The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours – GT Views
Liddell & Mowlem On The GT Race

Robin Liddell drives the #78 PK Sport Porsche next week, Johnny Mowlem the #95 Risi / ACEMCO Ferrari. We asked them about the potential for their cars in the great race, and what we should expect from the GT class as a whole. Very interesting…

dailysportscar.com“A good result for us would be a podium,” began Robin Liddell. “I genuinely believe we have a good chance of finishing in the top three.”

That wasn’t quite his view on the race a year ago, which is a remark based on his perception of how things have changed since last year.

“I always felt beforehand that last year’s GT race could have been won by a team such as ours – PK Sport. With hindsight, I still feel that that was absolutely possible. We were third on the road in GT after six hours, and on the same lap as the two ‘factory’ cars. Later in the race, Freisinger had to do a disc and pad change, and Racer’s Group had a couple of ‘offs’. With no mistakes and good pit stops, PK Sport could have been in with a shout (of the win). One year later, everyone has stepped up a gear – the chances of winning it this year aren’t so good. I’d suggest that we can only win it this year with some good fortune on our part, and lots of bad fortune for everyone else.”

So the bar has been raised in GT – but what else would you expect?

Let’s come back to Qualifying later, because there are slightly unusual circumstances involved for both PK Sport and Risi / ACEMCO.

dailysportscar.comRace prospects then, Johnny Mowlem: “We’re going to beat the red-headed Scotsman! No seriously, we’ve got all the experience of Risi Competizione, combined with the youthful vigour of ACEMCO, a young fresh team. Combine the two, add Butch and Shane, and we’ve got a strong combination.

“Let’s say we’re a couple of hours into the race. I’d go for a top six at 6pm of Job-Petersen, Racers Group, Orbit, either PK then Risi or vice versa, then ourselves and JMB. PK will be very strong: with Robin at the wheel, they’ll be right there. Further into the race, we’d hope to run ahead of them.”

Red-headed Scotsman? “I believe there are effectively three classes of GT cars in the race. The top two Porsches (Job-Petersen and Racers Group) should be fighting it out for the win. Then there’s ourselves, Orbit, the #94 Risi Ferrari and the JMB Ferrari.”

Oh, can you sense a little conflict building here? No, it’s all right, you’ll see that Liddell and Mowlem are actually in almost absolute agreement….

dailysportscar.com“It’s a Porsche race,” continues the Scot. “The Risi Ferraris won’t be on the pace of the lead pair of 911s.” But he has included the #94 Kelleners / Lazzaro / Borcheller Ferrari higher up the pecking order than the Mowlem / Leitzinger / Lewis 360……Johnny Mowlem suggests why that is.

“With one Risi car on Michelins and ourselves on Yokohamas, we’ve got a nice balance in the team. But assuming Ralf qualifies the Michelin car, and I qualify our car, he’ll be three to four seconds quicker – because we won’t have a Yokohama qualifying compound. Robin will have Pirelli qualifiers, and they should be about on a par with the Michelins. So we’re not in the qualifying battle as such.”

dailysportscar.comRobin Liddell doesn’t expect to be either, but it’s not a tyre issue. “Mike (Pickup) chooses not to run in the race morning warm-up. I know why he takes that route, but what it means is that it compromises our qualifying. We have to run the car on Thursday in race trim, so we won’t go for a time then, which means that we’ve really only got the two sessions on Wednesday to go for a quick lap. There are other pressures of course, such as getting David and Piers out to qualify for the race.

“You need to try and find the ‘window’ to get a good qualifying time in – and we’ll only be looking for that on Wednesday.”

Johnny Mowlem will also be looking for that window, but on soft race tyres. “If I can qualify fifth, I’ll deserve a medal: if I’m eighth or ninth, I’ll deserve a kick up the backside. We won’t have qualifiers, but we will go for a low fuel run. I’d suggest the grid order will be the same as I gave for the first hours of the race – the three Porsches from the ALMS, then Robin and Ralf Kelleners, then probably our car. I’d settle for starting sixth.”

So what about prospects for the end of the 24 Hours?

Johnny: “If everyone runs reliably, we’ll be sixth – JMB will be the ones threatening us. So I’m going for a finishing order of Job-Petersen, Racers Group then Orbit – with Marc Lieb and Peter Baron doing most of the driving. But in reality, people do have problems, so therefore I think we’ve got a realistic shot at a podium.” That was Robin Liddell’s opening comment – “a good result would be a podium.” Johnny also agrees that Risi / ACEMCO “probably don’t have a realistic shot at winning” – almost exactly the words Robin used for the chances for PK Sport.

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So it looks as though these two entries – while not necessarily going head to head in either qualifying or the opening hours of the race - could be on a ‘collision course’ in the race for third place. Anything can happen over 24 hours, of course….

“And a third place in this company would be a great achievement,” confirms Liddell. “I know how much David (Warnock) wants to take a place on that podium. If we can do that, we can feel very proud of ourselves, all of us.”

The other point of interest regarding PK and Risi / ACEMCO is the different qualities of their respective machinery. The Porsche is the faster over a lap and faster down the straights, the Ferrari is better under braking, better through the quick corners, but slower down the straights.

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“You have to pick up the 911 by the scruff of the neck and drive it,” says Robin Liddell. “But if you over-drive it, it’ll punish you. You’ll either end up in the gravel, or your lap times will drop off.”

Johnny Mowlem has plenty of experience in Porsches, but his last 24 hour race was in the Risi 360 at Daytona. “Last three (endurance) races, three second places – and Daytona was second overall. I’d like to go one better at Le Mans, but it’s going to be very difficult to win this one.”

So lots of points of agreement between these two Britons in LM GT. We’ll look at each entry in more detail in a full preview of the class. As in GTS, this one is going to be a classic race within a race. Good luck you two. Is it odd that neither of them mentioned a car other than a Ferrari or Porsche?

 

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