Sunday, June 3, 2001

Daytona with Joel

911 and Porsche World

This year I went to the Daytona 24-hour race with a good friend, Joel Reiser, who just started racing this past year. I have known Joel Reiser for ten years or so, we met because we are both Porsche enthusiast and share the interest in modifying Porsches for more performance. He contacted me because he had read my suggestions for modifying the 911SC engines in my Porsche 911 Performance Handbook and had some questions. He contacted me to find out how to modify a 911 SC that he owned at the time and he and I became great friends. 

Over the years Joel got involved in the Porsche Club of America Drivers Education events held at the different tracks in the north eastern United States and in Canada. He has run PCA drivers education events for the past eight year and instructed for the past five. Joel kept buying newer and better cars to participate in the club events, but he also continued to modify all of his cars. I tried to talk Joel into running in some of the club races, but because of the modifications that he made to his cars they were always unfavorably classed so he never ran any of the club races.

Then last fall he ordered a factory 993 RSR which was delivered in late December 1997 as a 1998 model. His first event with this car was a test session in June, which was the first time he had ever driven on slicks. A couple weeks later he entered his first PCA club race in the RSR at Mosport July 27, 1998 where he placed second in GT2R. Joel told me he had a fantastic time an that the thrill of passing the other guy was a lot more fun that he thought it would be. He said that passing cars added a whole new dimension to cars for him. 

In early July Joel also bought Jochen Rohr’s GT1 car which he immediately started racing. He raced it in the 50/50 at Watkins Glen and four top ten finishes in the Canada Challenge Cup races at Mosport. Joel’s racing carrier was limited to these races before entering the Daytona 24-hour race in January. 

After Joel got the GT1 car he met Tony Callas who had a great deal of experience with GT1 Porsches, a lot of that experience with the car that Joel bought from Jochen Rohr, both with Rohr and the previous owner the Roock Brothers. Tony has been involved in racing since he was a kid starting with his father, racing their 910 and RSRs. Tony moved to California in 1985 working for several prestigious Porsche shops before starting his own Callas Rennsport in 1992. The past few years Callas has worked for several name teams including the New Zealand New Hardware team in 1996. I first met Tony Callas at Daytona 1996 when he was with the New Hardware team. He has also worked for Rohr Motorsport, Roock Racing and Champion racing. Tony was a member of the Rohr GT1 team that won their class at Daytona in both 1997 and 1998 and won the GT1 class at the Petit Le Mans with the Champion team. He was alto the lead engineer for the Rohr Motorsport team when they won the GT1 championship in 1997 with the Porsche GT1 car. 

Joel and Tony Callas hit it off personally and decided to do more together than just the GT1 racing. Joel shipped his car from his home in NY to Tony Callas’s shop in California with the idea that they would run the car in some of the west coast PCA club races. Instead they decided to race the car in the January 24-hour race and started making plans toward that end in November. 

They started rounding up drivers for the race and planned a test session at Willow Springs December 21, 1998. By then three drivers had been selected, Joel, Grady Wilingham and Johnny Mowlem. 

Joel is 39 years old the Chief Technical Officer of Matamor Software Solutions which is headquartered in Rochester, NY. Metamor is one of the teams sponsors. Grady Willingham is 35, from Birmingham Alabama and entering his seventh season of racing. Grady has class wins at Sebring, Road Atlanta and Road America. Grady has raced at Daytona the past three years scoring victories in all three races. He has also claimed a victory in his class in the HSR/Rolex Enduro at Road Atlanta in 1995. Johnny Mowlem was referred to Tony Callas by his friend Allan McNish. Mowlem is 29 years old from Great Britain in his ninth season as a professional racer. Most of his experience has been in formula cars, with a change to the Pirelli Porsche Cup series in 1996. In 1996 he recorded a class victory and a second overall, he was back Cup racing again in 1998 where he wan first overall. The Daytona 24-hour race was his first endurance race. 

