Mowlem’s Laguna Seca
Rain, Darkness and Football!

dailysportscar.comWell, winter’s definitely arrived in the good old UK, and my ALMS season is finally over. Actually, the weather wasn’t much better in California at the Laguna Seca finale, as it started raining Saturday night during the race, and continued torrentially all the way through to Monday morning. Still that didn’t dampen our spirits, although I have to admit that going through the famous “Corkscrew” turn at night, in the rain, on slicks and with a fogged windscreen, wasn’t one of my most enjoyable moments in a race car! Mind you, when you’ve experienced the wet Le Mans of 2001 that pretty much prepares you for anything!

dailysportscar.comOur whole team was very pleased with the result at Laguna. Not so much our finishing third (again!), but more the fact that we finished sixth overall behind only three prototypes and the ‘Vettes, and that the Saleen S7R ran like clockwork throughout. Also, going into the second hour of the four hour race, we were only around 20 seconds behind the eventual GTS winners, Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell. Derk Hartland, our Saleen engineer, made the comment that if we’d been able to start from where we’d qualified (third), then we would have been running right with both Corvettes throughout the entire first stint.

dailysportscar.comUnfortunately however, we’d had to start right at the back, as we’d failed the “stall test” after qualifying, which was a little ironic, because the temperature sensor that broke and fell out of the airbox, causing it to leak in the first place, actually caused the engine mapping to retard, losing us engine power. Still, rules are rules, and I actually quite enjoyed coming through the GT and GTS field.

Terry then drove beautifully in the middle part of the race to double stint into the night, and then I got back in for the last hour. Lady luck was a little against us at the end, because as I was just exiting pitlane, IMSA threw a full course caution, and we straight away lost a lap to the ‘Vettes, and then 15 minutes later when it started raining harder and everyone was still on slicks, they decided to go full course yellow again, and because of our track position to the overall leader, we lost yet another lap! The same thing happened at this point to a lot of people, including the overall leaders themselves. JJ Lehto and Marco Werner in their Audi R8 lost their lead under the final yellow to their sister Audi (Herbert and Kaffer), having led for virtually the entire race. Still, it made the end of the race more exciting for all the spectators I’m sure.

The race was on Saturday to allow for the ALMS awards banquet on Sunday night, but before that, on Sunday afternoon, we had the all important annual football match (soccer to you Americans!), between the drivers and the media. There was a lot of pride at stake on this one, as the drivers had lost last year and we didn’t want to go down two years on the trot! But, despite our best efforts, and I have to say, heroic defending from Marc Lieb, Ollie Gavin, Patrick Long and my team mate Terry Borcheller, we lost again! In my opinion this was down entirely to the fact that the media had snuck in three Mexican 18 year old “ringers”, so to only lose by the one goal I thought was a valiant effort by us. However, I knew we were in trouble when one of these kids took a throw in by forward somersaulting and proceeding to whip the ball in some 50 yards down the line, all in one smooth action! Still, we’ll beat them next year for sure!

The awards banquet capped off a fine year, and it was very nice to see ACEMCO team owner Jeff Giangrande and his wife Cheryl invited up on stage to say a few words, and receive the IMSA trophy for the top independent team of 2004. It was also nice for Terry and I to get the third place driver’s trophies and have a chance to thank some of the many people that made this year possible. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to drive for some really good teams, and ACEMCO is right up there with the best of them. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving for Jeff and looking back on the season as a whole – seven podiums out of nine races, IMSA cup winners and third in the drivers’ championship, is not a bad season’s work.

As in the football, in 2005 we’ll beat them for sure!!
Johnny Mowlem


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