Following the general election in the United Kingdom and the subsequent change of government, driver and team owner Paul Drayson’s tenure after five years public service as a government minister has come to an end.
That’s good news for Drayson Racing as Paul will now be able to focus one hundred per cent on his racing. It also means that the government rules preventing Drayson Racing from entering into partnerships or other commercial relationships has also come to an end. The team can now evolve into a fully professional racing team and a leading developer of green technology for motorsport.
This total focus and extra drive will be brought into play in Saturday’s six-hour American Le Mans Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (California). Together with the lessons learned by Drayson Racing at the track in 2009, this will provide the team with a strong platform to challenge for its first Le Mans Prototype (LMP) class podium and launch it towards the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month. The 22 May event here in Monterey will show the progress the team has made since first entering the No. 8 Drayson Racing Lola with Judd Power last year. Development work over the winter on the car has been evident in the team’s pace in the first two races of the 2010 ALMS season. Drivers Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) will be joined by Emanuele Pirro (Rome) for the second time in the daylight to dark American Le Mans Series (ALMS) event around the Northern California facility. The team goes into the third round running second in the LMP championship.
It was here on the Monterey Peninsula at which the United Kingdom-based operation ran its second race with the Lola Coupé and Judd V10 engine combination. Following an impressive third overall in qualifying, an early race incident ended the team’s day last fall. The race, now running a greater length and for the first time in the spring, provides the team an opportunity to build upon its quick qualifying and race pace and prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 12-13 June. Whilst the two facilities are drastically different in layout – Mazda Raceway is a 3.6-Km/2.238-mile, 11-turn dedicated road course with massive elevation changes, the Circuit de la Sarthe a flat, 13.629-Km/8.468 mile-long track made of a combination of city roads and permanent track – the California event provides an ideal scenario to work through any final mechanical, strategic and personnel-related items prior to the world’s most famous endurance race.
However, have no doubt that the third race of the ALMS season has great importance to the Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA)-managed team. Since the 2009 event when Paul Drayson was forced off the track whilst running in the top-five, the date has been circled on the programme’s calendar. The race also marks the end of the first third of the ALMS season with Drayson Racing firmly in the LMP championship battle entering the Le Mans-hiatus. A strong run here will help spur further momentum not only for Le Mans but for the remainder of the LMP championship season on which Drayson Racing has put a high priority.
Testing begins on Thursday with practice and qualifying on Friday. The race starts at 14:30 (PT), Saturday. Live timing and scoring of all sessions can be found at www.americanlemans.com. The live radio call by American Le Mans Series Radio can be heard at www.radiolemans.com. European television viewers can watch the race 30 May at 20:00 (CET) on MotorsTV, whilst CBS Sports will show the event in North American from 13:30-15:00 (ET), Saturday, 29 May. A live video stream of the race is available via the ALMS web site.
Elspeth, Lady Drayson, Owner/CEO: “It’s nice to have all of Paul’s time again. He has no excuses now! Running second in the ALMS team championship points going into the Monterey race means this is going to be a vital weekend for the team and an important step in our preparation for Le Mans 24 Hours. We have had glimpses of the team’s potential so far this season. Laguna Seca is where we need to make it stick.”
Paul Drayson, Owner/Driver: “Now I can concentrate 100% on racing! That means I’m bursting with extra energy and can put even more time into my fitness and preparation. It isn’t easy combining being a Minister with competing at the highest level of sportscar racing. I’m hungry for a podium now and from now on my total focus will be on racing and building Drayson Racing into a winning ALMS team and a leading developer of green race technology. It brings a big smile to my face just thinking about it.”
Jonny Cocker, Driver: “The track has notoriously low grip, but I think with the help of our Michelin tyres we can make the car work really well. Laguna is one of my favourites of the year, and that makes it even more of a special feeling when driving our Drayson Racing Lola Coupé. It’s going to be a new experience for us; visiting a circuit of which we have prior experience running the Lola-Judd. For sure it will give us a head start having learnt so much last year. I think the car has made a step forward and I think both myself and Paul feel a lot more up to speed with the car having now had some races under our belts.”
About using Monterey as preparation for Le Mans: “It’s very tough to compare Laguna and Le Mans. The circuits are so far apart in terms of their character. However, I do think that with this race running six hours it’s going to be a fantastic test for all of the team operationally in preparation for the long race in France. Every tenth [of a second] counts, and over 24 hours, they all mount up, and fast!”
Emanuele Pirro: “I believe it is going to be a tough challenge. The light LMP2 [cars] are nimble, very fast through corners, whilst the LMP1 are better in acceleration and top speed. Laguna is a great track for the LMP2 because of its configuration, many corners and short straights. As well it is a low grip circuit and our Lola is very gentle on tyres which is normally a great advantage but not where you have trouble to bring them into temperature. Having said that I would still stick to my Drayson Lola for the race. I believe we can do as well as a podium finish. We have a good car; it is up to us to capitalise it.”
About using the race as prep for Le Mans: “This race will be very important for us in function of Le Mans; we have very little practice together and did no testing, so we really have to take Laguna as a rehearsal for the French classic. More as far as teamwork than car setup though, as we are going to use a very different aero package there. But in terms of team procedures, pit operations and team coordination it will be extremely valuable.”
Dale White, Team Manager: “We have an opportunity here in Monterey to take advantage of the notes we have from last fall. It also gives the drivers a chance to know what to expect with the prototype; something they haven’t had at Sebring or Long Beach. This is a great chance for Drayson Racing to recapture the momentum we entered the season with. I have very high expectations for this race and hope to combine all we have learned with the Lola-Judd and with this crew to get a good result here. Now that we have Paul’s full focus on the race team I am very optimistic about the next steps the team will take. It is a very exciting time to be a part of this programme.”
© RIF | ALMS