James Watt Automotive – Silverstone 1000 Kms
Difficult, Traumatic – But A Finish

dailysportscar persuaded Paul Daniels to invite Allan Simonsen to race the JWA Porsche in the LMES event at Silverstone – this is the story of James Watt Automotive, at one of the toughest endurance races ever.

dailysportscar.com

“Our aim is to get as high in Motorsport as we can”. A bold ambition for James Watt, and one that went a step further at last weekend’s LMES round at Silverstone, where regular pilot Paul Daniels was assisted in his Porsche 996 GT3 RS by Dane Allan Simonsen - talking to James, above.

The roots of James Watt Automotive go back to 1989, when James competed in the two-litre class of the Historic Sportscar Championship, in a Royale. Driving was not enough, however, for James harboured a desire to run his own team, and, in order to learn every aspect of motorsport organisation, he joined the McLaren F1 team, starting, as you should in these circumstances, at the bottom; “I made the sandwiches, did the catering, and when I left there six years later, I was fabricating the metal components.”

So, having gained valuable experience at the highest level, James set-up James Watt Automotive in 1998. “We ran historics, because that was where my networking had been done, but I always had a view to move on.”

And that’s where Paul Daniels comes into the story.

Paul started racing quite late, in 1999, with Richard Peacock, competing in NW Formula Ford and moved up to GTs in 2001 “with a 993 GT2 I bought from Peter Cook. I raced the car in the Euro GT series and we had some success: five podium finishes and third in the championship.”

Le Mans, the zenith of any GT drivers aspirations, beckoned in 2003, but sadly, the Racers Group Porsche that Paul was down to drive in was a reserve, and he would be denied his chance until the next June, when he piloted the PK Porsche, with David Warnock and Jim Mathews. “We had oil pump problems early in the race, and it ended around 9pm on Saturday evening. Le Mans remains very much unfinished business.”

Brought together by a common background in historic racing, Paul and James have combined this year to campaign the LMES, in a three-year old Porsche 996. Why the LMES, and why a Porsche?

Both agree that they love the LMES format, of mixing sports-prototypes with GT cars, the professional / amateur status – Paul hates the term “gentleman driver” - and racing on classic tracks rich in motorsport heritage, such as Spa, Monza, Silverstone and Nurburgring. The possibility of an entry to Le Mans is also a significant enticement. Paul also enjoys the physical aspect of endurance racing; “I’ve run marathons in New York and Rotterdam, and that side of this type of racing appeals to me.”

Passionate about Porsche; “they’re reliable, strong, and you get the support”, Paul’s 996 lacks the sequential gearshift, and other significant features of the latest models, but nevertheless, the team picked up three points at Monza’s round, and the addition of Allan Simonsen for the Silverstone race was a further positive move.

dailysportscar.com

Simonsen came to the team, via dsc, with an impressive CV, and a reference from Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen. “Tom and I take a holiday together at a sports resort every January. He’s probably the best driver in the world, and a genuine person who plays the game,” said Allan, who started karting in his native Denmark in 1993, winning several national championships, and finishing 15th in the 1997 world championship - where he is keen to emphasise that Kimi Raikkonen was a lowly 30th ! A spell in single seaters, including Formula Ford, Formula Palmer Audi with the then ubiquitous Team Brask, and Formula Renault, saw him take the Veloqx Ferrari 360 drive in British GT, following another driver’s departure midway through the 2002 season.

Since 2003, Allan has plied his trade in Australia, achieving 14 Nations Cup win in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 360 in his first year out there, and a further ten – a 100% start/win ratio - last year. 2004 was topped-off by a win in the Bahrain FIA GT Festival, in the Coopers Racing Team Ferrari 550 – with none other than D. Brabham.

A few outings in Aussie V8 Supercars, sharing Garry Rogers’ Holden Commodore in the longer races, has led to a full-time drive in the V8ute series this year, and a regular (as regular as he can make it) British GT campaign, in Hector Lester’s UCB Ferrari 360, but Le Mans is Allan’s goal, and he wants to continue the tradition of Danish winners John Nielsen, Jan Magnussen, and Tom Kristensen, and he sees the LMES as the first step in that direction.

So, a team, and a new driver, with Le Mans on their agenda, but first there was the immediate business of the Silverstone 1000km. “ Having Allan is a great fillip for the team,” says James Watt, and Allan was of course delighted to pass on some of his racing knowledge. “It would be wrong to say that I’m coaching Paul, because he’s an experienced driver, “said Allan, “ but I’ve been showing him little things, like flat-shifting, which are improving his lap times. Our aim today is to bring it home.”

Qualifying was on race morning, Allan having found time in each of Friday's sessions, then improving again on fresh rubber to place the GT3-RS eighth on the grid.

dailysportscar.com

Heavy rain in the early stages (and as far as the middle) led to severe water ingress and a misted screen, and at the first stop, an hour in, the team set about taping the window gaps - but with the rain now of biblical proportions, this had little effect.

The conditions were horrendous - unsafe in the opinion of many.

“I’ve never driven in conditions like that,” he said, “water was running down the inside of the screen, I was looking for signs in the stands to see where I was, and down the straight I just hoped I was in the middle of the track. When the safety car came out, I was using my seat cushion to wipe the inside of the screen!”

dailysportscar.com

dailysportscar.com

Ah, yes, the safety car. Deployed so often, and for so long, that the Audi itself needed a splash ‘n dash, it conspired with the atrocious conditions to make this race an atypical measurement of the team’s effectiveness. Once Paul took the car over, after two and three-quarter hours, he was straight back in to get the heated front screen fixed, returning to the track to put in a series of regular, solid lap times during his 90-minute stint. It hadn’t all been plain sailing, though. “It was very tough, the washer bottle ran out of water, and I was struggling with tyres. Those wets have been on for five hours,” he said after vacating the car with just an hour of the race left to run.

Allan’s final stint was marred by an errant fuel pump, necessitating a pit stop to switch over, at which point intermediate rubber was fitted, to make the most of the improving conditions, and come the finish, they were classified tenth in class. Allan was flying at the end, in the pitch darkness, making up places as he passed anything in his sights. He could even be in this image!

dailysportscar.com

“It’s always disappointing not to have a trouble-free run, but we brought it home in one piece, which is good considering the conditions,” summarised Allan, adding, “The team are really happy, Paul’s really happy, and I’m really happy”.

Allan then raced the Hector Lester Ferrari on Sunday – and took second place in GT3 in the British Championship, by one thousandth of a second, having made up a full lap on the opposition, and also been the fastest man on the track at one point…. which isn’t supposed to happen in a GT3 car! He has a very bright future.
Steve Wood

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.