Paul Drayson – Racing’s Renaissance Man
American Le Mans Series Monterey in the LMP class

Photo: Regis Lefebure

Born in the United Kingdom. A man of science. A master of business. A leader in government. A sportsman. A husband and father of five. Paul Drayson is a true renaissance man. In a time of increasing specialization, Paul Drayson is a man of many interests and talents and he has brought success to all he has pursued. This man of all seasons brings his considerable talents to bear on the 2010 American Le Mans Series Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the LMP1 class. He will start the six hour race fighting for the overall victory in the No. 8 Drayson Racing Lola Coupé with Judd Power with co-drivers Jonny Cocker (Guisborough, Yorks, UK) and two-time ALMS Champion Emanuele Pirro (Rome). It will mark his third Laguna Seca start, his first in the prototype.

Perhaps best known internationally for his “day job”, Paul, Lord Drayson is the current Minister for Science and Innovation in the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as well as the Minister for Strategic Defence Acquisition Reform in the Ministry of Defence. Included in his duties, Drayson has oversight of the national science research budget, innovation policy and space program. He attends Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, is a member of the National Economic Committee and in 2008 was appointed to Her Majesty’s Privy Council, an extremely high honor in the UK. As such, he became the highest government official to ever participate at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last season.

Prior to his government work and racing, Drayson who has homes in London and Gloucestershire, UK, earned a degree in Production Engineering and a PhD in Robotics. He used this vital education and experience to found PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc in 1993 with his wife, Elspeth, Lady Drayson. The business went public in ‘97 and become one of the world’s leading vaccine companies under their guidance. The couple sold their involvement in ‘03 just as Drayson’s interest of driving in vintage motorsport events began.

Drayson slowed his motorsport dream and entered politics in 2004 when he was made a working peer in the UK Parliament’s House of Lords. He was then appointed Minister of Defence Procurement and Spokesman for the Defence in the House of Lords Government in 2005 and by 2007 was the Minister of State Business and Regulatory Reform. Shortly thereafter, the very popular and productive Minister amazed his country when he stepped away from these posts to pursue racing in the ALMS fulltime. He campaigned the full season before being asked back for his present government position in October, ‘08. Further joining his passions, the request came in the form of a personal phone call from Prime Minister Brown moments before Drayson stepped into his race car to practice for the Petit Le Mans. Drayson refused a salary or expenses for his new role and offered only one requirement of his new boss; that he be allowed to pursue his racing. Brown quickly embraced the idea.

In his government position as Science Minister, Lord Drayson has a direct, un-filtered understanding of climate change and the importance of environmental reform. Even before joining government, Drayson and Lady Drayson – who is CEO of Drayson Racing overseeing the administration of the team – pioneered the green movement of motorsport. In 2007, Drayson Racing finished second in the British GT Championship driving a bio-ethanol powered Aston Martin with Drayson and Cocker driving. In the course of that season, Drayson earned the first British national victory for a bio-ethanol fueled race car.

With an understanding that motorsports moves both the technological and public perception of green automobiles forward, the team continues to pursue green innovation. In 2008, Paul Drayson brought his team to the ALMS driving an Aston Martin running on E85 bio-fuel, the first of its kind to compete at this level of the sport. Returning again last season, Drayson and teammate Cocker raced on the second-generation, cellulosic bio-fuel running near the top of the time sheets before a mechanical issue pulled them from the race.

In a move done in large part to create a better platform for green innovation, Drayson moved the UK-based team to the LMP1 class late in 2009. The effort made the transition from LM GT2 cars to the purpose-built prototypes debuting at Petit Le Mans. They continued onto Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before closing the year at the Okayama Circuit in Japan. There, in the inaugural Asian Le Mans Series championship, Drayson Racing earned one pole position and set two fastest race laps winning the Michelin ® Green X Challenge ®. Winning the Michelin Green X Challenge here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is again a top priority.

Racing at this level is a dream come true for Drayson and one which he takes very seriously. He has made an overwhelming commitment to developing his race craft, physical and mental fitness over five years of competition. Despite family, business and government commitments, Drayson has put everything he can into his driving and entry of a top race team. Perhaps even more impressively, he has done so while remaining one of the most accessible drivers at the track each weekend.

However, even a man as dedicated and successful as Drayson has had to overcome seemingly impossible hurdles. Possibly his greatest obstacle was one set-upon him by the international motorsports governing body, the FIA. Born blind in one eye, FIA rules limited such individuals from receiving an international motorsport license. Without a license, Drayson was only allowed to compete in national events. After diligent effort on behalf of all drivers with monocular vision, a late 2008 announcement by the FIA World Council reversed that stance and agreed with Drayson. The change came as a result of Drayson’s performance in the ALMS, his medical evidence and the prejudice of the rule. Drayson was granted the right to apply for his license to compete at Le Mans, and all international events, by virtue of the rule being overturned.

Drayson brings a scientific approach to the sport but he does so with an unquenchable passion for racing; a passion which helped him win the 2008 ALMS Promoter’s Trophy – an award given to the individual the promoters feel did the most to benefit their events. In the face of his heavy government requirements and deep dedication to his family, Paul Drayson has been able to achieve one of his fundamental dreams; racing for an overall victory at the world’s greatest events. A successful scientist, businessman, family man, statesman and racer. Paul Drayson is a true, modern renaissance man.