Twelve days ago, a bare carbon-fibre tub rolled into a small workspace at the back of the Lola Cars facilities in Huntingdon. Twelve days later, a complete, fully-liveried and fully-functional Lola B09/60 Coupe, powered by Judd's GV5 V10, completed a trouble-free four-hour shakedown run on the Stowe course at Silverstone.
Few outside the tight-knit Drayson Racing team thought the project would see a race in 2009, let alone reaching the team's self-inflicted deadline of the ten-hour/1000-mile Petit Le Mans on 26 September, but, at approximately 1030hrs GMT on Thursday, Jamie Campbell-Walter completed the first lap of the new car's shakedown run. Over the course of the next few hours, both owner-driver Paul Drayson and two-time British GT champion Jonny Cocker had turned laps in the car.
Team manager Dale White received the final go-ahead to begin the LMP1 project on 4 August, with the objective to reach the twelfth Petit Le Mans, which was just over a month away. With a well-organised and thoroughly structured approach, the team set about a focused attack to meet the looming target of the final two races of the American Le Mans Series - all done whilst preparing the team's #87 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 for the Le Mans Series finale at Silverstone this weekend.
Every member of Drayson Racing drew full aim on two goals - first, to complete the LMP1 car in time for the shakedown and, second, to ready the Aston for its final race three days later. If the goals of achieving a strong result in the Le Mans Series finale and shipping the Lola-Judd to the United States for a two-day test at Road Atlanta were to be met, every team member would have to stand tall but, whether focused on the LMP1 build or the GT2 car preparations, each accomplished their task
"I can't exaggerate the challenge that Drayson Racing has overcome in the last two months," White commented, "To bring it all together by building a complete, running car from bare tub to finished car in just twelve days is really remarkable. I am convinced there is no other combination that would have allowed us to do this other than the Lola Coupe and Judd V10.
"When we rolled it out of the trailer at Silverstone to do the shakedown, the car looked as if we could roll it right onto the grid at Petit Le Mans. I don't think anyone outside our group would have thought he could have done it. My hat is off to everyone at Drayson and to everyone at Lola and Judd, as well as all of the ancillary part suppliers who made this happen. What an achievement, what a team effort!"
When the closed-top prototype appeared from the trailer at the test track, all of the car's systems were fully operational and the Lola-Judd was in its completed livery - a fresh look at the traditional Drayson two-tone green with the Union Jack on its engine cover.
The shakedown went extremely well, with the full Drayson Racing crew - as well as Lola Cars and Judd Engines - in attendance. Campbell-Walter, selected to test the car because of his prototype experience, rolled out and completed one lap before returning for a simple leak check. Once done, he returned to the track and proceeded to put in conservative laps, testing the car's systems and basic fit and finish.
With a glowing recommendation of the work of the Rob Boakes-led crew, Paul Drayson was next in the car. The team boss turned multiple laps, learning the car's unique characteristics as well as its paddle-shift gearbox and sophisticated steering wheel. Following a break for lunch, Cocker was to have his first taste of the car, and with no significant mechanical or build issues during the day, the car eventually returned to the team's Le Mans Series garage to be on display the remainder of the weekend.