Lord Paul Drayson, Minister of Science in the British government, has fully grasped what it has meant to take the plunge into sports car racing and with his own team. Drayson is not one to sit on the sidelines and watch as new technologies pass...
Lord Paul Drayson, Minister of Science in the British government, has fully grasped what it has meant to take the plunge into sports car racing and with his own team. Drayson is not one to sit on the sidelines and watch as new technologies pass him by, but instead join the development of these cutting edge technologies both in racing and in the environment.
Into his second year with the Drayson Racing team that currently competes in the Le Mans Series, Lord Paul has taken the next logical step on the proverbial sports car ladder: advancing to LMP1.
Drayson and his wife Elspeth, Lady Drayson, announced on Wednesday's edition of Midweek Motorsport on Radio Le Mans that they have purchased a new Lola B09/60 coupe with a normally-aspirated, British-built Judd V10 engine, on Michelin tires, to debut at the American Le Mans Series' Petit Le Mans September 23-26.
"Without doubt it's a gamble," Lord Drayson told RLM's John Hindhaugh in the interview. "It had been part of a long-term plan. The (ACO) regulations allow you to be the most innovative. We see those as effective for building a race team in 2009, and that means moving up at some point to LMP1."
Drayson will continue his relationship with co-driver Jonny Cocker, a two-time British GT champion, and adds two-time Le Mans Series GT2 champion Rob Bell for the ALMS events at Petit and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
"It took (Bell) about a nanosecond to say yes," Drayson said. "He is really, really excited about it."
Noteworthy here is that Drayson has chosen the proven package of a Lola Judd for the P1 effort and not a Lola Aston Martin as is currently run by the Prodrive team in LMS. Drayson described the decision as one where it wasn't a developmental program so much as running something that has been tried and true.
"We've had a great time with Aston in GT2, but there are ups and downs with a development program," Drayson said. "We wanted a proven engine, proven chassis combination and apply new green technology. With the focus on green technology, we did not want to be involved in the next generation and development of a (P1) car. "
Moving from GT2 to P1 requires a massive adjustment as far as driving techniques and how to put the power down with a more powerful vehicle, per the Automobile Club l'Ouest (ACO) regulations. Drayson admitted positive feedback from other prototype drivers.
"What Jonny and I have to learn is how to race this car, how to drive this car," he said. "That's the great thing about sports car racing. I've got a lot of great advice from the drivers. You will absolutely love driving the LMP car. It might be easier to drive than a GT2 car because it isn't at the ragged edge. The edge here is much finer."
The plan is to develop green technologies in the P1 class. At present there are no intentions to race on E85, but that's not to say it will be ruled out in the future.
"The engine can run E85, but it won't to begin with," he said. "We both believe, the whole team, believes there is massive evolution taking place about taking answers to the challenge of climate change. With its endurance format and history, sports cars are the future. Fuels are important. The range capacity, charging cycles."
"The opportunity is for sportscar racing to embrace these, I don't think it will be too long before we see electric come in," he added. "These things take time to develop. We're at the stage of the moment at learning this new car. We'll explore the potential of green technologies, while at the same time, have fun, and be as competitive as we can."
Drayson had his opportunity to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. He acknowledged his disability (he is blind in one eye) only makes him stronger, and adapt to driving with it. He put his past experience of this year and what he hopes for the future in context.
"My ambition, having had such a fantastic experience at Le Mans this year, was that I would love to do it in that LMP car," he said. "Le Mans was my personal (Mount) Everest. In a P1, it would be like Everest without oxygen!"
The newly-numbered #88 Lola Judd, breaking from the tradition of the team's #007 Aston Martin (and #87 at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans), will have its shakedown at Silverstone on September 7th and 8th. It plans to arrive in the U.S. straight after, with enough time to compete in an open test the week before Petit Le Mans at the Road Atlanta circuit.
The team of Drayson and Cocker will conclude the Aston Martin Vantage GT2 program in the final two Le Mans Series races of the season, this weekend at the Nurburgring and September 11-13 at Silverstone Circuit. The team has not yet decided where it will run this new car in 2010.
In other major Le Mans Series news, Silverstone will welcome one of its most legendary pilots home that weekend. The 1992 Formula 1 World Champion, Nigel Mansell, will race a Team LNT Ginetta Zytek 09S with his son Greg Mansell and team owner Lawrence Tomlinson. Both Mansells will be making their P1 debuts and for Nigel, it is a treat to have the opportunity to drive with his son at one of his favorite tracks.
"It's going to be very special for me to be racing again at Silverstone where I've had some of my most memorable wins," Nigel Mansell said. "I'm delighted that Lawrence has given us the opportunity to compete in the Ginetta-Zytek car and having tested it today at Snetterton, I've no doubt its going to be an incredible weekend."
Another change in advance of this weekend's LMS race at the Nurburgring is a change in the factory Pescarolo Judd effort. The winners of the series' last round at Portimao, Portugal at the Algarve Circuit, Christophe Tinseau was found to have a fractured rib in his back when X-rayed. Taking his place alongside Jean-Christophe Boullion is Emmanuel Collard.
"I recently made some tests with Bretigny airfoils with a specially modified seat," Tinseau said. "Everything seems going well, but what will happen on the turnstile of the Nurburgring?"
The question mark at the end indicates Tinseau might not have the physical ability to master the Nurburgring this weekend.