FIVE TIME LE MANS WINNER VISITS LOLA BASE
Sportscar legend, Emanuele Pirro was at the Lola factory today meeting his new team Drayson Racing and getting himself acquainted with the Lola LMP1 he will race at the Sebring 12 Hours next month. The five time Le Mans 24 Hours winner joined his team mates Jonny Cocker and team owner Lord Paul Drayson in Huntingdon to get a seat fitting for a shakedown test in the UK tomorrow (Friday). Pirro, who will also drive at Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans endurance events for Drayson Racing, spoke to Lola about his first impressions of his new team and his new charge for the 2010 season.
Emanuele, how are you looking forward to the season and the three big races with Lord Drayson and the Drayson Racing Lola LMP1?
"First of all, after 31 years of motor racing experience, it is the first time that I visit the Lola factory. It’s been quite something to see. To go back in to prototypes is really a good opportunity for me. When I did my last season in ’08, I wasn’t ready to retire from prototype racing and I realised in 2009 that I was missing this kind of racing very very much, so when I got the proposal from Drayson Racing, I was thrilled and I think this is a very good operation which can give me very similar feelings to what I got in the past. It’s a bunch of high-quality and very motivated people and I am sure we can help out each other and do something quite good."
This is a completely different proposition to the Audi, of course. You are going to have to get used to an engine noise behind you as opposed to a whistling diesel?
"Actually, this is a good question because I haven’t driven a non-turbo engine for ages and I would probably appreciate the driveability of this normally aspirated engine. I have to say, in 1991 with the Scudeia Italia Dallara F1 that JJ Lehto and I drove, the Judd V10 engine was the grand-grandson of this engine in the Lola now. I was told by a lot of people that Lola is a nice and user-friendly and easy-to-drive car, so I’m looking forward to it, but all in all this is a passion-driven decision for me and I am sure I will be finding people who share the same motivation as I have, so I am looking forward to it."
When you were driving for Audi, how aware were you of what Lola were doing in sports cars in P1 and P2?
"Well, in fact, it’s always been interesting for me to see how Lola do, because I know how big an effort a manufacture like Audi are putting into sports cars and how relatively small a factory, not in terms of the factory, but in terms of investment in the project like Lola is. I was impressed that Lola could produce cars which are not really far away from the performance of works cars. I believe, in terms of engines, so there is quite some difference, so it’s always been interesting to me to see why and how with much less people you can do very well and I am about to find out and I am looking forward to it."
So, when you come to race with the Audis in Le Mans this year, what will your feelings be after so long with the marque?
"Well, in fact, I would like to take the opportunity to really thank Audi for their flexibility and understanding because they know how much I love racing and I am still an Audi ambassador and contracted to Audi. But racing is racing and fortunately sports car racing is not really a race where you have to bang each other off. It’s matter of putting your head down and capitalising what you have done in testing and driving your car as fast as possible."
And finally, Emanuele, you are having a seat fitting today and then presumably it is just a shakedown here in the UK tomorrow?
"Yes, I really wanted to come here and not to arrive in Sebring as an alien. I really believe in team spirit, in bonding together and I wanted to come here and see the Lola factory, see the car, get acquainted with all the car systems but above all with the team. Part of the pleasure of racing is being all together and pulling the rope all in one direction, so if you don’t know these people, it’s very difficult to do this, so I want to make very good use of these two days and as much as possible start to feel home and to make them look at me not like a guest, but like one of them."
All pictures John Brooks, David Lord and Legh Arms.
Emanuele Pirro at the Lola factory.
The Drayson Lola leading at Okayama last autumn.
The Drayson Lola in action.
Emanuele stands next to a Lola T70 MkII Spyder, champions both.