Second Time Out A Second Podium For The ACEMCO Saleen
move two laps from home secured a podium for Jeff Giangrande’s
ACEMCO Saleen at Mid-Ohio, the car’s second race. What really
happened at Mid-Ohio, and ultimately how competitive is the S7-R?
Johnny Mowlem reveals all.
was pleased we were quickest in GTS in the race morning warm-up,
although I knew it didn’t really count for much, even if we
were running full tanks, but it was still a good start to the day.
Terry (Borcheller) was down to start, and he had a really good first
stint, despite a problem developing with the car. He almost hung
on to the Corvettes from the start, but then basically they started
pulling away at around a second a lap.
After a little
over an hour Terry followed Ollie Gavin into the pits, and then
the caution came out. Ron Fellows pitted a lap later, and gained
over a minute.
Terry had been
explaining that there was a problem with the car during his stint,
and when I left the pits on cold tyres, the Saleen felt very nervous.
I told Jim Bell what it felt like, and he called me back in, while
we were still under the yellow. Having already lost a lap to Ron
Fellows in the #3 Corvette, now suddenly we were two laps down -
the team having to replace the left rear toe link, which they did
The car felt better,
but it was still a little edgy, to say the least! Then we had more
drama! Olivier Beretta in the #4 Corvette came up behind me. I didn’t
want to make it too easy for him even if he was lapping me, but
I never defended the racing line, I just drove as fast and clean
as I could, in my efforts to catch the Lamborghini. After a couple
of laps he obviously decided he couldn’t pass me cleanly (which
actually bodes well for the future!) and gave me a big tap up the
rear into the last corner! At this point I radioed in and the team
told me to move over and let him by. So into the next hairpin I
braked earlier, as the Saleen is better on the brakes than the Corvette,
and stayed on the racing line to the left…. and he just drove
straight down the right hand side of me! Fortunately for me I hadn’t
begun to turn-in, otherwise he would have broken my steering, but
it was still enough to send me straight off into the gravel.
I gunned it through the
gravel trap and kept it going for a lap and everything seemed OK,
but then the bonnet (hood) started coming loose: we agreed that
I should pit to have it removed, but as I prepared to come in, it
flew off anyway. We were going to change tyres then, but changed
the plan, so that at the final refuelling stop, I kept the same
set of tyres on. That stop cost us another lap, and put us even
further behind the Lamborghini: it turned out to be a very good
team decision not to change tyres, because if I’d lost another
20 seconds, I may not have caught Brabs, even with new rubber.
The dramas weren’t
over however, because after leaving the pits for the fourth time(!),
the traction control failed, the resultant “misfire”
felt like I had the pitlane speed limiter on all the time! It took
me a couple of corners to work out that it was the traction control
causing the problem. I switched the traction control off, which
left me full of fuel, on tyres that had done a stint, and no traction
control – lovely!
At this point Jim Bell
kindly pointed out over the radio that I was going to have to do
high 1:21s and low 1:22s every lap to the end, if we were to stand
a chance of catching Brabs in the Lamborghini, for third.
So basically I drove
my heart out. Jim and the team did a fantastic job over the radio
to keep me fired up, not that I needed much firing up! But they
gave me all the info I needed, counting me down as I closed in.
At around 17 seconds the gap stabilised while I hit traffic, for
about three laps, and I wondered at that point whether I’d
make it. In fact, a couple of times I took some big risks in traffic
because I could afford to lose a second a lap, let alone two or
three seconds. It was that close!
When the gap got to five
seconds with five minutes left, I asked Jim over the radio how badly
Jeff wanted third place, and the answer came back that he wanted
it very badly: I needed to know that answer so I knew how much of
a risk to take… so I just went for it. I caught David and
went for the move at the first opportunity. Despite the extra drag
of the missing bonnet, I towed up to him down the back straight
and went around the outside of him into Turn 3. It may have looked
as though I moved over a little, but I had to try and get to the
right because there was an LMP2 up ahead, and I needed to get inside
of it before the braking area.
It was a great
chase from inside the car: I hope it was almost as exciting for
people watching. Apparently we got an awful lot of TV coverage through
our onboard camera for the last half an hour. Someone said they
watched me on the in-car camera, and thought I looked very relaxed!
Determined maybe, but not relaxed!
perfect Regis Lefebure image...
Hats off to Pirelli, I ran 105 minutes on the same set of tyres,
pressing on the whole time, but especially in the last hour. The
whole team was delighted with third place – especially after
a sequence of niggly problems – and Jeff was especially pleased,
as much for his whole team, as for himself.
real sports car enthusiast through and through, and it’s great
to be able to deliver in some small way for him and the team. There
is a terrific team spirit within ACEMCO Motorsport, and that is
really helping to carry us all forward.
We’ve made some
very good steps forward, and it’s a very strong team –
but look what we’re up against: GM and Corvette Racing. On
average we were about a second off the Corvettes on race pace, and
that at a track that suits the Saleen: a high downforce track, with
a lot of heavy braking from high speed. But the car was fairly nervous
throughout thanks to the toe link problem / replacement, so potentially
we’re closer than that. That speaks volumes for what the team
has achieved already, bearing in mind the huge strides that Corvette
has made over the last three years, and this year in particular.
Fair play to the Kroh
/ Barbour team and their Lamborghini. David and Peter Kox nearly
had a third place in the first race for the car, although without
our problems, we may well have been two or three laps up the road,
but there’s no doubt that they will be challenging us very
There’s no time
for any development work now: it’s just racing. I’ve
never been to Lime Rock Park, so I’ve no idea if that track
will suit us. Terry thinks that we could surprise the C5-Rs. Apparently
all we have to do is run troublefree and not get hit by anyone!
One thing’s for sure, I know that we’ll all be trying
our very hardest, again!!