Johnny Mowlem on glorious Goodwood

Historic Racing

Before I wrote this I had to have a look at my last post on the website as so much has happened, I’d forgotten where I’d finished last time!

So to bring you up to date, in the past few weeks I have attended the famous Le Mans 24 hours – unfortunately as a pundit rather than a competitor – raced at the Nürburgring and Spa in the factory Lotus Evora GTE and just last weekend attended the phenomenal Goodwood Festival of Speed.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Le Mans, despite the pain of not being on track. Working for both the ACO and Eurosport allowed me to experience some semblance of a challenge even if it was more to do with a chap speaking in my ear on live TV in French whilst I was speaking in English, rather than trying to release the brake a little earlier and carry that extra one kmh into Indianapolis or the Porsche curves!

Having said that, the action on track helped because of the amazing battles across the different classes. In particular I take my hat off to fellow Brits Darren Turner and Oliver Gavin for going at it for so long, wheel-to-wheel, in their respective Aston Martin and Corvette GTs. I really felt for Allan McNish when it all went wrong, as well as worrying for Anthony Davidson in his huge crash in the Toyota.

But one of the drives of the race for me was Nicolas Lapierre legitimately catching the leading Audi, and taking the overall race lead for Toyota. It was a fine first effort for the Japanese manufacturer, which signals perhaps the start of yet another great Le Mans rivalry.

My own races at the Nürburgring and Spa were mixed, but I can look back at them very positively as we continue to improve the pretty and nimble Lotus Evora in the International GT championship. We managed to bag two consecutive top six Super GT finishes, which is no mean feat in a field that includes Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Porsche etc.

At the Nürburgring the whole race weekend was dry, rather unusually! But Spa did not disappoint and I once again got to experience the joys of aquaplaning on the approach to Les Combes, as well as through the left-hand kink before Blanchimont, which in the wet felt like it had turned into a hairpin rather than a flat out kink.

I have to say that the highlight of my last few weeks has to be attending glorious Goodwood. The weather was – most of the time – kind, and as Lotus was sponsoring the event, I got to drive the Lotus F1 concept T125 car up the hill twice a day. I had great fun doing burnouts, but then I found out that I was actually being timed, so I started taking it all little bit more seriously – not too seriously though – and got the car firmly into the top 10 shootout for the final day on Sunday. At this point though, we decided that we should bow out gracefully and let the ‘hill professionals’ fight it out. Anthony Reid deserves special mention for his commitment past that flint wall and thoroughly deserved to win the hill climb event.

The highlight for me, though, wasn’t driving up the hill, it was experiencing firsthand the warmth of all those spectating over the three days, and especially their appreciation of all things Lotus. It made me feel proud to be a part of what is obviously still such an iconic brand. Heaven knows how Clive Chapman, who was there looking after multiple Lotus cars across all eras, must have felt.

The one thing that really stands out for me was after one of our hill runs, Tom Kristensen and I got to spend 20 minutes crouched down next to Stirling Moss in a Lotus 18, whilst he regaled us both with stories of three and a half hour Formula 1 races around Monaco and similar tales of daring-do.

Tom and I were like a couple of kids and couldn’t stop looking at each other and grinning throughout, both of us fully appreciating the fortune of sharing such a moment with such a legend.

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