After winning the 2013 European Le Mans Series GTE championship, Ram Racing is set to step up to the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, in what will no doubt be its toughest challenge yet.
The British squad has hedged its bets by fielding Ferrari F458 Italia GTs in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am, with its Prancing Horse in the Pro-Am-enforced category being led by Johnny Mowlem.
For Mowlem, his decision to compete in GTE-Am this year was largely based around the chances of pulling off a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an event that has eluded the former Sebring, Daytona and Petit Le Mans class winner.
“For me, one thing that I feel that’s missing on my CV is a class win at Le Mans,” Mowlem told Sportscar365. “Obviously, I would love to win Le Mans overall but I have to be realistic. The opportunities to do that are few and far between for any driver that isn’t employed by one of maybe 2 or 3 LMP1 manufacturers.
“One thing that David Brabham said to me, that I found very interesting, was that it didn’t feel any different up on the podium when he won Le Mans overall and when he won it in class. The only difference, he said, was the next day when there was a lot more attention [on the overall win].”
Mowlem, who will be making his 10th start in the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic, will be teamed with fellow Englishman Ben Collins, who was recently downgraded to Silver status, and U.S.-based South African Mark Patterson, as the team’s designated Bronze-rated driver.
It’s a line-up that could likely turn some heads, especially with the new driver enforcement policies in GTE-Am. But Mowlem is under no illusion that the result could come easy, particularly in the team’s Le Mans debut.
“I think Ram is 100 percent ready,” he said. “Will they cover every angle that could possibly go wrong? Possibly not. But I don’t believe any team at Le Mans will be able to do that. I think they’re more than ready but obviously we all realize this is another step up. So we really need to focus and deliver.
“To come along and do it in your first year is always a big ask. For us to run completely clean at Le Mans and only come in for fuel and tires… That’s a tall order in itself. But I think if we achieve that with both cars in both classes, we’ll have a very good chance of a very good finish.”
With the GTE-Pro class at the 24-hour stacked with factory entries from Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and SRT, the level of competition will be at an all-time high.
Mowlem’s 2013 co-driver Matt Griffin along with McLaren factory driver on-loan Alvaro Parente will spearhead Ram’s attack in the factory ranks as the only privateer entry, although the team remains bullish about their chances, even in GTE-Pro.
“We’re confident we’ll have an excellent driver line up in both classes which will be able to take the fight to the manufacturer entries,” said team principal Dan Shufflebottom. “We are under no illusions as to the level which will be required of all of us, but we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think we could meet that high standard.”
While Mowlem’s primary objective is to secure a class win at Le Mans, he’s also set for his first full season in the FIA WEC, after having competed in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the championship’s precursor, in 2011 in a Lotus Evora.
“It’s nice to race in something that’s a World Championship,” he said. “I did the American Le Mans Series for many years and that was almost like a world championship because everybody that was anybody was there.
“The ALMS was the strongest sports car championship in the world for many years… But now it will be nice to be racing all around the world in what is actually an officially FIA sanctioned World Championship.”