Last weekend, Drayson Racing scored their first overall victory in the American Le Mans Series at Road America, taking Pole Position, fastest lap and quickest in practice in the process.
It was also the first ALMS win for its drivers, Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker. I followed the team earlier this year at Laguna Seca and Le Mans, in preparation of an extensive car feature, so what better time to share this with fellow Speedhunters!
During 2009, Team owner, Paul, Lord, Drayson and Team Manager, Dale White decided to move up into the top Prototype class and ordered a Lola Judd V10 Coupe.
The team is owned by Paul Drayson and his wife, Elspeth. Drayson was Minister for Science and Innovation, until the recent UK elections. During this time, as an active peer, he was unable to accept sponsorship for the team, which has allowed for a clean livery in deep metallic British Racing Green with lime green highlights and a cool Union Jack graphic over the engine cover. Since May, relieved of his Ministerial duties, Paul has been able to concentrate on the team.
The team is a family affair with Elspeth looking after day-to day administration, following a successful career as a Financal Director
The car is based in the US and the team is headed by experienced team manager, Dale White and is one of the best prepared cars in the paddock.
Prior to his Ministerial and Racing career, Paul ran a successful Pharmaceutical company which pioneered vaccines. His understanding of science has helped in the House of Lords as well as his racing. Paul helps to promote Science for Schools in the UK and the 1000mph Bloodhound Land Speed Record attempt and was one of the first users of Bio-Ethanol fuel in race cars. The current race car runs on E85 Bio-Ethanol in the ALMS.
Paul is joined by British driver Jonny Cocker and for long distance events, Emanuele Pirro. Cocker is a star of the future, youngest winner of the British GT Championship, back in 2004.
Emanuele Pirro needs no introduction.
Having raced in Formula 1 for Benetton and BMS Scuderia Italia, Pirro began a highly successful Sportscar career, winning Le Mans no less than 5 times with Audi Sport. Pirro was also one of the main development drivers for the Audi R8 LMS GT3 racecar and joined Drayson Racing at the start of this season. The Italian also subbed for Drayson at the Utah round, following a accident at home.
Drayson Racing were also given an entry to Le Mans earlier this year. It was a tough baptism of fire, but as ever Paul was full of smiles, finding it hard to believe he was actually racing a LMP at La Sarthe. The team finished 28th, just outside of official classification after numerous problems with the car.
Onto the car itself.
The Lola B09/60 Couper has a 5.5 Litre Judd V10 Naturally Aspirated engine developing 700bhp to the rear wheels via a six speed sequential geabox. The normally aspirated engine can have an advantage on long straights over the turbos, as seen during last weekend at Road America. Jonny Cocker was able to overcome a 30 second deficit to take the lead and win the race on the last lap.
This particular chassis is a 2009 car with 2010 updates. Lola is the favored choice for independent teams, the British company having a long successful history in Sportscar racing and is well represented in the American and European Le Mans Series with Coupe’s and open cockpit cars. The Coupe is particularly elegant, helped in this instance, by the Metallic British Racing Green livery.
The current generation of Lola LMP racecars are distinctive due to its raised nose, taped front fenders complete with scallops on the front edges of the fenders which allow Multiple Dive planes to be fitted, within the ‘footprint’ of the floor.
As Le Mans is a relatively low downforce circuit, these were removed and the recess filled in with a new panel.
The raised section of the front floor is common place with Le Mans Prototypes and allows air under the nose of the car, like a single seater.
The air then flows out of the car at the side. This is one of the most important areas of the car aerodynamically and you see teams continually develop this area as this air flow has an effect over the rest of the car.
The 2010 update also has new side pods which fall away, ahead of the wheels.
More aerodynamic tricky at the front with the brake air intakes. Different blanking panels are fixed in place, so the optimum balance of aero and brake cooling is achieved based on circuit, weather conditions and length of session.
The little yellow tag on the headlamp cover is a tare-off strip. Vital for night races.
These louvered panels are also common on all Le Mans Prototypes, they extract air from the wheel well, reducing pressure build up, which in turn helps cool the brakes and tire.
With the nose removed, you can see the air intakes for the brakes and the front suspension which has multiple pick up points. Pushrod/Rocker activated twin dampers are mounted on the top of the tub.
Carbon Brakes with AP Racing six piston aluminum calipers.
The cockpit is quite tight with a small door for access on either side.
A closer look reveals a barrage of switches and dials all at easy reach for the driver. I wonder how they can read the text while flat out! The Momo wheel houses a LED Screen and rev-limit lights.
This side view shows how compact the cockpit area is and details of the front nose, behind the suspension. You can also see the Engine Air-Intake above the drivers head.
Depending on engine configuration, the various Lola Coupe’s around the world have roof or side pod mounted air intakes. The roof mounted air intake is very elegant, with two round air intakes allowing air in, through the regulation air restrictor
…..down the airbox and into the Judd V10.
As with the front, the rear suspension has multiple pick up points and has a Pushrod set up with coil sprints/adjustable dampers.
The rear end is very compact. Radiators are mounted under the sidepod, sandwiching the 120 Liter fuel tank, housed inside the tub, behind the driver.
The exhausts are a work of art, twisting around, using the available space, exiting out of the top of the engine cover, above the suspension. The rear bodywork and rear wing are separate to the engine cover and fixed to the rear crash structure.
All Le Mans Prototypes have a rear diffuser regulated by ACO Rules. Above this, hot air from the engine is able to escape with open bodywork. Slatted louvers behind the rear tires, are new for 2010 and limit debris being catapulted into a following car.
The rear looks awesome with the rear structure removed!
A great example of how tightly wrapped the bodywork is around the rear wheels, suspension and engine.
The Drayson Lola is one of four Lola’s in this year’s American Le Mans Series. Two open top Lola’s are run by privateer teams, Autocon and Intersport, while a similar Coupe for Dyson Racing, but powered by Mazda AER Turbo makes up the Lola quartet.
All four have shown great speed, but it is the two Coupe’s who have won this year, with Dyson Racing in Mid Ohio and now, Drayson at Road America. At Le Mans, there were no less than 10 Lola’s in the 56 car field.
The Road America win had been on the cards for a while.
Paul started from Pole settling down to consistent times as per the strategy. Cocker took over from Drayson at the seconde pit stop and the young charger emerged in 4th overall. Cocker pushed hard, picking off other LMP’s, finally taking the lead with less than an hour to go. Cocker continued to push, knowing a late splash of bio-ethanol fuel would be required. He was two seconds a lap quicker than anyone else!
With Twenty minutes to do, Cocker dived into the pits. Highcroft, CytoSport and Dyson all passed the Drayson car dropping it down to 4th place. A win looked to be slipping away. Cocker returned to his fast pace, closing on the other LMP’s and briefly taking the Dyson Lola Mazda, before a small mistake allowed the Lola Mazda through.
Undeterred, Cocker kept the pace up and with the help of ultimate straight line speed, was in second place on the last lap.
The leader, Klaus Graf in the CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder was almost out of fuel. With traffic and possibly slow fuel pick up, Cocker was able to nip past on the exit of the penultimate corner, taking victory by over a second. A very popular win with everyone.
Two races remain in this year’s American Le Mans Series. This Sunday is the series annual trip to Canada and Mosport Circuit in Ontario
Then a short break before the final event, Petit Le Mans. 10 hours or 1000kms at Road Atlanta. While the overall LMP title looks like it will be for Highcroft Racing to loose, the event should be a classic, with an ALMS official telling me last week there could be as many as 50 entries including Audi and Peugeot.
Additional Images: Drayson Racing/ Regis Lefebure