Red River Sport can confirm a change in its driver line-up for the final round of Season 8 of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Bahrain International Circuit (12-14 November).
Johnny Mowlem and Charlie Hollings have stepped aside, and the Silver-graded Kei Cozzolino and Colin Noble Junior have been recruited by Red River Sport to partner amateur racer Bonamy Grimes in the #62 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.
Team Principal Johnny has worn many hats over the past 12 months, the ‘semi-retired’ professional racer taking on the roles of three people by acting as Team Manager, coach and pro driver for Red River Sport’s AF Corse-run WEC programme.
Back in January, Mowlem began entertaining the idea of stepping down from racing at the end of the 2019-20 WEC season to focus on overseeing Red River Sport’s future race programmes and coaching Bon, to ensure his continued progression.
Of course, Johnny could never have expected the world to be turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the WEC season would stretch through to November 2020.
“When you’re driving, it’s often difficult to focus on anything else and see the wood for the trees, and this year, it has often felt like I’m being stretched in several different directions at once, especially with the demands of the FIA WEC, it being one of the most competitive championships in the world,” said
Mowlem. “It sometimes felt a bit like race weekends back in 2006 when I was racing an LMP1 Zytek in the American Le Mans Series and a GT3 Aston Martin in the World Challenge Series (on Toyo road tyres), with back-to-back practice and qualifying sessions on the same weekend, at the same track. It was bloody difficult!”
Whether Bon will go into a second WEC campaign is yet to be decided, largely due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19, but the 8 Hours of Bahrain presents a opportunity to look to the future and assess drivers, with the view of forming the best possible 2021 line-up.
As a result, 32-year old Cozzolino from Japan and 24-year old Scottish endurance racer Noble will fill the breach for Mowlem and Hollings in the FIA WEC Bahrain curtain-closer.
“Kei (Cozzolino) was always top of our list,” said Mowlem. “In my opinion, he is an incredibly underrated driver, but he’s also a really good guy, which is important because the off-track dynamic is just as crucial as their speed on the track. In addition to that, he’s a known quantity in a Ferrari GTE, and along with Nick Nielsen, he has pretty much been the Ferrari benchmark all season long.
“Colin (Noble), meanwhile, is well known to us, as he has been managed by Red River Sport for the last two years. In fact, he very nearly got the initial WEC seat when we were looking at Silver drivers back in the summer of 2019, but a lack of GT experience counted against him a little. However, we know he’s a fast learner and this is the perfect opportunity to go out and enjoy himself and learn in a low-pressure situation. I will make sure I’m there to support and help him as much as I can, to speed up that learning process.”
Mowlem continued: “However, it would be extremely remiss of me if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank Charlie (Hollings) for his contribution to our 2019-20 FIA WEC season. It has had its ups and downs and seems to have gone on forever, but Bon, Charlie and I have had a lot of fun throughout and Charlie contributed hugely to that. He will definitely remain in the Red River Sport family moving forward.”
So, for Bonamy Grimes and Red River Sport, the adventure continues…