OKAYAMA, JAPAN - The No. 87 Drayson Racing Lola with Judd Power controlled the field early in today's first of two, three hour Asian Le Mans Series events here at the Okayama (Japan) International Circuit. Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) and Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) looked destined to continue their strong effort from the start of Race 1 when, just short of 30 minutes into the race, the headlights on the No. 87 flickered off, first one and then both sides. Automobile Club De L'Ouest (ACO) regulations dictate that all lights must be operative. The resulting pit stop to change the nose cost a total of three laps. Despite the bitter disappointment of having such a dominating run ripped from their grasp, the team, making just its third Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class start, was able to battle back to finish sixth. Drayson Racing will have an opportunity to "redo" today's event on Sunday, 1 November as the Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA)-managed organisation will again start from pole position in Race 2.
Showing its surprise pole-winning performance in qualifications yesterday was no accident, starting driver Cocker broke from the pack as soon as the green flag fell over today's inaugural Asian Le Mans Series event. The two-time British GT Champion quickly put nearly five seconds on the following entries establishing the closed-cockpit prototype as the prime contender for victory. The way in which the race played-out only showed the newest team in the LMP1 category was meant for a podium finish if not its first international sportscar victory today.
To repair the headlights on the car, the team was forced to replace the entire nose section of the Lola B09/60. Whilst quickly done, the sub 1:30 second laps on track cost the team three laps to the leaders. The stop was the first of three performed. The second stop was for fuel, Michelin Pilot racing slicks and a driver change with Drayson taking over from Cocker. The third stop, with less than 20 minutes remaining in the race, kept Drayson behind the wheel.
In the process of his opening stint, Cocker was able to set the fastest race lap of the day with a time of 1:21.735. This was nearly a full second quicker than any car would run during the course of the 126 lap race.For his part, Drayson stood toe-to-toe with the best sportscar pilots in the world today. During his stint, Drayson ran on pace with the class never relinquishing the sixth-place position. All told, Drayson raced the car for half the three hour event.
Race 2 will start at 09:00 (BMT+9) and last three hours Sunday, 1 November. Eurosport will broadcast both events live from Okayama with live timing and scoring available at www.asian-lemans-series.com.
Elspeth Drayson, Owner/CEO: "Great drives by both Jonny and Paul achieving sixth place despite the disappointment of the electrical fault. However, we showed we have a very competitive car and team which augurs well for next year, not to mention the race tomorrow when we start again from pole."
Paul Drayson, Driver/Owner: "It was great to take the chequered flag at the end of a rollercoaster race. After Jonny's great start, unscheduled pit to fix the lights and then his recovery drive back to sixth, I just got my head down and focused on getting into a groove to hold onto the sixth place through my stint, which I did. The Michelin tyres allowed us to double stint so I could stay in the car for an hour and half which was great practice for tomorrow's race."
Jonny Cocker, Driver: "The start went exactly to plan. We managed to pull a good lead early on which took the pressure off and allowed me to concentrate on looking after the Michelin tyres. Then I had a radio call from Dale [White, team manager] saying that we needed to pit. He didn't say why but when the nose was taken off the car I knew it was something serious. Just a shame to lose the time. But, we backed up our qualifying time with fastest lap in the race and pulling away from the other cars. Which is exactly what we intended to do. I look forward to having another go at it tomorrow."
Dale White, Team Manager: "That was really disappointing. I don't have words to explain what it felt like to call Jonny in from the lead. We tried everything we could to repair the lights while the car was on-track but the electrical problem was too deep in the system. We had to replace the nose and that cost us the race. Fortunately, we will just hit the 'reset' button and go after it again tomorrow. We know we have the right package for this track. We know we have what it takes to win here."