Drayson Racing to Make Le Mans Premiere from 9th on LM GT2 Grid with Aston Martin and All-British Line-up
LE MANS, FRANCE- Drayson Racing is set to make its premier in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the ninth position of the LM GT2 grid. In the process, the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 will make a dream come true for the all-British driving team of Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK), Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) and Marino Franchitti (London/Edinburgh, UK). Cocker, the young, sports car prodigy, set the ninth-quickest lap of the class with a time of four minutes, 6.482 seconds around the 13.629 Km/8.468 mile-long Circuit de la Sarthe. It was Cocker's first qualifying attempt on the track.
Cocker's fastest lap came at the start of the second of two, two hour sessions. He pulled the entry of the Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing (AMR) from the garage moments after 22:00 and turned the best lap on the first of his two "flying" laps. After a week of rain, including Wednesday's first six-hour practice session, the track had begun to improve in grip. Furthermore, the team and drivers had begun to find the secrets of campaigning a car on the world's most famous sports car course. Drayson and Cocker are both "rookies" at Le Mans getting their first taste of the full circuit only yesterday. Franchitti has a single start here in 2005.
Most impressive about Cocker's lap was that it came only an hour after a harrowing episode that very likely would have sidelined even a seasoned-pro. In the first two hour session, which had its start delayed, Cocker set the quickest time in the V8-powered Aston Martin. He lapped at 4:10.048. The time was 12th quickest of the 17 cars entered in class. The session ended with a heart-stopping moment for all in Drayson Racing coveralls when Cocker reported that the throttle had stuck wide-open entering the Mulsanne Corner. The Mulsanne Corner, one of the two slowest turns on the track, comes at the end of the long, legendary and blindingly quick Mulsanne Straight. Cocker kept his head about him as only a veteran could be expected to do and brought the car to a safe stop, undamaged. Unfazed, he re-started the car and continued to pit lane where the crew quickly diagnosed the issue.
With the start of the race, Paul, Lord Drayson becomes the first government minister to take part in an international motor sport event the magnitude of the 24 Heures du Mans. Drayson is the Minister for Science and Innovation and Deputy Minister of Defence for the UK. While other Lords have competed at Le Mans, even won the event - Peter Mitchell-Thompson, 2nd Baron Selsdon won in 1949 driving with Luigi Chinetti - no other cabinet-attending minister has ever competed at such a high level.
Drayson Racing is now on the grid to make its 24 Hour premiere representing the Aston Martin on the occasion of its overall victory here 50 years ago (1959). The Michelin tyre-shod Aston Martin Vantage GT2, the only Aston in the class, will enjoy one day of off-track preparations on Friday, 12 June. Spectators can enjoy a pit walk throughout the day and the Drivers' Parade in the city centre. However, Drayson Racing will be focused entirely on race-prep. Every component of the car will be thoroughly inspected or, in the case of the car's 4.5 litre, V8 powerplant, changed. There will be little rest for the Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) managed team as they ready themselves for the history of Le Mans. The race will start with the traditional waving of the French Tri-Colour at approximately 15:00 on Saturday, 13 June.
Paul Drayson, Driver/Owner: "I am ready for the race of my life. Le Mans has lived up to its reputation with the changing conditions over the past few days but everyone in the team has done a great job to put Drayson Racing ninth on the grid for our debut at Le Mans."
Jonny Cocker, Driver:
About his lap: "I am really happy with the lap. It was probably one of the best laps I've ever done. There weren't any mistakes, I felt like I got a clear lap and absolutely got the best out of the car. But, there is still obviously work to do. To be just three seconds off at Le Mans, such a long circuit, on our first go is not bad. I am looking forward to the start now. It is a long race and we just need to make sure we make it to the end."
About the incident at Mulsanne Corner: "It was tricky. We had a problem where the throttle stuck open and it happened just under braking going into Mulsanne Corner. Not really the ideal place for it to happen. I was able to get it stopped without any damage. The guys found a little problem and resolved the issue. I think we got away lightly with that one."