Lord Paul Drayson: Speed Baron
By Bill Moore
Lord Paul Drayson, the current land speed record holder for an electric car under 1,000 kg talks with EV World about why he switched from racing on bio-fuel to electric.
For the first time in English history, a sitting cabinet minister of the British government was behind the wheel of a high-powered race car during the 24 hours of Le Mans. The year was 2009 and Lord Paul Drayson was out to prove that his team's Aston Martin DSRS9 GT3, powered by second generation bio-ethanol, could be competitive on the race track. He an his co-drivers, Marino Franchitti and John Cocker, completed 272 laps that year.
The following year, after the Labor Party lost the 2010 elections, Drayson returned to Le Mans with a Lola B09/60 entered in the top-of-the-rung LMP1 class. Again running on bio-ethanol, the team completed 254 laps. The most laps ever completed by any team competing at Le Mans came in 2010 with a remarkable 397 laps in the prescribed 24 hours: a distance of 3,360 miles.
It was that Lola car that Drayson Racing, with Lord Drayson as the principle team leader, decided to convert to electric and take on the challenge of setting a new land speed record for an electric car under 1,000 kg, a record that had stood since 1974.
Late in June of this year, racing down the 10,000 ft runway of an abandoned RAF base in Yorkshire, Drayson set an FIA-sanctioned average speed of 204.180 mph and and a new record. The 850 hp Lola was still accelerating as it crossed the braking point on the course, Lord Drayson told me today as we chatted via a combination of Skype and cellphone: the former on my end, the latter on Lord Drayson's. Clearly, the car can go faster, he believes.
Drayson has been in the United States the last couple weeks preparing to break his own record, but mother nature wasn't going to allow it, not this year. Instead, days of torrential rains, the same ones that caused the destructive flooding in Colorado, turned the salt flats at Bonneville in Utah back into a lake. The original plan was to use the miles of harden salt pan to allow the Lola to reach its maximum speed, but the monsoon-like rains literally washed out the competition, including our long-time acquaintance, Gildo Pastor and the Venturi Buckeye Bullet team from Ohio State. Both teams will have to wait until next year to try again. Drayson told me he was pretty disappointed, but he and his team have something just a exciting to prepare for, the FIA Formula E series.
We had planned to talk with both Lord Drayson and Alej Agag, the CEO of the 10-city series, about the upcoming 10 city race series during the interview, but a previous commitment forced us to postpone the rest of our conservation until a later time, one nearer the start of the series, which will include two races in the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia.
Our 15-minute conversation below touches on why Drayson got into racing and what influence it had on his role as the British government's minister of Science and Innovation. That experience was what caused him to shift his focus from bio-fuels to electric vehicles as the only long-term solution to creating a sustainable mobility system.
Originally published: 21 Sep 2013
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