After the test session they were lucky to add David Murry to the driver line up for the race. Murry who is 41 and lives in Atlanta, GA and is the most experienced of the driving team. Murry has been racing since 1981 and has recorded three championships, the most recent SCCA’s World Challenge drivers championship. 

This was Johnny Mowlem’s first endurance race so I was interested in his impressions of the race. He said that in the test at Daytona early in January he was impressed with being there. He said that the green grass in front of the pits is like a putting green and then behind that you see a wall with Daytona on it and all of the grandstands behind that, it really makes a big impression. He said that at most road courses like Le Mans and there is no real land mark that you can look at and say well, that’s Le Man, whereas Daytona is so obviously Daytona. Was really excited to be there. When they asked him to qualify the car during one of the qualifying sessions he said he was really honored that they would ask him with David Murry on the same team with so much more experience at Daytona. 

He said that it was nice to work with David Murry, because David was so helpful. It gave him a lot of confidence to be able to run the same sort of time as David. Johnny and David were able to work together on the setup of the cars and then to be able to go out and qualify the car was simply fantastic. Johnny told me that he never ever thought that they would finish the race, not that he didn’t’ think that they would finish, but he said he just never thought about them finishing. He said he just assumed that they wouldn’t finish, until he got back from resting read to drive again at about eleven in the morning, twenty two hours into the race and the car was second in class and eighth overall in the race. He said he remember thinking then maybe we are going to finish and do well. He didn’t realize that the car had stalled already and David had gotten it back to the pits and saved their position.
Johnny got in and drove for the last hour an a half in very slippery rainy conditions. The team wanted to leave David Murry in the car because he was used to driving the car in the rain there as he was in the car when the rain started. However, to leave Murry in until the end would exceed the four hours continuous driving allowed by the rules so the team had to change drivers. Johnny was anxious about getting in while it was raining with the car in a good position for fear he might have a problem learning the wet track. He felt that it was going to take two or three laps to get to know the track without throwing it into the wall. The O7 closing down on their second place car and he was concerned that he might loose second position while he learned the track in the wet. There was a lot of pressure on him to do well and maintain their second position. During that last hour one of the Ferraris in the CanAm class went by him that had problems earlier but was again running well and passed them for eighth overall dropping them to ninth overall. 

Johnny said that at the end of the day Joel has the enthusiasm and commitment to do the job properly, Tony Callas is unbelievably good as a crew chief, particularly when it came to dealing with the car. He said he enjoyed it so much even though he was so tired at the end of the race and had sores on his hands. It was so much to take in, but he felt so happy for Joel and Tony that he didn’t really feel any happiness for himself until he got home and had time to think about it. Afterwards he said he thought about it and thought wow that it really good for his career as a race drive. He said that when he got home people were ringing him up and telling him you have done yourself so much good. He said that at the end of the race he was just happy for the guys and happy that the race was over, because there is nothing worse than being the one that is sitting in the car when it stops.
He said it was a wonderful experience for him, it worked out absolutely perfect. It was such an adventure to start out they rang him up about the twelfth of December and two weeks later he was in California testing at Willow Springs and a month later they were finishing second in the race at Daytona. That is like the sort of stories you have in a comic books. 

He said that David Murry was very helpful. When he knew he was going to be driving with David Murry he told Allan McNish, and Allan told him that he was a perfect guy for him and that he would help him and not try to hurt him. And he will be a really good guy to learn about 24-hour races from. Johnny said that everything McNish said was true, he was a great guy and he gave him a lot of advice and helped him the whole way through. He said he told him that when he got out of the car not to hang around the pits, even if it is day time, but to go back to the motor home and lay down even if he couldn’t sleep. Lay down, relax, drink, eat bananas and don’t start getting caught up in the race because it will catch up with you. He said he was glad that he took Murry’s advice, because if he had stayed in the pits until nine or ten at night and then had to do night driving he would have been finished. He said that advice like that was very helpful for him because David Murry really knows what he is doing. He said that this was his first ever 24-hour race and that he was happy to have started with this team and David Murry. 

