’ll have more time to build up those contacts, do the networking. There are only a few race car seats, and lots of people who want to get into those seats. If you’re not on the map by 16 or 17, it’s tough to jump in.”
For that reason, Will is considering a career at the top level of motorsports that doesn’t involve putting on a helmet. “Look at how many people are on an F1 pit wall – hundreds. If you’re looking for a career in motorsports, there are opportunities.”
Nevertheless, driving skill helps. “If I’m a race engineer, I need to know how to communicate with a driver. To outsiders it often sounds like speaking in tongues; I know the vocabulary.
“Or say you’re a mechanic – you might not necessarily know about driving dynamics, but if you do, it will help. Driving is a good thing to have on the résumé.”
Racing: the temptation persists
Learning about marketing doesn’t mean Will is leaving the track behind. “Last year I had the chance to drive an open-wheel car, a Formula 4. Bad idea – now I’m hooked.”
He notes that every car he’d driven up to then was, at one point, a showroom street car. Someone put miles on it, and then said, ‘I can take this racing, put a roll cage in it, and see how we do!’”
The Formula 4 car he drove, however, was a “clean-sheet-of-paper racing car. You can’t go over a speed bump, you can’t go through a drive-through. It’s made just to go fast around corners. To drive that car is a privilege.”
Eventually Will would like to have his own Formula Ford or Formula Mazda, which are somewhat cheaper to run, at least compared to other cars in the open-wheel realm. He’ll be looking at finances before he takes that leap, however: cars these days are getting faster, but also more expensive to run.
Getting personal at ProFormance
When Will first took the HPDE in 2020, he didn’t expect to get to his current level of accomplishment. “I just told Manfred I wanted to get into the industry in some way. The next day I was working on BMWs. Now I can see how that course got me here. I can see why the HPDE is laid out the way it is.”
Will has taken “a bunch of courses” at different well-known driving schools. He considers ProFormance’s smaller size an advantage. “It lets us be more personal with each student, and get into the finer details.” At first he thought being in the right seat, riding that much closer to the walls, would be scarier. But now he finds riding shotgun a good way to connect with students. Proof: “We get a lot of repeat clients – around half come back to get their solo lapping license.”
A good gig
ProFormance is a really good gig,” Will says. “I love it out there. No one is there because they have to be – they’re all there because they want to be. The best feeling in the world is when you’re telling a student something and it clicks … and they actually get faster! That’s a really satisfying day!
“And if you told me as a kid I’d be working at a racetrack…”