Silverstone: Drayson Racing Friday practice report

Successful Shakedown Run Concludes 12 Day Build of Drayson Racing Lola-Judd LMP1 TOWCESTER, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, ENGLAND - 12 days ago a bare, carbon fibre tub rolled into a small workspace at the back of the Lola Cars facilities in Huntingdon. On...

Successful Shakedown Run Concludes 12 Day Build of Drayson Racing Lola-Judd LMP1

TOWCESTER, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, ENGLAND - 12 days ago a bare, carbon fibre tub rolled into a small workspace at the back of the Lola Cars facilities in Huntingdon. On 10 September a complete, fully liveried and fully functional Lola B09/60 Coupe, powered by Judd's GV5 V10, completed a trouble-free, four hour shakedown run at the Stowe Course here at the Silverstone Circuit. It is difficult to overstate the complexity and remarkable nature of this accomplishment. Few outside the tight-knit team thought the project would see a race in 2009, let-alone reaching the team's self-inflicted deadline of the 10 hour/1000 mile Petit Le Mans on 26 September. However, at approximately 10:30 (GMT) Jamie Campbell-Walter (London) completed the first lap of the shakedown run. Over the course of the next several hours both Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and two-time British GT Champion Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) had turned laps in the car.

Team Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) received the final go-ahead to begin the LMP1 project on 4 August with the objective to reach the 12th Annual Petit Le Mans which was just over a month away. With a well-organised and thoroughly structured approach, the team set about a focused attack to meet the looming target of the final two races of the American Le Mans Series - Petit Le Mans is followed two weeks later by the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This was all done whilst preparing the team's No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 for the Le Mans Series finale, the Autosport 1000km of Silverstone, on 13 September.

Every member of Drayson Racing drew full aim on two goals: 1) complete the LMP1 car in time for the shakedown on 10 September and 2) ready the Aston Martin for its final race three days later. If the goals of achieving a strong result in the Le Mans Series finale and shipping the Lola-Judd to the United States for a two-day test at Road Atlanta were to be met, every team member would have to stand tall. Whether focused on the LMP1 build or the GT2 car preparations, every team member accomplished their task as well as assisted others when needed. When the closed-top, prototype appeared from the trailer at the test track, all of the car's systems were fully operational and the Lola-Judd was in its completed livery - a fresh look at the traditional Drayson two-tone green with the Union Jack on its engine cover.

The shakedown went extremely well with the full Drayson Racing crew as well as Lola Cars and Judd Engines in attendance. Campbell-Walter - selected to test the car because of his prototype experience - rolled out and completed one lap before returning for a simple leak-check. Once done, he returned to the track and proceeded to put in conservative laps testing the car's systems and basic fit and finish. With a glowing recommendation of the work of the Rob Boakes-led crew, Paul Drayson was next in the car. Drayson turned multiple laps learning the car's unique characteristics as well as paddle-shift gearbox and sophisticated steering wheel. Following a break for lunch, Cocker was to have his first taste of the aerodynamic masterpiece. There were no significant mechanical or build issues during the day and the car returned to the team's Le Mans Series garage to be on display the remainder of the race weekend.

Only a shakedown, not a proper test, each driver's tour of the cockpit was beneficial. Despite the short, tight nature of the circuit, which resulted in a lack of overall aerodynamic efficiency, the drivers were able to learn the basic mechanical grip of the Lola Coupe. Further, they were able to experience, to a limited extent, the torque and power of the Judd V10 as well as how the larger Michelin tyres will impact their driving style. A full test is scheduled for Road Atlanta on 19 and 20 September, one week prior to the Petit Le Mans. The 2.54-mile Braselton facility is known as one of the quickest road courses in the world and will provide a true proving ground for the car and the drivers. Campbell-Walter will again join Drayson and Cocker at Atlanta for testing. Rob Bell (Newcastle, UK), who raced with Drayson Racing at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, will return to the team to challenge the competitors of the American Le Mans Series. Campbell-Walter will not participate in official race activity, only the test days.

As if to prove the team's full abilities, Cocker set the third quickest time in LM GT2 class in the first practice session for the Autosport 1000km of Silverstone. The team followed that with the fourth quickest time in the second free practice of the day. The positions mark the highest the British-based team has ever placed in an official session with the Aston Martin Vantage GT2. Quotes

Paul Drayson, Driver/Owner: "The last twenty-four hours have shown that Drayson Racing has the makings of a great team. The shakedown yesterday went brilliantly and today's very successful practice shows that the Team has maintained its focus on maximising our performance in the Le Mans Series finale while acquiring and building a brand new LMP1 car in record time. I have been very impressed by the hard work and professionalism of the whole Team and would like to thank everyone at Lola and Judd for their responsiveness and can-do attitude. I am delighted with our new race car."

Jonny Cocker, Driver: "The Lola-Judd was incredible. I had in my mind an idea of how the car would perform in outright pace. Being in the car and experiencing that firsthand made me readjust that level. It's an overall feeling of the car being a part of you; very light, very nimble and extremely powerful. I think we should have a fantastic race car for the remaining three races."

About the GT2 practice laps: "We knew that the Silverstone GP circuit would suit the Vantage GT2 and we're showing that being third in the first session and fourth in the second. We haven't shown our true pace yet which is nice to have in hand. I am looking forward to qualifying. I think this should be our best circuit of the year. It is nice to be much closer to the pace in the last race we are going to compete in this car." Dale White, Team Manager: "I can't exaggerate the challenge that Drayson Racing has overcome in the last two months. To bring it all together by building a complete, running car from bare tub to finished car in just 12 days is really remarkable. I am convinced there is no other combination that would have allowed us to do this other than the Lola Coupe and Judd V10. When we rolled it out of the trailer at Silverstone to do the shakedown, the car looked as if we could roll it right onto the grid at Petit Le Mans. I don't think anyone outside our group would have thought he could have done it. My hat is off to everyone at Drayson and to everyone at Lola and Judd, as well as all of the ancillary part suppliers who made this happen. What an achievement; what a team effort!"

-credit: draysonracing.com

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Rob Bell , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Paul Drayson , Jonny Cocker