Drayson Racing Sees Asian Le Mans' Okayama as Prototypical (1)
OKAYAMA, JAPAN - The inaugural Asian Le Mans Series weekend at Okayama, Japan will be the first time an Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO)-sanctioned series has been run in the Far East. However, Drayson Racing sees it as a prototypical event made in the image of the 24 Hours of Le Mans itself. Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) will share the No. 87 Drayson Racing Lola with Judd Power in the pair of races at the Okayama International Circuit before a fervent crowd of Japanese sports car fans on 31 October and again on 1 November.
Combined, the two, three-hour races may only equal a quarter of the distance of the French sportscar racing classic but all the elements are at the 3.7 Km/2.3 mile, 13-turn circuit to draw direct parallels to the grandfather of all endurance events. As organisers of the world's most famous sportscar race, the ACO has brought the very taste of Le Mans to Japan. In the pair of 136-lap (503.6 Km/312.9 mile) events - the races will be limited to a three hour maximum running time - many of the same teams which Drayson Racing faced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June will be present. Most importantly, the core regulations and structure of the events will reflect directly to the traditions of Le Mans.
Despite neither having raced in Japan before, Asia is no stranger to Drayson or Cocker. Drayson spent extensive time in Japan developing successful businesses prior to the start of his racing career. Cocker, who counts two British GT Championships to his credit, has extensive experience in the Far East having won the hotly contested Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Championship in 2005. However, the championship never visited Japan. This marks the first time most of the crew will race in Asia as well.
The race weekend format does promise unique challenges. With the first race scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 (local), the Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA)-managed team will have little time at the end of the day to prepare the car for three additional hours of racing on Sunday. The second race has a scheduled start time of 09:00 leaving little follow-up work on Sunday morning.
Japan is the conclusion of a Drayson Racing's 2009 "World Tour". The first year team started on the North American continent with the 12 Hours of Sebring. This was followed by a string of European races including the team's debut at Le Mans in June and the five Le Mans Series races. It was then the change to the premier, endurance, sportscar class, the Le Mans Prototype One (LMP1) category, occurred. Drayson Racing campaigned the closed-cockpit Lola Coupé and Judd V10 engine at the Petit Le Mans (Atlanta) and Monterey Sports Car Championships (California) prior to shipping it to Japan.
Paul Drayson, Driver/Owner: "Japan is a wonderful country with a unique mix of advanced technology, ancient customs and traditions. It also has a huge sportscar fan-base so it will be very special to be involved with the first ever Asian Le Mans Series race in Japan. Although these two races complete our "world tour" 2009 season, they are important steps in our preparation for a full season of prototype racing next year. We learnt a lot from our first races in the LMP1 at Petit and Laguna, some of it the hard way. I'm now focused on getting the best out of this unique two race event in Okayama to close out a memorable first year for Drayson Racing."
Jonny Cocker, Driver: "Having raced in the Asian Carrera Cup Championship in 2005 I have an idea just how different motorsport is over in the Far East. I raced in most of the different countries that year but never Japan so that's going to be very exciting to be there. The fans are great in Asia and I'm really looking forward to racing in Japan for the first time! The circuit looks pretty tight and I'm hoping that all of the on-board footage that I have been watching should help me get to grips with the track quickly during the first practice session." About the two-race format: "I have lots of experience of double-headed race weekends, albeit with shorter races, but it's really exciting. We will learn a lot in the first race and be able to apply that knowledge to the second race which should further improve our performance on Sunday. Being only three hours and with the level of competitors that will be racing in LMP1, it's going to be very interesting and a really good way of us establishing exactly where we're at in terms of the competition."
Dale White, Team Manager: "The entire Drayson Racing team is very excited about the opportunity to take the prototype to Okayama. While these will be the shortest events we have run all season they are still a unique challenge. Three hours of racing at this level is very intense and, at the end of the season, I anticipate we will see an all-out, no punches pulled fight to the finish. We're really looking forward to it!"