Electric Storm

It’s green on the outside – and the same applies beneath the skin. Meet Drayson Racing’s potent, pioneering sports car

By Ed Foster

Lord Drayson couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. He’d just got back from driving up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in his new electric Le Mans prototype and, despite the fact that it had run for the first time only three days before, it had gone without a hitch. “It’s really fast!” he said as he looked around, a little wide eyed, at the green machine that would later in the weekend climb the course in 53.91 seconds. It was the 11th-quickest time of the weekend and the fastest yet seen for an electric car on the hill. An impressive performance for something powered by 2500 laptop batteries.

It hasn’t been a simple creation, of course, and as well as advanced battery technology this one-off, time-attack racer is showing the technological way in almost every area of its LMP1 Lola chassis. Its aim is to show that electric cars can be fast, exciting and viable as genuine racers. It’s also a timely project considering that the FIA Formula E (Electric) Championship will start in 2014. The racers will differ from this one — series bosses have just ordered 42 cars from Spark Racing Technology, all using an electric drivetrain from McLaren — but a head start in understanding how the technology works will stand Drayson Racing in good stead when it enters the category.

Paul Drayson set up his eponymous team in 2006, campaigning in the British GT Championship with Barwell Motorsport, and by the following year it had dipped its toe into green technology with a bioethanol-fuelled Aston Martin DBRS9. Come 2010 and the DBRS9 had morphed into an LMP1 Lola-Judd, which also ran on bioethanol.

That’s the car you see here, only now it’s powered by four YASA motors in two pairs rather than an eight-cylinder Judd. “When I joined the team in July 2011,” says Angus Lyon, chief engineer on the electric drivetrain, “Paul’s first question to me was, ‘Can we do an electric car faster than the 750bhp Lola-Judd?’ He gave me a week to work out whether it was possible and when I said that we could make it work he replied, ‘Right, go and do it’.”

Six months later the car was displayed at Autosport International and six months after that it was breaking records at Goodwood. Not bad considering its chassis partner, Lola, went into administration before the car was finished.

The plan this year is to travel the world, setting fast lap times at famous tracks. “We want to advertise the fact that this is an electric car and make it exciting,” says Lyon who used to work in Fl for Honda, Brawn GP and Renault. “We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves and we’re looking at those to enhance the experience rather than disguise it. The last thing we want to do is to put a V8 noise over this and pretend it’s a Judd. It isn’t. It’s a next-generation technology — it’s part of what we see as the future and it’s better if we celebrate that.”