It has been a busy off-season for Drayson Racing but the team are confident of beginning 2010 well as they prepare for the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The team are just one squad taking advantage of the week before the 58th running of the famous race to test at the track. However, the true preparation began last August when the Anglo-American team swapped their GT2 car for a Lola-Judd coupe, moving to compete in LMP1, Le Mans racing's premier category.
“When we decided last year to step up from GT2 to LMP1 we knew this would present an immense challenge to an independent family team like us,” says Elspeth, Lady Drayson co-owner of the team. “Our decision to make the switch six months before the start of the 2010 season and compete in four races in 2009 has given us the time and experience to prepare fully for the ALMS championship this year.”
Despite this approach the team's first steps with car were troubled. They debuted the new Coupe at last year's Petit Le Mans in late September where they were just one victim of the treacherous conditions that saw the race cut to half its intended length.
Then in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) finale at Laguna Seca the car was all but destroyed in a huge accident in the opening laps, the team facing a challenge simply to get the car to Okayama for the inaugural Asian Le Mans Series.
But it was at the Japanese track that the team and car hit the front of the grid! Jonny Cocker was able to put the car on pole for the race, where the small team was able to contend with more established LMP1 entrants from ORECA, Pescarolo and Aston Martin.
Now the team returns to America, opening a full ALMS campaign full off confidence.
“I’m really excited by the whole programme we are bringing here,” says team manager Dale White. “Piece-by-piece we have assembled a great group and a great package to go racing. Everything we have learned at Petit, Laguna and in Japan will start to show here.”
Their 2009 experience has been added to over the winter. The car is now clad in low-drag, high-force bodywork draped over a re-worked V10 Judd engine, drinking second generation E85 Ethanol fuel and breathing through a larger air restrictor.
End result? An additional 50hp over the car that saw action in Japan.
There is also a new addition in the cockpit, regular drivers Paul, Lord Drayson and Jonny Cocker being joined by sportscar legend Emanuele Pirro for Sebring, as well as the other endurance events of the year.
“Going back in a LMP1 car is very exciting for me. When I retired from active racing I definitely underestimated the ‘addiction’ I have for my beloved sport!” says the Italian. “The feelings that a prototype can give you are unique. It seems like yesterday when I was driving the final laps in Laguna Seca, 2008 of what was going to be my last prototype race. I was enjoying every single meter of the race track and in the same time crying inside the helmet!”
“Sebring is quite a different circuit to any other,” Jonny Cocker, describing the 3.7 mile track. There is a real mix of fast and slow corners and the bumps really throw in another factor! I’m looking forward to applying my knowledge of the circuit and comparing how it feels to drive the Drayson Lola LMP1 car round Sebring compared to the GT2 Vantage. I can’t wait to get back into the car!”
“Having raced at Sebring twice before in GT2 I’m well aware of how the first race in the ALMS championship season is also the toughest on the car and the drivers,” explains Paul Drayson, also co-owner of the team. “So I’m really happy that this isn’t my first race in a Le Mans Prototype!”
“To be racing an LMP1 in front of the enormous, expert and enthusiastic crowd of Sebring fans will be an unforgettable experience. You can’t ask for better than that!”
Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography