After a season competing in the American Le Mans Series in 2008, Paul Drayson and Johnny Cocker will return to European soil in 2009 with an entry into the Le Mans Series.

Crash.net took the chance to speak to the pair about the year ahead, which will see them campaign an Aston Martin Vantage GT2 on three continents under the Drayson Racing banner...

Crash.net:
Paul, exciting plans for the season ahead...

Paul Drayson:
Yeah, we've announced we will be doing a full programme in the Le Mans Series this year which is something we are very excited about. We'll be back in the Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and our season will kick off with Sebring before we do the full Le Mans Series. Then we hope to do a few other ALMS events at the end of the year including Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca and then will head to Shanghai in China and Mount Fuji in Japan. So we have a great programme in three continents and we believe the car will really be on the pace. We saw that at the end of last year with our car and with the works team and it will be a fantastic 2009 for us.

Crash.net:
Last year was a development year for the car after starting the season with the DBSR9 and then switching over. How pleased are you with how the development has gone?

Paul Drayson:
The first half of the year was full of difficulties. The team and Aston Martin Racing had a lot of work to do to develop the engine properly and that dogged us during the first half of last year. Towards the end of the year it started to come together and we started to see the real pace in the car. That, and the development work carried out over the winter, should put us in a good position. We were on the pace at the end of 2008 and with that work, we hope the car will 'be there' and has the chance to win races in 2009.

Crash.net:
Is the decision to run in Europe partly down to your commitments back here in the UK?

Paul Drayson:
Yes, absolutely. We loved being in America and the ALMS is a great series but now I am back in politics as the science minister, it's very important that I am as efficient as possible with my time. At the same time though I am very excited about racing on some of these great European circuits and have no regrets about the decision. The Le Mans Series is a great series that I haven't done before and we are both looking forward to it.

Crash.net:
And a strong team together with Dale White as team manager?

Paul Drayson:
Dale is brilliant. Calm, professional and a proven winner. He has won Le Mans several times and has won the ALMS. He knows about GT2 racing and is a great guy to work with, He was brilliant on strategy for us last year in America and he is also excited about coming over to race on some circuits in Europe that he has always wanted to race on.

Crash.net:
Away from your racing, you also have an involvement with the new land speed record attempt.

Paul Drayson:
The Bloodhound project is a project aiming to not only break the land speed record, but also to take it up to 1000mph. It's the first time that the land speed record attempt has been done as an open access project, trying to excite kids and young people to do science and engineering. There is nothing more exciting than a land speed record so it will be a chance for them to come down, see the workshop and see what is going on. They can follow the project through and get excited about science and engineering.

Crash.net:
Johnny, this will be your second year with Paul in the GT2 car. How much are you looking forward to it?

Johnny Cocker:
The plans we have are fantastic for this season, on three continents. The same team and the same car means we have nice continuity through the whole year and fingers crossed we will earn our place at Le Mans, which would be fantastic for everyone who will be involved. I'm looking forward to it and I'm hoping that the developments we worked on towards the end of 2008 will pay dividends this year.

Crash.net:
After running with Paul in British GT and then in the States last year, how do you feel he is developing as a driver?

Johnny Cocker:
That's one of the main focuses of this year, and has been in our time together, to help develop Paul's driving. We have worked hard to get the performance from me and the car but also from Paul as he has a lot to learn - but is learning quickly. There is always a big chunk at the start and then it is a case of chipping away at it but Paul does a great job and he has massively improved in terms of consistency. His overall pace has also improved and in the off-season you have that time to relax before you get back in the car and are on it again. I'm sure Paul will be no different.

Crash.net:
What do you think will be achievable this year?

Johnny Cocker:
I'd like to think that with the right package, and all the ingredients are there, that we should be able to fight for some strong positions in qualifying and fight for pole positions. In the longer races, where strategy comes into it, we have Dale as team manager with his invaluable experience and I think we can fight for some really strong finishes. We need the reliability in the car which we suffered with a little bit last year but I'm sure that will be there with the developments that AMR has brought in. I'm hoping for consistency and you need to finish each race. If we do the best job we can all year, then we could have a result at the end of it all.

Crash.net:
The Le Mans Series features longer races than some of the events in the ALMS. Will they be better suited to you two as a pairing and also better for the car?

Johnny Cocker:
I don't know really. The out and out sprints in the shorter events in the ALMS were ones where we would struggle a little bit more so the longer races do play into our hands. But we have to see how it plays out. I think we will have a great year and we should be able to do a fantastic job.

 

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