Five-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Emanuele Pirro is to drive Drayson Racing's Lola LMP1 car at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans this year. The Italian will join team regulars Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker in the Judd-powered car for the three high-profile events, in a deal that team manager Dale White hailed as a big step forward for Drayson.
"The addition of Emanuele to Drayson Racing is not only another piece in the puzzle to move us to the front; it is a major piece," White said. "He has such a remarkable record in sports cars that he immediately forces everyone to think of our program when they think of contenders.
"He brings with him so much experience in these cars and that is an element we have been missing. Not only will Emanuele's impact on the team be felt at the three endurance races he will drive but also in races he is not even at the track. I honestly feel his input will be that impactful on Paul and Jonny as drivers and to our team as a whole."
Pirro has been an Audi factory driver since 1994, initially in touring cars before moving to the company's LMP1 program, where he became a multiple Le Mans 24 Hours winner and a double American Le Mans Series champion, as well as winning the Sebring 12 Hours twice and Petit Le Mans three times.
The 48-year-old stepped back from Audi's front-line squad at the end of the 2008 ALMS season, and his only races last year were in Race of Champions events, the Goodwood Revival and the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
"When I received the offer from Drayson Racing it didn't take long to realize that it was a great opportunity," Pirro said. "I met Paul Drayson during the ALMS season [in 2008]. First I was attracted by his life story, rather unusual for a racing driver, then I found a very interesting person with whom I share a lot of things and thoughts not only concerning the motor racing world. I am looking forward to driving with him and with Jonny Cocker, a true young talent."
Drayson was also thrilled to be able to add Pirro to his lineup. "It's just brilliant news! I am really excited about this," Drayson said. "I met Emanuele during the 2008 ALMS championship and we got on really well from the start, particularly when swapping flying stories. I am just delighted to be racing with him this year. He is such a world-class talent and such a nice guy; pre-race driver briefings were never the same without Emanuele!
"Most of all though, his huge experience and positive personality will lift the whole expectation and performance of the team, especially during the big three races of the year at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit."
Drayson Racing initially began as a GT team, starting out in the British GT Championship before moving up to the ALMS and Le Mans Series with its GT2 Aston Martin. It graduated to the LMP1 class at the end of last year, running its new Lola-Judd at Petit Le Mans and in the Asian Le Mans Series weekend at Okayama.