2003 Rolex Musings
was a very strong line-up in the #35 Risi Ferrari at Daytona
for the 41st Rolex 24 Johnny Mowlem was partnered by Ralf
Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro. The #34 Risi / Ferri Ferrari
had a very good line-up too, and with some excellent driver
combinations in some of the 911s, the GTS cars and the DPs,
this was clearly going to be a very wide open endurance event.
Having driven the Crawford last year and now a 360 Ferrari
in 2003, Johnnys view of the race was always likely to be
.even more so as he finished up second
overall. And didnt receive a Rolex!
to second, that was a phenomenal achievement, wasnt it? Second
overall: we felt we were in with a good chance of an excellent
finish, but you dont really believe its possible until it
was a bit dispiriting to realise that after they got all the
first three up overall, we had to wait to the end while they
gave watches out to all sorts of people, some of whom had been
50 or 60 laps behind us in the race!!! Missing the watch was
hard on the day, but now events have had time to sink in, I
realise just how great an achievement it was for the Risi team
to take second overall with a car that is far less proven and
developed than the GT3RS.
Im so pleased
for the team, because they all put I such a determined effort,
and on that first lap it looked as though it could have been
pretty happy with our qualifying, although Ralf was perhaps
a little disappointed not to be quicker but there were reasons
for that. Basically we were where we expected to be, that is
quickest Ferrari, but we didnt expect the Washington car to
be so close. I discovered why it was so close to us in the
race: we added downforce in the Thursday night session, but
before that it was quicker than us in a straight line. For
the race, it probably had a little more downforce than we did,
but was still quicker on the banking Cort Wagner must have
been 10 kph faster than us in the race.
no one remembers qualifying anyway, so lets get on with what
happened in the race itself.
We had gear
selection problems on the first lap! Events later on would
prove that we never got away from the problem, but ending lap
1, there was Ralf coming down the pit-lane! He was stuck in
second gear, but coming towards us, he found neutral, then
got it in gear and was straight out without stopping.
a double stint, then Anthony, and by the end of my first double,
say six hours into the race, we were up to third overall. We
did doubles all the way through, because the Ferrari doesnt
really take it out of you although Im convinced it was the
best car in the whole race under braking. The brakes were exceptional.
had the right rear wheel fall off. There was no good reason
for that to happen, because it was nearly an hour after a pit
stop. I think we lost seven laps then.
always on a mission, but from then on, every lap was like a
qualifying lap if they hadnt been before.
We had some
great dices with both the Washington Ferrari and the #20 JMB
car but both of them were quicker on the straights. I think
we must have had an engine that was simply just a little bit
down on power.
I had a
good dice with Max Papis during one stint during the night,
setting 1:54.9s / 1:55.1s, and then Ralf went out and carried
on the dice. It was great racing. A yellow had bunched the
field, and from the green the two of them were right together
all the way.
drove a double, but just before I got back in, I realized that
wed lost ground to JMB with an exhaust problem. The team must
have fixed that amazingly quickly.
the race I dont think any of us made a single mistake, and
only the two Porsches could run quicker than us in the GT class.
But we must have lost 10 or 11 laps with our gear selection
and exhaust problems
..although without a problem, we couldnt
have held on to the #66 car. Im sure Alwin Springer made sure
that that was a fairly special Porsche.
had the problem with the gears again, with Ralf at the wheel was
that about three hours before the end? He came to a halt in
neutral, and theyd even hooked up the tow rope to bring him
back. He fiddled with the master switch, it fired up, all the
gears were there, and he raced back into the race!
It was only in Anthonys last double that we rolled off the pace.
I felt it
was harder this year for the GT teams than previous years because
instead of a prototype coming past very quickly, we had the
Daytona Prototypes, which were quicker on the banking, but
depending on who was at the wheel, slower through the corners.
I lost probably ten seconds stuck behind one of them, and in
the end I had to come from 50 metres back and slam past him
on the brakes, then block him on the banking it was the only
way to stay ahead, until I could make up ground on the infield.
I felt it
was more dangerous than in the past, and more difficult for
the GT drivers but the whole Daytona Prototype concept could
work long term, if they put some money towards the manufacturers
and make the cars a little more powerful.
not exactly thrilled about coming second and not winning a