Sweedler, Keen and Mowlem Race to a Ninth Place Finish in the Team West/AJR Ferrari in the Last ALMS Petit Le Mans
BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct.19, 2013) - Bill Sweedler, Leh Keen and Johnny Mowlem drove the Team West/Alex Job Racing Ferrari to a ninth place finish in the final edition of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta today.
Keen (Charleston, SC) started the No. 23 Team West/AJR 458 GT and was able to run as high as fifth during his stint. He turned the red-and-white Ferrari over to Sweedler (West Port, Conn.) on lap 67. Sweedler ran strong laps and gave the car to Mowlem (United Kingdom) just as the weather was changing to rain. The Englishman was able to get up to speed quickly on the Yokohama rain tires and drove the 458 GT up to sixth place. The team was looking like they were heading for a season's best finish until Sweedler got punted into the Turn Five gravel trap by the No. 53 LMPC car, sending the team down a lap and into ninth place in the ultra-competitive GT field.
"We had a good race today," Sweedler said. "Leh put in a great first stint and Johnny did a really nice job in the rain and then again later in the day. We were in a good position to post our best finish of the season when I was hit from behind exiting Turn Five and was put into the gravel trap. That cost us a lap. The car was really good all day. We were able to run very competitive lap times and with the way the GT race finished we missed an opportunity to have a really good day. That is what brings you back next year."
"I had a really good start to the race," Keen said. "It was mixed conditions. The Yokohama tires really came in for me and the car was handling really well. We moved up a few positions and were looking good early. Bill followed me and put in a great stint. Johnny got in, ran in the rain and we were still looking good. There were a lot of close calls and then Bill's incident was a tough one. Everyone had some drama in the GT class today. The car was good, the Yokohama tires were under us and the team had good pit stops. It is the last ALMS race, so I am glad to have driven with Alex and the team to close out a great era of racing."
"I had an early 75 lap stint, so I was working hard early," Mowlem said. "Throughout my first stint the conditions were changing, so that was interesting. Personally I was really happy with my last run. I was able to hold onto the leading GT group. The Yokohama tire was very consistent the first 10 or 15 laps. The car at that point was the best it had been all week. I was really pleased with the effort today from the team and teammates. I went down to the grid before the start of the race, which I don't usually do, but I wanted to take it all in one last time. The ALMS has been very important for my career. I was here for the first race in 1999 and I was here for the last one today. It is the end of an era."
Team co-owner Eduardo Espindola is proud of the effort today.
"We had a good race," Espindola said. "Bill, Leh and Johnny did a great job. We were in a position late in the race to have our best result of the season and then Bill got put off, but that happens. The team did a great job and the car ran great all day."
Alex Job, team co-owner, is proud to finish the last ALMS Petit Le Mans in the GT class where he started.
"We were a GT class competitor at the first Petit Le Mans and were one in the last one as well," Job said. "It was a good day. The car was competitive and we were in a position to control our own fate when Bill got hit. It was too bad we deserved a better finish than ninth."
The new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will take to the track for their first event, the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona, Jan. 25-26, 2014.
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing with 70 wins (since 1995); including two Rolex 24 GT Class wins in 1999 and 2013. This record is supported by 48 pole positions and 106 podium finishes. The team has won five championships (GTC 2013 and 2012, GT in 2004, 2003 and 2002) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts nine Sebring 12-hour wins.
The ALMS GT Class is comprised of production-based, moderately-modified, two-wheel drive race cars including the BMW Z4, Corvette C6.R, Ferrari F458 GT, Viper SRT and Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The GT cars share many similarities to their showroom brands. With top speeds of up to 180 mph, these elite GTs produce between 450-500 horsepower and have a minimum weight of 1,145 kilograms (2,480 pounds). All GT race cars have green Leader Light System race position lights and green car numbers.