Wallace Column – The Rolex 24, In A Perspective GTS Mosler
A drive in the Perspective Mosler at Daytona: Andy
explains how it came about, and what happened along the way – to
been friends with Michel Neugarten for a long time, which was
very useful – as I didn’t have a clue what car
to drive at the Rolex 24. For 2003 of course, all the traditional
Prototype machinery had been effectively outlawed. I suspected
that most of the new Daytona Prototypes wouldn’t be really
ready to take on the challenge of the 24 Hours….and I
thought that the GTs would be too slow!
So I was
fortunate that Michel helped me to find a drive with him in
the Perspective Racing Mosler GTS. Another friend, Tony Dowe,
a sports car racing genius, also suggested that a Mosler would
be a good bet. So everything fell into place, but track time
was going to be limited, as I didn’t go to the Test Days.
at Daytona was going to be my first chance to drive the car,
and the nice thing was that I slipped into it and fitted perfectly
straight away: it wasn’t like sharing with James, Butch
or Chris Dyson, who are all about five feet taller than me!
It was immediately
apparent that the banking was going to be a problem, but the
reasons why need a little explaining. I’ve only driven
a prototype around Daytona (until this year), and the banking
is easily flat-out in something like a R&S. But for 2003,
with all the regs. changes, we were obliged to run a ‘spec.’ rear
wing on the Mosler, which was tiny. In fairness, if GA had
left the GTS cars as they were, they’d have been faster
than the DPs, so this was a cost effective solution. Anyway,
it was the same for everyone.
ran the car with the small wing at the Test Days, and told
me there had been a high-speed oversteer problem. For race
week they had fitted a rear diffuser and changed a few other
bits & pieces.
I did a few
laps and then had a think about it: I couldn’t believe
how bad the car was on the banking. It took 100% concentration
to hang onto it if you wanted to stay flat (and who’s
ever heard of lifting off on a straight!?). The rear end of
the car had a mind of its own - bucking and weaving all over
the place. It took everything I know to stop it from smearing
itself along the concrete wall, which at 180 mph is pretty
exciting… Five laps like that is not a problem, but it’s
not how you want the car for the 24 Hours.
were on the case: they changed ride heights, shocks, springs,
and a few other things to try to improve high-speed stability.
The car was immediately better on Friday, but then our running
was cut short by an engine problem. That introduced a typical ‘Daytona’ factor.
If everything runs smoothly there isn’t a problem, but
when you are up against it time wise, you’re in trouble.
The track closes at around 5 or 6pm each day, and re-opens
at about 7am the next day. Even if you’re struggling
to get everything done in time, there are no exceptions. It
works well for NASCAR. They have a busy season of over 30 races,
and by locking the track at night they save the mechanics from
meltdown. But it doesn’t work particularly well for a
24 hour race, when teams are struggling to prepare the cars
in time for nearly 3000 miles of racing. There is a part solution;
you can load the car into the truck, take it outside the track,
and then work on it in a hotel car park… Not so easy
when you consider the engine and gearbox are lying on the floor
and the truck is buried deep in the paddock!
were preparing the car right up to the start of the race. We
only just made it. My teammates, Jerome Policand, Joao Barbosa
and Michel Neugarten, are all experienced drivers, and did
a great job in the race. But none of us had driven together
before. Pit stops were going to be a challenge, as we’d
not had time to properly practice driver changes. There was
too much going on around the car, and four drivers jumping
in and out would not have been a welcome addition!
into the race, we didn’t really know if the car was going
to like being flat out around the banking or not. Jerome would
be the first to find out the answer to that one, as he would
be starting the race.
mechanics had done well. There were no oil leaks, and mechanically
everything was fine.
At this point
I need to explain about the HANS (Head And Neck Support) device,
which is mandatory in Grand-Am this year (and in F1), because
it determined the driving order. I have to admit that I really
don’t like wearing the thing. No, I hate it! I believe
Nick Heidfeld has made it clear that he doesn’t like
it either. In a multi-driver race, there are even more problems
with it. I’m convinced that in a race with driver changes,
we shouldn’t be forced to wear it. The first problem
is getting the seat belt shoulder straps correctly positioned
in a hurried driver change (bearing in mind the limited access
into the cockpit, the heat, the lack of light at night, and
the clock ticking away). More often than not this doesn’t
happen, rendering the device next to useless. Then if it does
happen to get positioned correctly, you can’t turn you
head and so can’t see in the mirrors. Not at all satisfactory,
then. And as if that isn’t enough, I wouldn’t imagine
you’d be thanking the inventors of the device when you’re
upside down and trying to get out…! Enough about the
We only had
two HANS devices between the four of us in the team (sorry
- mentioned it again!). You get into the car with it already
attached to your helmet, so we would have to swap them about
between stints. But to complicate things further, there are
two different types of helmet fixings. We had one of each type,
so we would have to ensure the driver with one type of helmet
fixing took over the driving duties from one with the other
type. Are you confused yet? Do you even care?
started, Joao went next, Michel third and then it was my turn.
