After 15 months of planning and preparation, there are now just three days remaining until Ram Racing takes to the track for its official European racing debut – the opening round of the 2013 European Le Mans Series. Apprehension is mixed with anticipation and an overwhelming eagerness to get things started!
The Silverstone-based GT team will be fielding two Ferrari 458 Italias in the LMGTE category of the series at its home race on the Northamptonshire track, and drivers Johnny Mowlem and Matt Griffin (no.52) plus Gunnar Jeanette and Frankie Montecalvo (no.53) will not be alone in having family and friends around them to cheer on the team.
The gleaming white Ferraris will be up against some stiff opposition in the class from three other Ferraris and three Porsches, piloted by some high profile drivers.
The rejuvenated European Le Mans Series, now under the same management as the FIA World Endurance Championship, will have a grid of 25 cars for the opening round, with anticipation of more entries in the future. A great TV package has been put together by the series, with a potential reach of 600 million households across 100 countries.
Dan Shufflebottom, Team Principal: “I am both optimistic and realistic about Ram Racing’s prospects this weekend. I believe we’ve got one of the best line ups in the field, supported by a crew of guys who have all gelled together exceptionally well. Not all of us had a background in GT racing, but I think that’s been a benefit rather than a disadvantage as we’ve been able to look at how we operate from a fresh perspective.
“As it’s Silverstone, I believe our biggest challenge will be the weather and the conditions rather than the opposition. At this time of year you could have four seasons in one day, and that’s potentially a headache for the engineers in terms of knowing whether to use a dry or wet set up when in changeable conditions. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that it’ll be the same for everyone but that’s about the sum of it so we’ll be using every bit of experience we have in every area to face those challenges.”
Ram Racing’s next outing will be at Silverstone, their home track, for the 3 Hours of Silverstone, the opening round of the 2013 European Le Mans Series. The race starts at 3:00 pm.
(44/GBR, based in Berkshire), No.52 Ferrari 458 Italia
Fast fact: Won the 1997 Porsche Cup Great Britain with 17 wins from 17 races.
On the new-look ELMS: “The ELMS has definitely bounced back, due I am sure in no small part to the hard work and involvement of the ACO. It is looking very strong in all classes and that was evident by the closeness of the times at the recent official Paul Ricard test between the ELMS and the WEC competitors."
On the strength of the LMGTE opposition: “The ELMS LMGTE battle will be incredibly close, as nearly every team has at least one top level driver. The AF Corse Ferraris will obviously have a very strong performance as they know the F458 better than anyone, but also I suspect all three of the Porsches will be very strong, as they all have factory or ex-factory drivers in their line-up, aided by the fact that the Porsche speed performance is also going to be very high and suited in particular to the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.
“It's almost impossible to predict a GT winner as any one of at least six cars could win, but Ram Racing has focused in testing on getting a fast and consistent car for the race and I believe we are in good shape, especially as I have my secret weapon in the form of Matt Griffin!”
(30/IRL, based in Northamptonshire), No.52 Ferrari 458 Italia
Fast fact: In the last 5 seasons has never done less than 24 races per season and in 2012 competed in 8 different championships – all in a Ferrari.
On the prospects for the Ferrari in the ELMS: “I think our Ferrari 458 GTE will be very strong in the ELMS this season as the car has really proved itself in international competition in the last two years. The entry is very strong, with some top teams, but I am very confident that Ram racing will get the maximum out of our F458. Also Johnny and I make a strong team so overall I feel confident for the weekend ahead."
On the 5.891 km Silverstone circuit: “Silverstone is a great circuit and always produces exciting racing. My favourite part of the track is the Maggots and Becketts complex; it’s very important as it leads onto the Hangar straight, is super-fast and you need to be fully committed through here. The most challenging part for me is the new section of track constructed in 2011. It’s very tight and technical and, to be fast, you have to be inch perfect.”
(30/USA, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA), No.53 Ferrari 458 Italia
Fast fact: Remains the youngest driver to have ever finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
On working with Ram Racing: “I honestly couldn’t be happier with the team and getting the opportunity to drive for Ram is great. Everyone is extremely fun and the guys all work very hard but know how to have a good time which is a nice balance to have in motorsport. Everyone has the same goal, which is #1 to win but #2 to do it in style.”
On the weekend ahead: “I have raced at Silverstone twice before, a couple of years ago before they changed the circuit to the new layout, but was lucky enough to come away with a win so I’d say that’s a decent record at Silverstone thus far. Obviously it’s my first race with Ram Racing in the European Le Mans Series , and to come home with another win would be a nice way to kick off the championship at our home race.
“It makes a huge difference when you have people around you from previous programmes such as my team mate Frankie and chief engineer, Mark Schomann. Everything goes much smoother and there are some short cuts in communication. We’re getting right into business – boom, straight into the job.”
(22/USA, based in New Jersey, USA), No.53 Ferrari 458 Italia
Fast fact: In only his third year of racing, was runner up in LMPC category of 2011 ALMS
On having Gunnar Jeannette as a driving partner: “It’s a big advantage having Gunnar as my team mate and an American engineer. It’s very easy to communicate…I’ve worked with teams before where there was a language barrier and it’s hard to know exactly what they meant. There’s obviously not so much of a barrier between English and Americans but there are still some technical words I’m getting my head round! That’s not the case with the Ram guys and it’s very easy to hang out with everyone. It’s great!”
On the weekend ahead: “I’m really looking forward to it as it seems to have been a long time coming. We’ve done so much testing and all of a sudden it’s here, it just came out of nowhere! I’ve been preparing, doing everything that I can as I’ve never raced at Silverstone before. I’m just trying to find all of the information that I can about the track, watching stuff from last year, trying to find the right configuration on the sim, and just trying to prepare as much as I can to get ready for this event. I can’t wait.”