Having spent recent years competing in GT machinery, Johnny Mowlem will hope for a successful 2009 season as Corsa Motorsports enters its first full season running the Zytek that debuted in the ALMS late in 2008.

Crash.net caught up with Mowlem to discuss the year ahead...

Crash.net:
It's been a mixed bag for you in recent years in terms of the cars you have driven, but for 2009 the programme is in place in the hybrid Zytek. How much are you looking forward to it?

Johnny Mowlem:
You're right. I've been in the GT class for a while now, most recently with the Ferrari after the Porsche and Saleen gigs but towards the end of last year I got back into LMP1 prototypes and I loved it. It's so nice to be back in a car with an open cockpit and which has some downforce so I'm really looking forward to it. The KERS hybrid system will be quite complicated, so we have to make sure that works as effectively as we would like it to, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Crash.net:
When the car debuted last season, it wasn't running the KERS system. What kind of testing have you actually been able to do away from the race track?

Johnny Mowlem:
Well we haven't actually run it as a KERS yet. We were hoping to run it at Petit Le Mans and Laguna as you rightly mentioned, but we never got the chance as it wasn't ready in time. The car is on the dyno at Zytek and they are making sure it all works correctly, and I suspect we will then be out testing towards the end of this month or at the start of February for the first time. We'll then aim to bring it all together for the Sebring Twelve Hours in March when the system will be able to debut.

Crash.net:
Do you anticipate it leading to a change in your driving style having the KERS system in place?

Johnny Mowlem:
That's a good question. People don't really think about it and think that 'oh you have KERS, just push a button and get some boost'. However, the car regenerates the energy under braking so it has quite an effect on how the car balance is taken under braking so I'm quite curious about how that will affect me when driving the car. I can't anticipate that it will need a different driving style, but I think there will some things under braking and into the corners than will influence how you drive the car.

Crash.net:
What do you think will be achievable with the programme given it is in its infancy, the technology is new and the team is still new to prototype racing? What's a good goal to set?

Johnny Mowlem:
That's another good question. Obviously, being brutally honest, aside from Sebring where there will be Peugeot and Audi, the decision taken by Audi to withdraw from the ALMS means a lot of the competition has gone. I suspect that with the current economic climate, it could be a situation where the main contenders for victory - the overall victory - will be the two Acuras from Highcroft and de Ferran and ourselves with the Zytek.

You'd like to think that if they are running into a few teething problems and we are running reliably - and we should be as even if the KERS fails it won't stop the car - then realistically we could maybe win the LMP1 championship. I suppose a more realistic approach is to run in the top two or three overall and if we can get a few victories this year then I would be more than delighted.

Crash.net:
You say there that a KERS issue wouldn't stop the car so does that mean that if it was to fail mid-race, it wouldn't impact too much on the performance of the car?

Johnny Mowlem:
It depends on how the failure happens. Obviously, if a battery catches fire or something awful like that happens, then it will have an impact. But if the actual KERS system itself stops working for whatever reason, we will just carry on driving without it. It's very simple to disable as well so hopefully it isn't something that will end up causing us to not finish a race.

Crash.net:
Aside from the ALMS programme, do you have anything else in place for this season?

Johnny Mowlem:
I've just come back from the Daytona test days and it looks like I may race in the Rolex 24 Hours and if that is the car then it would be something like the eleventh time I have done it. I'm also hoping to possibly do the Spa 24 Hours as it missed it last year due to a calendar clash.

Crash.net:
What is the appeal of the Rolex 24?

Johnny Mowlem:
From a drivers point of view, it is just so relaxed. You got there and there isn't a huge crowd, although the NASCAR drivers attract a bit of attention. When I drove with Tony Stewart a few years ago I noticed how the attention increased but the whole environment is more relaxed and it's a nice way to start the year. Its almost like going back in time 30 or 40 years and there is no real pressure.

Last year we had a good run and qualified third and then had a good run until we hit gearbox problems. It's the total opposite of the Le Mans 24 Hours when as soon as you arrive you can find yourself being pressured and pressured. At Daytona, I've never experienced any kind of pressure before.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment