Barwell Motorsport announced Thursday that it will compete in both the American Le Mans Series and European-based Le Mans Series in 2008. The British squad is currently evaluating its car options, but the likely candidate is a Prodrive-developed Aston Martin V8 Vantage for the GT2 class.
Campaigning Aston Martin DBRS9s in the British GT Championship, the team earned the 2007 Team's Championship as well as five wins in the GT3 class. Since moving from the British Touring Car Championship in 2006, Barwell also has entered Aston Martins in the FIA GT3 European Championship and FIA GT Championship.
Aston Martin Racing recently tested a V8 Vantage-based GT car and is currently assessing options of building it for customers. Given Barwell's past history with the British marque, this is the obvious car of choice for them to enter in the GT2 category.
One of the innovations behind the team's Aston Martin in the British series this season was that it ran on E85 bio-ethanol fuel. Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker drove it to two victories, finishing runner-up in the championship. The duo will continue their relationship in 2008, but this time on the other side of the Atlantic, competing in the ALMS.
A senior member of the British government, Lord Drayson announced last week his plans to go racing in North America. The 47-year-old has stepped down as Defense Minister in the House of Lords to focus on his lifelong goal of racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"A number of special circumstances have now presented me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take my racing to the next level," Drayson wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Cocker, who in 2004 became British GT's youngest ever champion at the age of 18, also claimed the Asian Porsche Carrera Cup title one year later. He then moved on to the FIA GT3 European Championship and British GT Championship in 2006 driving for Barwell, scoring 14 podium finishes. The 21-year-old took also part in a number of FIA GT races in an Aston Martin DBR9 before partnering Drayson this year in British GT.
Like the revolutionary DBRS9, Barwell's new GT2 car will also be equipped to run on E85 bio-ethanol, which will be allowed in ALMS next year. The series already offers E10 ethanol and clean-burning diesel fuels to its competitors.
"Barwell, Jonny and I have had a great season in 2007, achieving a historic first win for a green fuelled racecar," commented Drayson. "We have been delighted by the interest and support for our green racing project and we are keen to take it to the next level. For the first time next year the American Le Mans Series will allow bio-ethanol cars to compete and so this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase British motorsport technology for environmentally friendly racing. I'm going to give it 100 percent commitment and focus."
In addition to the ALMS program, the team is seriously evaluating plans to enter a second car in select Le Mans Series races. This car would also be developed as an E85 bio-ethanol machine, but series restrictions may force it to compete with spec E10 fuel. Discussions are ongoing regarding the driver line-up for its LMS program.
"The timing for this fantastic new project is perfect" says Barwell Motorsport's Mark Lemmer, "The team, Paul and Jonny have gelled superbly over the past two seasons and the GT2 project gives us the ideal global platform to showcase our 'Green-thinking philosophy'. The programs in both Le Mans Series will also hopefully give us the chance to continue working with some of our other up-and-coming existing Barwell drivers from our 2007 GT3 and GT1 squads."
Set as a two-year plan with the GT2 car, the team's goal is to get an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009. Further details of this new program will be revealed at a later date.