Drayson Racing Debuts in Le Mans 24 Hours with First On-Track Laps in Aston Martin Vantage GT2 LE MANS, FRANCE- Rain soaked the circuit but not the spirit of Drayson Racing in today's first official action of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Wednesday's...
Drayson Racing Debuts in Le Mans 24 Hours with First On-Track Laps in Aston Martin Vantage GT2
LE MANS, FRANCE- Rain soaked the circuit but not the spirit of Drayson Racing in today's first official action of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Wednesday's six-hour free practice in preparation for the 77th running of the classic French endurance event was the first time that the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 had turned a lap at Le Mans. For driver/owner Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and season-long co-driver Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) it was a dream come true as neither had driven at Le Mans before. For Marino Franchitti (London/Edinburgh, UK), the event will be his second here but he was no less enthusiastic to turn a lap in the V8-powered car of the Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing (AMR).
The Circuit de la Sarthe, on which the race is run, is a mix of purpose-built race course and public roads. Therefore, it is impossible to test on the full 13.629 Km/8.468 mile-long facility prior to official sessions. For Drayson and Cocker, this was their first experiences on the full track. Franchitti has a 2005 start behind him but modifications to the track since have left sections of it new to him as well. The rain-soaked conditions made for a unique challenge that each driver and the crew quickly rose to.
By regulation, each driver had to turn ten laps "at speed" to earn their clearance to compete in the 13-14 June event. That was accomplished with Cocker then Drayson and Franchitti making quick work on a track that ranged from damp at the 18:00 (local) start time of the session to wet and cold at its midnight conclusion. After a brief break to make minor corrections to the car, team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA), a two-time 24 Heures du Mans winning manager, made the call to put each driver - first Drayson, then Franchitti and ended by Cocker - in for only their required three night laps and no more. The car was parked at 23:00 (local) with all three drivers qualified to compete in the 2009 edition of the LM24. Attention now turns to turning a qualifying time to determine grid position.
Drayson Racing is set to make its 24 Hour premiere representing the great British marque on the occasion of its overall victory 50 years ago (1959). The Michelin tyre-shod Aston Martin Vantage GT2, the only Aston in the class, will turn its focus to practice/qualifying Thursday beginning at 19:00 (local). That two hour session will be followed by a one hour break and a second two hour session concluding at midnight. The race itself will take the French Tri-Colour flag at approximately 15:00 on Saturday, 13 June.
Paul Drayson, Driver/Owner:
About the elation of running at Le Mans: "I am so glad to get my 10 laps done. I want to get back in and do my night qualification now. It's everything and more than I expected it to be. It certainly lives up to its reputation of 'Le Mans.'"
About reaching this goal: "There is a sense of another milestone reached. Then you focus on the next one. I am focused on qualifying tomorrow and then it will be the race. I am so enjoying this. This is being laser-etched into my brain. It's great. You never do it the first time again and that was my first time."
About his initial laps: "It is like the circuit is alive! The grip is so different in all the different places on the circuit. As the weather came in and as the clouds moved around, the grip changes in real time. You think you sorted out your braking point for a corner last time around and you turn-up the next time and it's not right. You have to be constantly thinking and feeling what's going on. I suppose it's because of the public roads and the fact that the track hasn't rubbered-in with the race cars but it's a real challenge at the moment. Very slippery."
Jonny Cocker, Driver:
About Le Mans: "Yes, absolutely fantastic. This is pretty awesome. It feels like no other circuit. It is no other circuit. It's something so different to anything else it is really exciting to be here. It's mega."
About the practice: "There is plenty left in me and in the car. It was quite encouraging really. I feel comfortable with the circuit. I know a few adjustments I will make to lines and things like that but we were taking it very, very steady, getting the laps under our belts and then taking it from there. The biggest thing to me was that I did that much time in the car and it felt like nothing. You just sat with no lock in a straight line for so much of the lap."
Marino Franchitti, Driver: "For me these were very tough conditions. I don't know if it is because I'm Scottish but the heavens opened when I got in the car. The Aston was working very well in these conditions. I have to say once again what fantastic work the team has done and it showed tonight. It was flawless and we are all in the race and I happy to be back at Le Mans with Drayson Racing."
Dale White, Team Manager: "I am really, really happy with the day. Things went very well in bad conditions. The drivers used their heads and stayed focused on what needed to be done. Tonight was about learning the track and getting in their laps. That is behind us and now we can focus on turning up the wick for the race."