Ends with Disappointment
Drayson Racing showed much promise in its debut event of the 2009 sports car racing season; the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The No. 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 came to the American Le Mans Series season- opener performing stronger and more consistently than at any time since its premiere in 2008. However, that promise would come to an early end here at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway when the car's engine lost oil pressure deep into the race's seventh hour. Driver Rob Bell (St. Helens, England) brought the car to a safe stop and stepped from the Elspeth and Paul Drayson-owned entry while in seventh-place of the GT2 class on lap 204. Bell, who started the car at 10:30 AM (ET), was joined in the 'Second Generation' E85 ethanol-fuelled Aston Martin by Paul Drayson (London/Gloucestershire, UK) and Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK).
Drayson, the Minister of State for Science and Innovation for the United Kingdom, has pioneered "green", environmental causes in motorsports since the start of his career. Running the latest, 'Second Generation', cellulosic E85, Bio- Ethanol fuel, the team entered today's event with a mandate to threaten the factory efforts in the Grand Touring (GT) category of the Michelin® Green X® Challenge Award - presented to the GT team that completes the 12 hour race distance the quickest while having the smallest impact on the environment. At the time of its retirement, the No. 007 was running third in the Michelin® Green X® Challenge just fractions behind two 'works' entries from the GT1 class. The Vantage GT2 is largely in development by the Official Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing. As the sole organisation running the Vantage GT2 in professional, international competition, the burden of developing the car has rested on the shoulders of the Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) managed operation. Today's 12 hour classic was the first true race assessment of off-season advances. The new suspension and powertrain enhancements provided substantial improvements to the car's overall competitiveness throughout the week offering much anticipation for the coming season.
Prior to the race-ending oiling issue, the only major challenge for the team was a spin coming one hour and 17 minutes into the event. The team opted to keep the car on the same tyres while filling the fuel tank. The combination proved an evil mix creating a severely oversteering car. Cocker was able to fight the handling until pushed off-line by a faster Prototype. Once on the dirty portion of the track, the car lost grip and spun backwards into the tyre barrier in Turn 17 damaging the car's rear wing. An impressive nine- minute repair returned Cocker to the race.
Today's 12 Hours of Sebring, the second for each of the three drivers, is the start of an ambitious season for the United Kingdom-based programme. From Florida, Drayson Racing travels to Barcelona, Spain for the first round of the Le Mans Series, the 1,000 Km of Cantalunya scheduled for 5 April. Four additional events will be run in the European-based Series with the No. 87 Drayson Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT2 before returning to North America for the Petit Le Mans and Monterey Sports Car Championships in October. The effort will closeout the '09 season with back-to- back, November weekend events in Japan and China with the Asian Le Mans Series. Highlighting the season is the team's participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 13-14 June race marks the team's first invitation to compete in the legendary event.
QuotesPaul Drayson, Owner/Driver: "It was a positive week and a great race; really brilliant. We had some issues with the handling of the car early on in the day. We got that fixed. In my last stint the car was handling beautifully, really great. The Michelin tyres were starting to work better as the stint went on; they really came in. It was all looking good so it came as a real shock when I saw the car had stopped. Obviously disappointed but eight and a half hours in we really have to find out what went wrong and come back stronger."
Jonny Cocker, Driver: "The first stint was tricky on new rubber when the car was on full tanks. When the fuel came off the car, the tyre was keeping up so we made the call to stay on the same set of tyres that Rob had. But another 100 kilos of fuel went on board for my stint and the rear tyre just couldn't keep up. I was struggling to keep any kind of reasonable pace. The Acura showed its nose in Turn 17 and almost stuck itself between the wall and me. That was just enough to put me on the marbles and it took me all the way to the wall. On my next stint the car wasn't feeling too bad. Rob was out, halfway through his stint, and I was just thinking about going out for my next stint. We had been having an issue with the oil pressure all day. It had been subtly going down over two or three hours. I am disappointed, obviously, that it got to the critical point and that was it."
Rob Bell, Driver: "Unfortunately, we retired about mid-way through my third stint. We had an oil warning light on the last several stints but we topped it off with oil and thought we might be lucky and make it. Mid-way through that stint the pressure got so low I radioed and said I was going to come in that lap. I got half way through Turn 15 and the engine just let go. There must have been oil on the tyres because I spun, regained it and I just coasted to a stop. It is a sad end obviously but there are a lot of positives. My last stint the tyres were running well with the car. That was the quickest the car has been all week. It was a great team effort. Everyone has worked really hard and well all week. It is just a pity we couldn't bring it home."
Dale White, Team Manager: "We're obviously very disappointed with the result but we accomplished a lot this week. Overall, I'd say it was a very positive week for Drayson Racing. The team really came together, the car ran well in practice and qualifying and we made good progress in the handling. We learned a lot about what the Aston Martin Vantage GT2 likes with the Michelin tyres. I am really proud of the guys. For our first race together everyone worked really well together and worked really, really hard. I am looking forward to Barcelona now more than ever."