10 common questions about
Dr Simon Morris spends 16 weeks a year away in exotic locations with the Ford World Rally team
Not so long ago you had to join the army to see the world but today I travel the globe as a practising doctor. I combine my day-to-day GP work in a practice near Blackburn with a role as doctor for the globetrotting BP-Ford World Rally Team that is contesting the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship.
Along with one showdown in Wales during September, this year's WRC series features 15 overseas rounds taking me to places as far afield as Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. It's a really good balance. I love to travel and I'm probably away for 16 weeks of the year and that's great but it's also good to come home and get some normality back into my life between all these trips abroad.
Having qualified as a doctor in 1992 and then as a GP in 1997, I began my medical career working on P&O cruise ships. I switched to motorsport after bumping into an old friend at a rugby match. He was working for a rally team. We got talking and the idea of working in rallying really appealed. So I wrote to all the top teams and Ford had a vacancy.
I guess I was just very lucky with my timing but I did have the right qualifications as this is the ideal job for a travel-loving GP with some emergency experience and I had plenty of that from working on the cruise ships.
In many ways my current rally role has a lot in common with my previous life on board ship. The BP-Ford World Rally Team travels the globe with its own collection of trucks and motor homes. On arrival in a country the convoy parks up and forms a temporary encampment (service area) alongside the rival teams. Together with most of the Ford crew, I fly in once this base camp has been established and, once in situ, I have up to 100 team members in my care ranging from cooks and mechanics to the rally drivers themselves. This year the Ford team consists of Estonian Markko Martin and the promising young Belgian, Francois Duval.
I base myself in the service area and Ford has provided me with all the equipment I need: medicines, dressings, emergency equipment. Quite often we are based in the middle of nowhere, so we need to be totally self-sufficient. One of the big attractions is the wide spectrum of skills required; on one event I could be ensuring a seriously injured driver is getting the right emergency treatment in a South American hospital, on the next I could be treating a technician for frostbite in northern Sweden.
It's always very challenging. Rallying is a dangerous sport and obviously my main purpose is to cope with any serious emergencies, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the work is general GP stuff.
The mechanics get cuts and bruises, coughs and colds as they are away from home so much, most of them use me as their local doctor. But on top of that, my responsibilities include making sure the team eats plenty of high-energy food, particularly in cold climates such as Sweden where we are all carrying out our various duties in sub-zero temperatures. Likewise, I must guarantee everyone is drinking sufficient liquids when we are somewhere swelteringly hot such as Greece or Turkey. I also have to make sure the entire team has the correct innoculations before travelling and, most importantly perhaps, that any medication the drivers are receiving is legal under the championship's rules.
As in all premier sports, competitors are subjected to random drugs tests and I have to constantly keep abreast of what's currently on the IOC's banned medication list.
Clearly all the travel, the long hours during an event and the field hospital working conditions would not suit everyone. But at 35, I feel it's the perfect job for me at this stage in my life. I get a kick out of thinking on my feet and solving new problems and that's one of the real attractions. Being based in the UK and getting to see so many different parts of the world for a week at a time also has massive appeal. While I'm certain so much time away probably wouldn't suit a family man, I'm lucky to have a very understanding girlfriend.
Simon Morris is a GP
locum in Blackburn