As part of The LuxPad’s expert series we’ve been busy hunting down experts from varied fields, looking for people who have succeeded in their chosen profession and hoping that they will share their secrets to success. This week, and fifth in our series, the professional international racing driver Johnny Mowlem is our Expert. Ranked amongst the top sportscar and GT drivers in the world, this two-time British champion and one-time European GT Le Mans Champion has certainly reached the pinnacle of his career and become a true expert in his field. He chats to The LuxPad below, sharing his most memorable races and toughest challenges that helped him to reach where he is today…
Growing up did you always know that you wanted to be a professional racing driver and how did you first get into the sport?
I spent the first few years of my life near Crystal Palace, and although I was still very young I have vague memories of hearing cars racing by. We moved to Spain when I was just two years old but I’ll never forget that memory. Most people get into the sport via go-karting, but I actually didn’t, and my father didn’t even have a driving license. When my grandfather passed away he left me a little bit of money and after completing a joint Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics/Spanish at Leeds University I used the money to start myself up. But it took seven years before I could finally turn professional and start getting paid.
What has been your most memorable race to date and why?
The Daytona 24hours race in 2006, that was definitely one of my highlights, winning an engraved Rolex Daytona watch also helped to make it quite memorable! Although, being on the podium at the famous Le Mans 24 as well as winning the European championship in 2013 are also up there as special career moments.
How does it feel to be considered one of the world’s elite sports car drivers?
I don’t consider myself as one of the elite, although I know that I do belong to a very small (and lucky) group of people that actually get paid to race cars for as living. I’m still pleasantly surprised when people recognise me and ask me to sign a photo of some car I’ve raced 10 years ago, which tends to happen especially at the Le Mans 24, but then that race is such a special and huge event on so many levels.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career and why?
That is hard, I’m not sure I really believe in having heroes as you should forge your own path and be unique, but the two drivers that captured my imagination the most growing up were Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna.
What do you think it takes to become an expert?
To succeed is a mixture of determination and bloody mindedness. If I had listened to all the people telling I wouldn’t succeed and given up I certainly wouldn’t have managed to be a success on any level. You also have to be able to bounce back as there are continual knock backs, and it’s how you let those knockbacks define you that will decided whether you will succeed or not in my opinion. Finally, it helps to have a chip on your shoulder in terms of a burning desire to prove to everyone that you can do it!
What do you think are the three most important qualities to possess to be a great driver?
Talent, single mindness / determination and a sense of humour.
What has been the hardest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Actually managing to overcome the challenge of going from being a driver that had to find sponsorship to take to teams in order to be able to race, to becoming one of that group of 40-50 British drivers in the world who get paid to race at an international level.
If you weren’t a professional racing driver what would you be and why?
Working on a trading floor in the city – or perhaps more likely a beach bum on some beach in Mallorca!.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Be nice to people on the way up as you may see them on the way down, I realised this mid-career and it has served me well since.
What’s next for you and your career?
Racing the new AMARA 488 Ferrari at Le Mans.
See more of Johnny and the Amara Ferrari over on the blog.