After sweeping all before him in the Italian GT Championship in the Pro-Am class over the last two years, Simon Mann is broadening his horizons and looking beyond Italy. In advance of a possible challenge for the FIA WEC, the American driver is plotting his revenge in one of the USA’s most famous races: the Daytona 24 hours.
Mann competed in the legendary race last January and, given his near victory, he has a score to settle. "My first Daytona 24 Hours was really special," says the AF Corse driver. "It was a great opportunity to gain experience. There were no great expectations, so I just tried to learn as much as I could; in the end, we ended up doing a great job as a team." An already difficult race was further complicated by other factors such as fatigue and the prototypes. "I had never competed in a race lasting more than three hours before. At first, I was slightly nervous about having to drive all that time, and I didn't know how I would cope with the tiredness. But in the end there was so much adrenaline and tension flowing through my body that I didn't even feel tired – I didn't have the time! After the race, however, I was completely exhausted. And the prototypes weren’t so bad: they are really fast, and the important thing is to hold your line.” At Daytona there is also added excitement from driving on the banking of the oval's corners. "Photographs don’t do justice to the elevated speedways. Seeing them for the first time is very impressive. They are much deeper than you expect and being on them is another story: at first, they’re a bit scary, but then it becomes a very special experience. The circuit is really interesting – particularly in the final part. The atmosphere in the US is special too, and completely different to Europe." But it is in Europe – Italy especially – where Mann has enjoyed another great season. "The races in Italy are tough right from the start, so you always have to stay focused. It was doubly thrilling to repeat last year’s victory as well as win in endurance for the first time.”