Drayson-Barwell makes a point at Mid-Ohio with 10th place finishAfter a week of turmoil and a drama-filled race, the Drayson-Barwell ALMS team came through to finish 10th in GT2 and score their first championship point at Mid-Ohio on Saturday. This was an incredible triumph over adversity for the hard working British team, and was just rewards for some gritty performances from drivers Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker, and a great all-round team effort.
After an engine failure on their Aston Martin Vantage GT2 curtailed the proceedings at the last round at Lime Rock just one week ago, the Drayson-Barwell crew were burning the midnight oil during the Mid-Ohio race week as they had to swap the engine out of the spare car into the race car.
The E85 (2nd Generation) Bio-Ethanol fuelled car then suffered further engine problems during Friday's first practice session at Mid-Ohio. Fortunately we had arranged for Aston Martin Racing to fly out the engine from their test and development car as a ‘new' spare, and this arrived in the Mid-Ohio paddock first thing Friday morning. It didn't sit around for long (!), and the crew thus had to carry out another engine change on Friday, and Paul and Jonny were forced to sit out the official qualifying session.
On top of all this we were waging a constant battle against the Ohio summer heatwave, which was turning our car into a furnace and cooking the drivers inside. We had to wrap as much of the car and pipework as possible in heat reflective material, as driver cooling was a major issue without the benefit of the air conditioning system which broke at Lime Rock. Whilst the exact cause of the breakage is under investigation, it was too risky to run a patched up system in case it broke again during this race. If this wasn't enough work, we also had to find a solution to stop the drivers having to brace their left foot on the clutch which was causing severe clutch wear in a short timespan. The tight confines of the Vantage GT2 cockpit meant that this was no easy task.
Paul thus started from the back of the grid in Saturday's 2 hour 45 minute race, which was held in front of a capacity Mid-Ohio crowd, and was immersed in drama early on when he received a heavy side-swipe from an LMP2 prototype car on lap three. Fortunately the Vantage GT2 is a tough little beauty and the LMP2 car came off a lot worse, and so Paul was able to carry on and started to put in some strong lap times despite the intense heat of the Ohio summer. Whilst his cool suit managed to keep his upper body cool, however, the exhaust pipes in front of the pedal footwell did their best to fry his feet and lower legs!
If this didn't make life hard enough, about half way through his stint the gear lever broke in half as he was changing down through the gears for a corner! This left him wîth about a three-inch jagged piece of metal to use as a gearstick, but he completed his hour-long stint and handed the car over to Jonny in 12th place out of the 14 GT2s.
Jonny thus had to endure this hot and difficult car for the next hour and a half, and considering the handicaps he had to deal wîth he put in some incredible lap times to keep the car in the hunt for the all-important last point-scoring 10th position. He handed back to Paul wîth 15 minutes to go, after a determined and gritty performance, and had moved up to 11th spot but was nearly two laps behind the Robertson Racing Ford GT.
Then wîth a little over five minutes remaining the Ford suffered a problem and lost a wheel at the far side of the track. It made it back to the pits on three wheels a few seconds still in front of us, but was powerless to resist Paul sweeping by to take 10th place. To cap off our most successful event of the year so far, Paul also achieved third place in the ‘Founders Cup' for amateur privateer drivers. This is an award based on how close on average lap times in the race the amateur drivers in all classes get to the pole position lap time of their specific class. This result was thus rewarded wîth our first trophy of the season!