Matt Griffin and Johnny Mowlem took the No.52 Ram Racing Ferrari 458 Italia to its second victory in three races, winning the LMGTE class of the 3 Hours of Red Bull Ring in Austria this afternoon.
The British GT team, which was only formed midway through 2012 and didn’t start competing until the beginning of this season, is now holding first and second positions in the LMGTE Teams’ classification. Ram Racing finished 2-3 at the first round in Silverstone, 1-3 at Imola and the same again for the third of the five-round series.
Starting from third on the LMGTE grid, Matt Griffin put in an excellent two-hour double stint from the start in the No.52 and moved into the class lead on lap 24 – a lead never to be relinquished. Matt handed over to his team mate Johnny Mowlem with just over an hour to the chequered flag, and the Briton was able to stretch his lead to 61 seconds at the finish.
Also putting in sterling work, despite great pressure and in hot temperatures, was the American duo of Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo. With his left leg in a brace, following a fracture of his tibia on 2nd June, Jeannette made an incredible start to the race and instantly gained five places in the very competitive LMGTE category.
Allowing Griffin past him on lap 22, Jeannette completed a very solid 79-minute stint before handing over to young New Jersey driver, Frankie Montecalvo, who was able to exit the pits in second place thanks to taking fuel only and making a very slick driver change.
Montecalvo had a 20-second lead over the third-placed No.66 but lost much of that advantage when he was tapped by the No.34 Race Performance LMP2 car as he was passing the Ferrari. A strategic gamble in not taking any new Michelin tyres for the entire race, to try and keep him in front of the JMW car, almost paid off but the yellow Ferrari was on fresh rubber and Ferrari factory driver Bertolini pressured Montecalvo until he was able to get past him with just over 30 minutes to run.
Team Principal Dan Shufflebottom said of the result: “We are really pleased with today’s outcome, winning our second race in succession, and I think the championship’s got a bit of momentum now. It’s getting much closer between the manufacturers – despite how the classification looks after today.
After Friday’s practice we were wondering whether we’d get this result but it went well in the race and both Matt and Johnny drove solidly to not only pull out a gap but to maintain it.
“Frankie did a mega job in the No.53 and we triple-stinted the Michelin tyres. Towards the end he was coming under pressure but we talked him through it, calmed him down and he was able to bring it home for a 1st and 3rd. We were a bit worried, obviously, about whether Gunnar would be able to do a whole stint with his injured leg but he did an amazing job and was very quick.”
Johnny Mowlem, No.52 Ram Racing Ferrari 458 Italia (Drove from lap 76 to the finish (116 laps) after taking over from Griffin. Finished 1st in class.
“At the beginning I thought it was going to be a bit of a harder fight but Matt did a great job and drove very well. When I got in it was a case of maintaining a quick lap time and I was focussed on pulling out a good gap to Bertolini behind me. It was great to be able to help Frankie out a bit towards the end, and I was asked to stay behind him because he’d triple stinted his tyres, which was amazing.
“The team was spot on and I really enjoyed this race. It was more fun than Imola because there we disappeared into the middle distance. Here we had a fight on our hands and, although we had a good margin at the end, I don’t think that reflected the toughness of the win. The other teams are coming, Dunlop are improving their tyres and the other drivers are really strong so it makes it ever more important that we carry on winning.”
Matt Griffin, No.52 Ferrari 458 Italia: Started from p3 LMGTE and handed the wheel to Mowlem at the 2hr 3 minute mark. Finished 1st in class.
“I had no particular issues but I didn’t make the best start and kind of got hung out to dry at Turn 2 and ended up half on the track and half on the grass. This track, although it’s great, is difficult to pass on as you have to be very sure you can make the move, so I just thought I’d bide my time, while sitting in 3rd. I got by Gunnar for 2nd with a bit of him from him, and then caught the JMW car and got past him. The car was incredible and I was able to pull a gap out straight away.
“A double stint round here is very physical and hot so we talked on the radio about whether I was okay to continue for the second hour, but I was happy in the car and we did a second stint on the same tyres to save some time in the pits. They started to drop off a little bit towards the end but by that time I’d manage to do some damage to the field and it was great that Johnny was able to get in and finish the job off.”
Frankie Montecalvo, No.53 Ferrari 458 Italia: Drove from lap 41 to the finish (115 laps) and finished 3rd in class.
“It was a hard fight getting all the way to the end. Going out and doing a double on those tyres was pretty good in the beginning – the guys set up a great car – and then it started fading off a little as the tyres were going. I don’t think you could ask that of another tyre than Michelin. It was great to get another podium out of it with Gunnar, especially since he hurt his leg, I’m happy he could be back in the car with me.
“It was definitely one of the most challenging races I’ve done. It wasn’t too hot out there but it was getting to me towards the end. I was trying to keep my head clear and Gunnar and the engineers were talking me through it. My pace was falling off a bit at the end and I was trying hard not to fall off on the older tyres. Fortunately I also had Johnny in the No.52 behind me in the closing stages; it gives you a bit more of a safety buffer knowing you have a wing man there.”
Gunnar Jeanette, No.53 Ferrari 458 Italia: Started from p6 LMGTE, and handed over to Montecalvo after 79 minutes. Finished 3rd in LMGTE.
“I was willing Frankie to hold onto third place, but didn’t want to jinx it, and we’re obviously very happy to move up into second place in the drivers’ championship. He did a fantastic job at the end and I have to say our Michelins also did a fantastic job. We ran one set of tyres for the whole race as it was really the only way we could have a chance of fighting with JMW.
"Unfortunately the pace dropped off but Frankie was able to keep a good enough lap time going to keep us in third. I’m happy for our team mates but at the same time that lights a fire under us so hopefully by next race I will be able to use both my legs and that will allow us to go one or two steps higher on the podium.