Mowlem’s Road America
He may not be racing in the ALMS at the moment (although nothing stays the same for long in racing), but Johnny Mowlem was in the Autosport Designs Racing Aston Martin DBRS9 at Road America last weekend (August 18-20), competing in the SPEED World GT Challenge.

dailysportscar.comThat gives us a chance to catch up with that series, through the eyes of Johnny Mowlem (who was anyway captured by both Robin Thompson and Regis Lefebure, in conversation with Andy Wallace and [SPEED rival] Ron Fellows).

“I was eighth quickest after the first practice session on Thursday, so we’re heading in the right direction with the DBRS9. Prodrive had become a lot more involved and helped us out with a couple of things since our last race at Mid-Ohio, plus the SCCA has been much more helpful in their handicapping system, so that wiped out some of the straight line speed disadvantage we’ve been suffering from. But we were running a lot less downforce than some of the other cars, to find that top speed.

“Qualifying was shortened to ten minutes, so that was barely three flying laps, and by the time everyone had got their tyres warmed up, that became effectively one lap – but mine was fairly clean (just a few tenths lost to traffic) and I qualified ninth.

“But I got a phenomenal start – I had it absolutely nailed, and it was one of those starts where everything went perfectly. I passed Michael McCann and his Viper away from the line, and got past Ron Fellows in the factory Cadillac at Turn 1: next man ahead was Andy Pilgrim.

“I got him to defend through Turn 3, got a perfect run on him out of there and did him round the outside approaching Turn 5 – so I was up to sixth already. It settled down for a couple of laps, then someone behind me had an enormous accident on the oil dry which was used after one of the R10 Audis had a problem (on a ‘hardship’ lap) before our race.

“The Viper driver looked to have lost it through the kink, and the car was a complete write off.

“I had Andy Pilgrim on my tail during the caution laps, so I expected that to be interesting when it went green, but I got the kind of run into Turn 1 that I had in the ACEMCO S7 against the Corvettes in the ALMS race last year, and Andy wasn’t a problem after that.

“The guys at the front didn’t pull away too quickly, and then I started to catch them – which was when Ricardo Imery came into the picture. I made him defend into turn 5, and got a good run on the exit to get inside him as we accelerated towards turn 6: then he decided to move over on me, and banged into me two or three times. That broke a wheel on the Aston Martin, and was totally unnecessary, as I was already alongside him, but fortunately the tyre stayed inflated, and I managed to ease him wide into turn 6.

“McCann caught me with that delay though, and he gave me a little tap under braking a couple of times, just to remind me that he was there! However, I'm very aware that people don’t seem to mind contact in this series, so I knew it would be risky to try and hold him off for four laps, and when he made a move into turn 8, I thought it wise not to get too involved and risk losing a top five finish. I would certainly have taken more of a chance if we’d been racing for third rather than fourth! I was a second behind him at the flag – and that was the first top five for the Aston Martin.

“My best lap was only the seventh fastest in the race, which tells you where we are relative to the other cars, but at least now I can feature at the front as long as I keep my laptimes more consistent than some of the faster cars around me. The Autosport Designs team has still got some work to do to get us right on the pace, but it was still a huge step forward.“It was such a shame though for my team mate, Tom Papadopoulos, as he climbed from 27th on the grid to 15th by mid race, only to have all his hard work undone by a puncture. In a short race, that’s it, you’re finished.

“Tommy Archer had it pretty much his own way at the front of the field in his Viper, although Lawson Aschenbach followed him all the way in his Porsche. But at the end we were catching everyone, and were only 12 seconds behind the winner at the flag. That means I have to find on average only 6 tenths of a second per lap and we can win one. If only it were really that easy!"

“The next race for the SPEED GTs is at Mosport, and I’m hoping to be really busy that weekend!”

For those of you in the States, the Road America race will be featured on SPEED Aug. 26 at 2 p.m., Eastern Time.


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