MOWLEM, ORBIT AMONG THE FASTEST IN ROLEX 24 RACE DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Johnny Mowlem and his Orbit Racing teammates had an early and disappointing finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a finish Mowlem knows could have been so much...
MOWLEM, ORBIT AMONG THE FASTEST IN ROLEX 24 RACE
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Johnny Mowlem and his Orbit Racing teammates had an early and disappointing finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a finish Mowlem knows could have been so much better.
Unforeseen circumstances, the snakebite of endurance racing, slowed the car.
Mowlem, a former winner of the famed event, was at the wheel for a dramatic moment early in the event and showed his grit to keep the car among the fastest in class during the race. It was standard fare for one of the world's best drivers.
The event started under torrential rain and treacherous wet conditions that caused the organizers to begin under a caution flag in order to splash the cars through the wettest spots on the track and, thus, eliminate some standing water. Once the field went to racing speed, Mowlem was in his element moving quickly through the field in his Porsche GT from sixth to third; "I was just slipstreaming the Mazda in front of me and beginning to pull out of line to make a pass for second place. Then suddenly my right rear tyre blew. We're still not sure why, but it went in a big way, ripping the rear fender off..... it certainly got my attention!"
Mowlem narrowly avoided crashing into the famous Daytona Speedway banking at over 160mph and was also lucky not to be crashed into by closely following cars.
The resulting pit stop relegated #88 Porsche right to the rear of the field, but Johnny then stayed in the car for the best part of three hours and fought back up through the field lapping in the damp on slicks at a quicker pace than the GT leader. When Mowlem handed over to Tom Papadopoulos the car was back in the top 10. Tom had a great double stint and was followed by Guy Cosmo who continued the charge. Car owner Lance Willsey had a small incident on his outlap, but then went on to have a fantastic stint as well.
Mowlem went back behind the wheel at 11:30pm at night and again began to push as hard as he could to try and get back up into the top 6, which he had managed by the time he got back out of the car at 1:30am.
"The positive for me is that having qualified at the front of the field we showed in the race that we also had the speed to fight for a good result. I particularly enjoyed my fight with the GT leader, Jorg Bergmeister, during the night when I managed to pass him to get one of our laps back. So we know what could have been because we were as fast as the leaders, even faster at times."
Ultimately a top five result was still looking likely despite the setbacks, when the car caught fire with John Baker behind the wheel due to a fuel line rupturing after contact. This forced the Orbit team to retire the 88 car at 7:30am on Sunday.
"I feel for the whole team" said Mowlem, "they all worked so hard and put in so many hours working on the car to make it competitive, and then we end up with a bunch of problems outside of our control like punctures. Roll on the next race!"
Mowlem, who lives in England, will be returning to the United States for the annual 12 Hours of Sebring in the spring.