Through a menagerie of problems through the La Sarthe weekend Drayson Racing never had any intention other than to see the checkered flag, a feat that embodied the intangible 'Spirit of Le Mans'.
A precautionary engine change after Wednesday's first qualifying session limited the number of laps the team, with drivers Paul Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Emanuele Pirro, could complete on Thursday, wanting to save the new Judd engine for the race at the weekend.
However, even then, starting from 14th on the 55 car grid, problems began to appear within the first hour of the race – the first of 17 separate issues that would affect the team and their Lola coupe through the race.
“It was an incredibly emotional experience; my heart was in my mouth for the whole 24 hours,” admitted Elspeth Drayson, team co-owner with husband Paul. “One minute it looked like it was all over, the next one dared to hope we would make it. At times the car was very quick but then the gremlins would strike again! Through it all the team never gave up. I am very proud of them!”
“No one ever dropped their heads even when it looked to be terminal,” said Cocker. “It is proven by the amount of cars that didn’t finish this race that for any team, no matter who you are or what your budget is, it is an extremely tough race to finish. As a small, family run, privateer team, it is a huge achievement to finish and no one should underestimate that.”
“That is why everyone is happy with this win.”
The first sign of trouble was a worsening vibration, with delays from various electrical problems, issues with the car's fuel cell and gearbox. The longest the car was stationary for was three hours. Despite all these problems, however, the team remained running until the checkered flag, and while the delays meant they were not officially classified, their tally of 254 laps meant the Anglo-American team were the sixth best placed of the LMP1 class runners at the finish of the historic race.
“I am so happy to finish Le Mans 24 hours,” said Paul Drayson, the pride and joy almost visible, even in printed quotes. “It was an incredibly tough race, but the team fought and fought to keep going and when I saw the chequered flag I was crying and laughing and shouting at the same time I was so elated and relieved. I am very proud of my team’s true grit and never say die attitude.”
Photo Credit: Regis Lefebure