Nurburgring: Drayson Racing race report

Drayson Racing's trials in 2009 continued today with the 1,000km of Nurburgring - round four in the five race Le Mans Series championship. First, the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 was forced to start from the back of the field...

Drayson Racing's trials in 2009 continued today with the 1,000km of Nurburgring - round four in the five race Le Mans Series championship. First, the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 was forced to start from the back of the field when an engine failure at the previous round of the championship (Portugal) mandated an engine be replaced prior to the minimum-use clause of the regulations. The penalty dropped the car from eighth on the class grid to 11th. Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) quickly made-up ground moving into the top eight. However, during Paul Drayson's (London/Gloucestershire, UK) first stint, a growing rattling noise, smell and smoke began to invade the cockpit. The culprit, a broken silencer, would cost the team one hour and 14 minutes in the garage making the repair. Drayson Racing would finished 13th, but unclassified, in the LMGT2 class as a result.

A small crack in the silencer on the left side of the exhaust system formed during Cocker's first stint but did not manifest itself until early in Drayson's first time behind the wheel. Drayson reported a rattling sound which was growing louder, followed by a strong smell and smoke. As the crack got larger, the cockpit filled with smoke from the carbon fibre floor pan being burnt by the ever increasing temperatures. Whilst any repair to a hot exhaust is difficult, this mend was made more challenging in that the piece in question was unique to the car. Therefore, the pipe needed to be repaired and returned rather than simply replaced. Speedy Racing Team Sabah was instrumental in assisting the Banbury, UK-based team make it back on track to take the chequered flag. The LMP1 competitor lent its welder to make the required repair. Unfortunately, the P1 pace prevented the No. 87 from completing 70% of the race distance and therefore will not be classified.

On the positive side of the ledger, Cocker had yet another brilliant start. Within the first 10 minutes, the two-time British GT-champion moved from 11th in class to eighth. A slight "off" cost him two spots but he battled back to be in eighth again when he turned the car over to Drayson just past the first hour of the six hour race. It was within ten minutes of this stop that Drayson reported the noise and smell in the cockpit. Once the repair was made, he returned to the track for a double stint. The chance gave Drayson his longest time in a race car; just over two consecutive hours. Cocker retook the wheel for the final stint of the day.

Despite the frustration of starting at the back of the field, the Banbury, England-based operation is encouraged by a recent Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) rules change lowering the overall ride-height of the Aston Martin Vantage GT2. The team is now allowed to race the car five millimetres (5mm) lower than earlier this season. The lower ride-height allows the team to take far greater advantage of the aerodynamics moving under the car. The result is much higher downforce without substantially increasing drag giving the car far superior cornering ability. The overall increase in performance should be a boon to the operation as they find the "sweet spot" on the car's new aerodynamic characteristics.

The very popular "Licence to Le Mans" series profiling Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker's 2008 campaign in North America is having a complete re-airing on Dave in the United Kingdom. The network will be showing the entire, behind-the-scenes look at Drayson's effort to earn an invitation to the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans - a milestone the team passed in June. The first episode aired today in UK. The second episode will air 30 August at 14:30 and 18:00 (GMT). The remaining episodes will follow each subsequent Sunday.

Quotes Paul Drayson, Driver: "Right at the start of my first stint the exhaust silencer crack caused a nasty vibration. Then acrid smoke came into the cabin from burning plastic around the foot well which forced us to stop. The team did a great job getting the silencer fixed so that we could rejoin the race. I was pleased to be able to get a chance at a full two hour double stint and really enjoyed my time in the car. See you at Silverstone."

Jonny Cocker, Driver: "Little bit strange, really. In the first hour, we had a few niggles with the car, with the handling, but nothing we couldn't deal with. Paul had an issue in his stint which hadn't occurred in mine. Bad luck really. The car was OK at the end. I managed to run with some of the leading cars and it is good to know that in race pace we can stick with them. It was a little bit of a strange one with one hour at the beginning and one hour at the finish and nothing in-between really. Good to bring the car home and take the chequered flag. It was a good feeling."

Dale White, Team Manager: "It was another frustrating day but the crew worked really well together again. The silencer was not an easy repair to make. You can always judge a championship-calibre team by how well they deal with the inevitable, unexpected problems. I think we dealt with the unexpected very well today. We definitely want to thank Team Sabah for lending us the welder. No matter where you race in the world, true racers are all the same. They want to see other racers succeed and they are willing to help wherever they can. I hope we can return the favour one day."

-credit: drayson

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Paul Drayson , Jonny Cocker