Newly signed Drayson Racing driver Emanuele Pirro has taken his first steps with the team, visiting the Lola factory in Huntingdon, UK.
It was announced yesterday that Pirro – a five time Le Mans and twice 12 Hours of Sebring winner – had joined the Anglo-American team as a third driver for the longer races the team will enter this year. Today the Italian was at Lola, along wither teammates Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker, for a seat fitting ahead of shakedown test scheduled for Friday.
“After 31 years of motor racing experience, it is the first time that I visit the Lola factory,” says Pirro. “It's been quite something to see.”
“I really wanted to come here and not to arrive in Sebring as an alien,” he continued. “I really believe in team spirit, in bonding together and I wanted to come here and see the Lola factory, see the car, get acquainted with all the car systems but above all with the team.”
“Part of the pleasure of racing is being all together and pulling the rope all in one direction, so if you don't know these people, it's very difficult to do this, so I want to make very good use of these two days and as much as possible start to feel home and to make them look at me not like a guest, but like one of them.”
Pirro's arrival at the team, which will campaign a Lola Coupe powered by a Judd engine, marks a change in the driver's career path, having driven for Audi, first in the R8, the R10 machines before moving to an off-track role last year. However, despite his past with German marquee he admits he has always had something of a soft sport for the Cambridgeshire based firm.
“It's always been interesting for me to see how Lola do,” he explains. “Because I know how big an effort a manufacture like Audi are putting into sports cars and how relatively small a factory, not in terms of the factory, but in terms of investment in the project like Lola is.”
But now he is behind the wheel of a Lola, how does he think he'll cope with the car, being a closed coupe, and having, as Lola point out, a petrol fuelled, non-turbo engine?
“I haven't driven a non-turbo engine for ages and I would probably appreciate the driveability of this normally aspirated engine,” he says. “I have to say, in 1991 with the Scudeia Italia Dallara F1 that JJ Lehto and I drove, the Judd V10 engine was the grand-grandson of this engine in the Lola now.”
“I was told by a lot of people that Lola is a nice and user-friendly and easy-to-drive car, so I'm looking forward to it, but all in all this is a passion-driven decision for me and I am sure I will be finding people who share the same motivation as I have, so I am looking forward to it.”
Following the shakedown Pirro will join the team for Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans. However, he will also continue his ambassadorial role with Audi, the Italian thanking them for their “flexibility and understanding” in allowing him to race for Drayson.