Was it OK
on the banking? Jerome confirmed that it was, so that was a
good start. When I jumped in for my first stint, the car felt
a lot better on the banking, but it was still easy to touch
another car up there if you dropped your guard. Through the
infield the grip and traction was good on fresh rubber, but
you had to be careful on the throttle towards the end of the
I drove the car, the more I began to understand its quirks.
By the time I jumped in for my second go, I was really enjoying
that hurt us in the early stages of the race was the driver
changes. We lost a whole minute in the first one, getting everything
done. Then a few times early on, we’d make a stop under
green – only for it to go yellow a lap later! So for
the first few hours we were struggling a little, although we
weren’t losing out on speed on the racetrack. Our fastest
lap was within a second of the best lap of the race – which
is a tribute to the team, who gave us a car that could lap
that quickly, after the problems we’d had.
gearbox went – or more precisely, the diff. exploded.
When was that?…well it was dark, and I think it was the
eighth hour. We were fourth at that stage, within three laps
of the lead and about to take third. We’d had a good
clean race so far, and we were still on target. The new engine
had been very tight at the beginning, but now every time I
got in the car, it was pulling more rpm on the straights, and
the lap times were improving.
think the transmission was going to be a problem at all, and
the shift quality was fantastic – but there we were behind
the wall, and we lost over an hour. We were 30 laps down, and
in about 20th place.
night, the engine was running a bit too cool. We had a bit
of a problem with the radio, so somehow the message never did
get passed on to tape up the radiators. This caused a slight
loss of coolant, and once the sun came up the engine temperature
went off the clock. This was a real blow, as during the night
we’d managed to haul ourselves back up to 5th or 6th
we were behind the wall again, losing 15 minutes or so.
We felt that
we’d probably lost a possible GTS win then, but of course
you never give up. We got our heads down, got up to second
in class…and then the lead Morgan Corvette had its own
I was in
the car for the final 75 minutes, and with the radio problem,
I wasn’t exactly sure how fast I needed to go to win.
By now the gearbox had completed about the same distance as
the one that had already failed… I was being very careful
changing gear, and was gently getting back onto the throttle
afterwards. I could partially hear radio messages that seemed
to be telling me to go a bit slower. By this point the lap
times weren’t showing on the dash any more, so I continued
at the same pace using everything I’d ever learned about
conserving a racecar. After passing the wounded Corvette a
couple more times, I was sure were we safe. So a GTS win it
difficult for me to judge what the race looked like from the
outside. Sure there were less cars than in previous years,
but there was quite a lot of squabbling for position.
The GT cars
were slower than us on the banking, but not by much. The DPs
were slightly faster, but we were all within ten to 15 mph
of each other. Instead of flashing by the GT cars, you really
had to work at it. When you caught five or six GTs in a bunch,
it would take quite a few laps to consign them to the mirrors.
The DPs definitely
make the top category cheaper. If this helps more teams to
compete, then Grand-Am have done the right thing. They’ve
stuck their necks out, and I hope we will see more cars on
the grid as the year progresses. One thing’s for sure
though, another hundred horsepower would help. The top category
should be exactly that, and should have a bigger performance
Never mind – I
added to my Watch tally. Next year I’d like to drive
a Daytona Prototype, going for the overall win.
next of course, with James and Butch in the Dyson Racing MG-Lola.
James managed to go quicker than the 2002 pole time in the
#16 car at the team’s last Sebring test, running with
the smaller 2003 restrictors. It’s clear that Dyson Racing
have made a lot of progress recently, with help from engine
wizards AER. They are great to work with and so enthusiastic.
We’ve been working hard on reliability too, and I really
think we’re now in a position to take on the LMP900s
in qualifying and race trim. Chris Dyson has come on strong
recently too, so don’t count out the second car.
very good start to the year, and a Rolex watch too. I saw Johnny
Mowlem at Orlando Airport, and he seemed rather put out that
he’d finished second and didn’t get a watch, and
I’d finished ninth and did, for the GTS win. Johnny,
got the time mate?