with Top-10 Sebring 12 Hour Qualifier
Drayson Racing turned more than the Michelin tyres on its No. 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 while preparing for Saturday's 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida; they turned heads. From the E85-fueled car's first test run on the famous Sebring International Raceway on Monday, those involved in the American Le Mans Series began to take notice of the Elspeth and Paul Drayson-owned team's Vantage GT2 showed marked progress since the end of the 2008 season. Any doubts of the car's improvement were removed in today's 25-minute qualifying session for the GT2 class when Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) placed the car ninth on the class grid. Cocker will be joined by Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK), and Rob Bell (St. Helens, England) behind the wheel of the British racing green machine during the 21 March event.
The Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing turned seven laps in practice with Cocker's quick time of two minutes, 5.692 seconds coming on the fourth trip around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit. The lap was 2.6 seconds off the pace set by the class pole position-winning car. To complete a long day which included three total hours of available track time, the Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) managed team took part in the mandatory night session. American Le Mans Series rules dictate that any driver starting in Saturday's 12 hour event must take a minimum of three laps at racing speeds of the circuit at night. A rain storm swept through central Florida between the qualifying session and night practice leaving a freshly scrubbed track surface to challenge the three British drivers as they took to the course in the setting sun.
The operation stuck to protocol getting the drivers their required track time on the damp track with grooved tyres. As the preferred racing line dried, the call came to run each driver through the car on the dry-weather, racing slicks. Cocker was first on the slick tyres and set the fifth-quickest time of the session (2:06.384). Drayson and Bell followed becoming accustomed to the race day setup. Ted Higgins, crew chief for Drayson Racing, also took the time to lead the organisation in a pit stop practice as the programme rotated through its drivers. In total, the team ran 29 laps during the night practice.
SPEED will televise the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida live from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-11 p.m. EDT. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at www.AmericanLeMans.com .
QuotesPaul Drayson, Owner/Driver:About the week: "The weekend is going really well. The preparations this week have been really on track. There is a significant improvement over last year and we are in contention. We qualified ninth which, hopefully, we can improve on that with our race pace. I am very happy with the car."About finding speed at Sebring: "The fascinating thing about Sebring is just how the track changes from session to session. It is all about getting the setup to work right for the particular track conditions with the temperature. That is what makes it fascinating. It is always moving around. The nature of the first turn and the last turn; there is so much time in getting it setup well for those corners. That is where I really came on this morning. That is where the time came from for me."
Jonny Cocker, Driver: "A little bit disappointing in qualifying really. We had a small problem early in the morning session and the car had the same kind of feeling in qualifying. We were struggling in the right hand corners. We have definitely made a forward step as we are much closer to the leaders than last year. It is tough but we'll see. We are generally closer to the leaders in the race pace and it is a long race."
Rob Bell, Driver: "The car was mega in the night session on dry tyres. We need to stay consistent and keep out of trouble and I think we can be there at the end on Saturday."
Dale White, Team Manager: "We are a little disappointed in qualifying. We felt like we had a top- five car but it just didn't feel right to Jonny when he went for his quick laps. Based on the driver feedback from the night practice we fixed that issue. We accomplished all of our tasks for the evening. I am very happy right now, much happier than after qualifying. We should have a good car for the race. We'll run our pace and let it all unfold."