Drayson Racing Signs Marino Franchitti for Le Mans 24 Hours LE MANS, FRANCE - April 8, 2009 - Drayson Racing is leaving no stone unturned in its first year effort at the 24 Heures du Mans. The Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing has ...
Drayson Racing Signs Marino Franchitti for Le Mans 24 Hours
LE MANS, FRANCE - April 8, 2009 - Drayson Racing is leaving no stone unturned in its first year effort at the 24 Heures du Mans. The Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing has signed star sports car racer Marino Franchitti (Edinburgh/Windsor, UK) to anchor full-season drivers Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) in the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 for the sports car classic. Team Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) and Aston Martin Racing (AMR) technical directors have also outlined a vigorous test and development schedule in advance of the 77th running of the French 24 hour event on 13-14 June.
Franchitti, who has one start at Le Mans driving a LM GT2 class Panoz in 2005, will be making his Aston Martin debut with the team. The British driver is currently campaigning the full American Le Mans Series season in a Mazda factory-backed LMP2 for Dyson Racing. A former British GTO Champion, Franchitti has a strong record in endurance racing. On his impressive resume are 11, 24 hour race starts with eight Top 10 results including Nurburgring - where he finished 10th out of 220 starters - and a podium at the 24 Hours of Spa in 2006. Franchitti has been a regular in sports car racing since moving from single-seaters in 2001. Despite focusing on prototypes since 2007, he has excelled in both GT cars and LMPs in his career. The team views his endurance race experience as vital to its potential success at Le Mans.
Through the testing regime, Franchitti will have extensive seat time in the Vantage GT2 in preparation for the 13.629 Km/8.468 mile-long, Circuit de la Sarthe. White, team engineer Graham Moore (Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK) and the technical staff at AMR have scheduled over 34 hours of on-track testing plus intense shop preparation in the coming months. The car, chassis 001 - the same used at Sebring - will spend its pre-Le Mans period at the Aston Martin Racing headquarters in Banbury, England. There it will be disassembled, inspected, repaired, updated and re-assembled by Drayson Racing and AMR technicians.
The April schedule will see the British machine join the official Le Mans Series test at the Bugatti Circuit on 25-26 April. Despite White's two Le Mans victories ('03 and '04), Franchitti's single start is the only Le Mans experience the trio of drivers has. The Bugatti Circuit, tucked within and using a portion of the full 24 Hour course, will provide valuable laps not only to the drivers, but also for the ongoing development of the car.
A private, AMR-only 24 hour test will be held at the Algarve (Portugal) Circuit in April as well. This test will provide critical insight to the strengths and weaknesses of reliability for the Vantage GT2 which, to date, has never been entered in a 24 hour event. Franchitti will join Drayson and Cocker at each test.
Lady Drayson, Owner: "I'm delighted that Marino has agreed to drive with Drayson Racing in the Le Mans 24 hours. We got to know him during last year's American Le Mans Series and were hugely impressed. He is a perfect fit with the team."
Paul Drayson, Owner/Driver: "Marino is quick, experienced, a Brit; and a really nice guy. I am very happy that he has agreed to race at Le Mans with us and can't wait to get started with our 24 hours testing schedule together. I hope that the UK sports car fans will get behind an all British driver line-up in the No. 87 car in this historic anniversary race for Aston Martin."
Marino Franchitti, Driver: "My main thought at the moment is excitement! It's a true honour to be joining Drayson Racing at Le Mans for the biggest sports car race in the world. It's particularly special to be driving for a British team, in a British car with an all British driver line-up."
About the team's intense preparation entering the race: "Audi has shown in the past few years that good preparation is the most important part of a successful bid to win Le Mans. Without the test day prior to the race this year, the time for a third driver to settle-in is more compromised than in previous years. Drayson Racing's program in the run-up to the event will mean that I'm completely at home by the time we get to race week and I think that gives us a big advantage over other teams and is a big bonus for us."
About Le Mans: "Le Mans is everything to me. It's the reason I became a sports car driver. When I was young, my hero was Derek Bell and I wanted to win Le Mans just like he had. I have imagined many times standing on that podium above a sea of people after the race and I hope one day to make that a reality."
Dale White, Team Manager: "I have known Marino for a number of years. I have always wanted to work with him and we have spoken about that often. I can't think of any place better to go racing with a driver of Marino's calibre than at Le Mans. His skill and personality are the perfect fit for Drayson Racing. We are going to work him between now and Le Mans with the 24 hour test at Algarve and the Le Mans Series test at the Bugatti circuit. We are going to know each other pretty well by the time we unload in June."