Veteran Tony Dowe Launches Ferrari Assault on Rolex 24
Veteran motorsports boss Tony Dowe is set to launch a Ferrari 430 GT assault on next year's Rolex 24 at Daytona - aiming to take the Ferrari marque back to victory lane in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 competition for the first time in nearly a decade.
The man who led the TWR Jaguar squad to overall victory in the 24-hour classic in 1988 and 1990 and a pair of class triumphs in 1992 and 1993, Dowe has assembled a top-line international driver line up for the January race for his Aten Motorsports squad featuring German Dominik Farnbacher, Brit Rob Bell and Danish driver Allan Simonsen.
All three have achieved great success aboard the Ferrari 430 in the past and the trio have a successful driving history together as teammates.
Farnbacher finished second with Dirk Müller in the GT class of the 2008 American Le Mans Series for Tafel Racing - a team run by Dowe.
The 26-year-old also has been driving a Ferrari alongside Simonsen for the past two seasons in the European-based Le Mans Series. Their results have included a second place in GT at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and victory in the Asian Le Mans Series last year.
Farnbacher also contested Sebring and Petit Le Mans with Scott Sharp's Extreme Speed Motorsports aboard a 430 last season.
"It is great to be working with Tony again and I am really looking forward to the Rolex 24," Farnbacher said. "Tony was the guy who initially brought me over to the US for racing and gave me an opportunity. When he offered me this drive for Daytona I jumped at the chance because he has a fantastic track record in putting together very fast cars and the chance to drive again with Rob and Allan was fantastic."
Both Simonsen (32) and Bell (31) also contested endurance races for the Dowe-led Tafel team. In 2008 the duo also drove together in the Le Mans Series in 2007 - Bell taking the series crown. Only a clashing V8 Supercar race in Australia prevented Simonsen from having him share the championship with his teammate. Bell took his second LMS GT crown in 2008.
Simonsen also regularly competes in the British GT Championship aboard a 430 GT - winning the final round of this year's championship at Donington Park.
"I've had great success at Daytona in the past and I am really looking forward to going back next January with the Ferrari 430," Dowe said. "I always used to think you had to crazy to enjoy 24-hour races but as I have got older I have actually started to enjoy them. However, you really don't want to go and do these races unless you have a serious shot at winning and I think with our driver line-up we have an outstanding opportunity.
"Dominik, Rob and Allan have a lot of experience, speed and success in the Ferrari 430 GT and we will be looking forward to take advantage of that," Dowe added. "The best driver driver line-up I ever had at Daytona was David Brabham, Scott Pruett, Davy Jones and Scott Goodyear in 1992 when we won the GTP class. These guys I have now are very similar. They are young, hungry and very smart drivers who are extremely keen to win. They know what is expected and they do what is necessary. The confidence those guys have really spreads through the whole team. I'm very keen to take the Ferrari back to victory lane in Rolex Series competition. The fight out there in the GT class is very competitive but we are very fortunate to have an outstanding group of people backing this effort who have great confidence in the team and the drivers.
"We are looking forward to repaying that faith they have put in us."
The Ferrari 430 GT has never won in Rolex Series competition - a fact Dowe, Farnbacher, Bell and Simonsen are looking to erase in January at Daytona. The last Rolex Series victories for the Prancing Horse marque were in 2002 when the Ferrari of Washington-entered Ferrari 360 GT won five races en route to the series championship.
Ferrari however does have a strong winning heritage at Daytona. Pedro Rodríguez won a three-hour sportscar event at Daytona in 1963 and teamed up with Phil Hill to win a 2000-mile enduro the following year.
Ferrari's first 24 Hour victory came in 1967 with Lorenzo Bandini and Chris Amon while legends Marino Andretti and Jacky Ickx won a six-hour event in 1972.
Ferrari's last overall win came in 1998 with Mauro Baldi, Arie Luyendyk, Gianpiero Moretti and Didier Theys winning aboard a 333SP.
At the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Aten Motorsports squad will face stiff opposition - doing battle against the 2010 championship-winning Mazda RX8s and additional entries from Porsche, BMW, the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette plus a new Lamborghini.
Dowe's distinguished career began in the UK, working as a mechanic in Formula 1 for the Ensign, Brabham and Wolf teams before heading to the US in 1980 as chief mechanic for Patrick Tambay's championship winning CanAm car entered by Carl Haas.
After working for Jim Hall's Chaparral outfit in Indycars, Dowe was appointed as team manager for the newly formed Newman-Haas IndyCar outfit in 1982 - eventually winning the title in 1984.
He was charged with establishing the Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar US-base in late 1987 and began a remarkable run of success including three Daytona victories, 16 IMSA GTP wins and success at the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans running the car of Martin Brundle, John Nielsen and Price Cobb.
Further stints followed in Formula 1 with the TWR group at Ligier and Arrows before returning stateside to run successful programs for Panoz, Dick Barbour and Tafel Racing - all based in Atlanta. He also took a class victory at Daytona in 2003 running the Team Seattle SRP2 cars to first and second in class.
The new Aten Motorsports No. 00 Ferrari 430 GT will hit the track for the first time prior to Thanksgiving in Sebring before final preparations commence for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test days from Jan. 7-9 at Daytona International Speedway.
Dowe has pulled people from many of the past successful programs to form the core of the Aten Motorsports team for Daytona. Partners and sponsors for the campaign will be announced closer to the event.
The 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be held on Jan. 29-30 and will be broadcast live on SPEED.