David Murry said that the teams plan was to qualify the primary number 02 car for the race. But that between the early January test at Daytona and the race Joel Reiser had purchased a second RSR that the team planned to qualify and then start in the race, but not run the entire race. With the two cars they would have more time for all four drivers to become familiar with the track and the 993 RSRs. They didn’t have enough time to race prepare the second car nor the crew to run the two car in the race. The new number 92 RSR is red and was fitted with basically the same spring rates and set up as theyhad on the primary car. Joel Reiser and Grady Willingham spent most of their time driving the red number 92 car to get more track experience while Johnny Mowlem and David Murry worked on setup in the number 02 car getting it ready to run in the race. Thursday was practice and qualifying so they didn’t have much time to get everything done before it was time to qualify, which is why having the two cars was a real benefit for the team. 

During qualifying on Thursday David Murry took the white number 02 car out on a light fuel load to qualify it. I took Murry awhile to get a couple of clear laps and qualify and by then he had run out of fuel, but by the checkered flag he had qualified fifth. The plan had been to have Johnny Mowlem qualify the red number 92 car, but they were experiencing ABS problems and the car did not get out during the Thursday session. Thursday David Murry said that the had a chance to change the set up on the white number 02 again and it was better. It was a two hour session and everyone got some time in the primary number 02 car during the night practice.
Friday the plan was for Johnny Mowlem to qualify the number 02 car and David Murry to qualify the red number 92 car to make sure that it was in the race just in case something happened to the primary car at the start of the race. The red number 92 car was again troubled with some brake problems and team manager Tony Callas most of the final qualifying session to solve the problem. They just got the car out at the end of the session in time for one lap of qualifying. The one lap was good enough to qualify the car for the race so both cars were qualified for the race. 

David Murry said that it is really hard to understand what it takes to do well in a long race until you have done one - or more. Joel and Johnny had never done an endurance race before and he was surprised at how quickly that they they figured it out. Murry started the race 6th in GT3 and by the end of his first driving sting he was in 4th place. Johnny Mowlem started the red car and ran it for about 20 minutes before retiring it. Then Johnny took over the primary car from Murry and when he turned it over to Grady Willingham he was 3rd in GT3. David Murry said that they were looking pretty good after the first round of driving, but it was very early. Grady drove his stint and turned the controls over to Joel Reiser. They did that same rotation again through all four drivers and were still 4th. It was going to be a tough battle. The Alex Job Porsche had led from the pole and was very strong. There car was more extensively developed than the Reiser/Callas car so they weren’t able to run quite as fast a pace as the lead car, but even so they soon found themselves 2nd in the GT3 class with the G&W #07 very close behind. 
Murry said that in the morning, around 9 AM with four hours of the race to go it began to rain. The rain came down very fast and hard, hard enough for USRRC to go full coarse yellow. David Murry knew the track conditions and drove most of the rest of the race. He couldn’t finish the race because that would put him over the 4-hour straight driving limit that USRRC has set. The plan was to put Johnny Mowlem in for the last hour plus to finish the race. The team was confident that Johnny could finish the race. He was "very" quick and would adapt to the conditions instantly. Johnny an incredible job to finish 2nd in GT3 and 9th overall. The #07 car had an axle break just before the finish but fixed it to finish 3rd in GT3. 

I spent most of my time at Daytona either out photographing the cars on the track or hanging out in the pits taking photos of the various GT3 teams doing their pit work. The Reiser/Callas Rennsport team was a well organized team with good team members and most of their stops went well. Tony Callas’ dad Mike was on the crew and about dawn I was talking with him and he said that he remembered why he had quit racing before. All of the leading GT3 teams did well, but they all had minor problems in the last few hours of the race that because the each had their own problems had little effect on the outcome of th e race. The lead Alex Job car, number 23, had and axle fail that they had to replace. The third place G&W Motorsports, number 07, car had a similar problem. While the second place Reiser/Callas Rennsport, number 02 car, had an oxygen sensor fail and the car died out on the course. Fortunately David Murry was able to get the car running again and return to the pits where Tony Callas could diagnose and repair the car and get it under way again.

1 comment:

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