Drayson Racing Makes Le Mans Series Debut at Paul Ricard Test
No. 87 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 Completes First Trial of Season
LE CASTELLET, FRANCE, March 8, 2009 - Following a winter of preparation, Drayson Racing made its Le Mans Series debut, and in fact its motorsports debut, today at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France. The Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing brought its No. 87 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and drivers Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) to the 5.791 Km (3.6 miles) race course with an eye towards sizing-up the competition in the European-based Le Mans Series. Day one of the two day official Series-wide test gave Drayson Racing its first occasion to benchmark the freshly-formed team and off-season improvements to the V8-powered machine against its competition. The results were encouraging as both the Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and the team performed well.
The test is a vital first opportunity of the season for the Paul and Elspeth Drayson owned operation to scrutinize these changes and the chemistry of its new team. Since the close of the 2008 American Le Mans Series season in October, the operation has overseen the installation of multiple upgrades to its pair of Aston Martin Vantage GT2 coupes. These upgrades to chassis and engine by Ted Higgins and the newly assembled Drayson Racing crew met expectations of improved performance and reliability over the 2008 configuration. The newly signed contract to represent Michelin in the Le Mans Series, American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans further strengthened the team's gains. Today gave the team access to the track for over 11 hours of lapping. Monday's final day includes seven additional hours of running split into four and three hour sessions in morning and afternoon respectively.
Since its early January announcement at the Autosport Show, the British team has made several major announcements for the 2009 season. Chief among those came in February with the signing of Michelin. In the same announcement, two-time, defending Le Mans Series GT2 champion Rob Bell (St Helens, England) was named to the driver roster for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. Last week, the Automobile Club De L'Ouest (ACO) recognised Drayson Racing as one of only 55 invitees to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Team Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) also made the team's official entry to the Asian Le Mans Series events in Japan and China on 6 March.
Once the test at Paul Ricard is complete, Drayson Racing will have little time to reflect on its gains. The team's No. 007 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2, which runs on 'Second Generation' cellulosic E85 Bio-Ethanol fuel, will be shipped to the United States to take part in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on 21 March. The first on-track test day is scheduled for Monday, 16 March.
The first official Le Mans Series event is the 1000 Km of Catalunya scheduled for 3-5 April at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain. The five race Le Mans Series schedule will see Drayson Racing contest 1000 Km events not only in Spain but Belgium, Portugal, Germany and the United Kingdom as well. Following the European-based season, the Drayson Aston Martin will travel back to North America where the American Le Mans Series-ready Vantage GT2 will contest the 1000 mile/10 hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and the four hour Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October. Drayson and Cocker will close out their third season as co-drivers with four races in Asia; the Okayama Circuit in Japan will host a three hour race on 31 October and another on 1 November. The Shanghai Circuit in China will follow with two, three hour races, one each on 7 and 8 November.
Paul Drayson, Owner/Driver:
About the Paul Ricard test: "I am very happy with the progress we made today. All the hard work by everyone over the past weeks really paid off and we had an excellent first day of testing. The car is fast and the team really worked well together. This test is an important opportunity to benchmark our pace ahead of our first race at Sebring. Personally, I am delighted to be driving here in France for the first time in the Le Mans Series. Everyone has been very welcoming and helpful and Paul Ricard is an excellent, super professional facility."
About off-season preparations: "I'm very pleased with the progress of the team. Preparations are on track, all pretty calm and organised. We have assembled a great group of seasoned professionals under Dale's leadership."
About the 2009 season: "This year is a dream come true for me. To be embarking on a full season of sports car racing at the highest level in all three Le Mans series; American, European and Asian with my own team is just tremendous. Of course, the Le Mans 24 hour race will be the highlight. So I am happy to be starting this exciting new season with my new team."
Jonny Cocker, Driver:
About the Paul Ricard test: "The Le Mans Series championship is extremely competitive at the front, but that's where we're aiming to be. I think one of the main focuses of the test has been helping Paul apply what we have learnt over the winter in training, into the race car. My personal aim is to be near the front of the pack at the end of the two days. We're the new guys in the LMS championship so I think that it's important to show that we mean business early on. But really it's going to be more important to get to grips with the car and have everyone come away from the test feeling happy and prepared for the season ahead."
About off-season preparations: "As always, I have really missed being in a race car, the winter break seems to get longer and longer each year! I think it's great for myself and Paul to get back into the Vantage GT2 and feel how things have moved on from last year. We're really hoping that the developments on the car will have brought the performance of our car closer to the outright pace of the competition."
About the 2009 season: "I think that the combination of the development of the car and the addition of the Michelin tyres will see our performance move dramatically forward from '08. I'm expecting to see some surprised faces around the paddock!"
Dale White, Team Manager:
"We have worked very hard over the winter and come a very long way in a very short period of time. I think everyone at Drayson Racing was ready to get out of the shop and onto the track to see where all of this hard work has put us. I am very proud of the team and its efforts thus far. Here is where it begins to pay off. I believe this was a good first day. Personally, I can't wait to put Drayson Racing and the number 87 Vantage GT2 up against the Le Mans Series field in a race and see where we stand."