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Catching Up With... Johnny Mowlem

There are going to be very, very few drivers who will take part in both the Dubai 24 Hours this coming weekend AND the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in a fortnights time, Sean Edwards is one, the young Englishman bidding to retain the title he won with Black Falcon last season.

Another Englishman though has arguably an even more exciting time ahead of him with Dubai seeing him make his debut with a brand new team, and Daytoina seeing him debut a brand new car. 

Johnny Mowlem has been a professional racing driver longer than most people have been a professional anything!  That’s an impressive feat of survival in a world that is competitive in more ways than one.

2013 though sees his career on a major upswing after Mowlem was revealed as the first season signing for what looks set to be a significant addition to the GT racing family, Silverstone based RAM Racing.

RAM are set to contest a full season of GTE-Am in the 2013 ELMS with an entry looking set to be filed for a GTE Pro entry at le mans too, all with their new Ferrari 458 GTEs.

Dubai though sees the team’s third car, another brand new 458, this time in GT3 form, make its and the team’s racing debuts, Johnny anchors the driver line up with Gunnar Jeannette subbing for an injured Jaime Melo, Guy Smith gets an opportunity to race a GT car for a change and gentleman driver Cheerag Arya completes the roster.

“There’s an excellent atmosphere in the team,” said Johnny before leaving for the Gulf.

“There’s a lot of experience in the team and everyone has been given a full opportunity to play a part in how we do things.  That’s been a feature of the way that Dan (Shufflebottom) has put the team together from the very start and I think that’s very important if everyone is to buy in to the team’s future plans.

“For Dubai there’s clearly a major challenge ahead, and a fair few high quality efforts out there, but whilst we are going in being highly realistic about our prospects a good result is certainly possible.

“We have a proven car, a very capable team and a good driver line-up – A 24 hour race for our debut is a big ask but I really do think we could be in the mix with the top ten or 12 cars, and who knows what might happen then?”

“I’m really looking forward to the races, Dubai is, I think, a real sleeper, a race that is way above the level it was even just a very few years ago. I think some teams, and some of the media, have been quite slow to pick up on it but it’s a challenging race, in a place people want to go to in good weather and at a time of the year that is useful to any number of teams.”

From a thoroughbred Italian stallion Mowlem’s steed in Florida will be a very different animal as he debuts the Lotus Evora GX for McMahon Motorsport at the Rolex 24 Hours in Daytona.

“I’m still a Lotus factory driver so it’s great to race yet another new product from Hethel.

“The GX class car is really rather more than a GT4 car, probably closer to the Endurance spec car we tested and raced in the early days of the Evora race programme but with a lot more development now included, different brakes and a revised engine.  I’m happy though that the base car is, I believe, the best of the GT4 bunch.

“I had a ball with the very early car in Dubai, starting from the back of the grid to get into the overall top 20 within a stint. If it tips it down with rain it could get very interesting indeed, I’d certainly fancy us to take a scalp or two.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see where the car is in terms of pace, particularly on the banking which can be an odd place to sort out pace and balance.  In fact there’s a real parallel between a run at Le Mans, and a run at Daytona as far as a full season’s racing is concerned – Neither of the big races is necessarily an indicator of full season form – A good car around the banking, or indeed down the Mulsanne, is not necessarily an indicator of good form on the more regular tracks, and for the GX car this is a season long deal.”

Daytona has been a happy hunting ground for Mowlem down through the years – “I have Allan McNish to thank for getting my US career off the ground, he introduced me to a few people and that saw me race in 1999 in a Reiser Callas Porsche, we came second (in GT, and an impressive 9th overall).”

That result is just one of no fewer than six class podium finishes for Johnny since then, including an overall second position for Risi in 2003 (below), a result he repeated the following year in an Orbit Porsche (taking the GT class win too).

For the new GX class it may turn out to be a battle for survival over 24 hours – Johnny Mowlem will be hoping for a lucky seventh podium finish or better!