dailysportscar.com dailysportscar.com

ALMS – Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans – Ryan Eversley At Petit Le Mans
Hands On
© Helen Collins

dailysportscar.comA young man in the paddock today is hoping that number 13 will be lucky for him and his team in the seventh running of Petit Le Mans. Ryan Eversley is no ordinary young driver. Born in 1983, Ryan had a passion for racing from an early age – handed down through his genes. His father ran the Panoz GT1 team, so the track quickly became a home away from home for him. At 17 Ryan managed to persuade his parents to let him leave high-school to go racing. Not entirely keen, but realising that Ryan was determined, they relented and with home study tutoring allowed him to follow his dream. After e-mailing several teams, Ryan hooked up with Mike Johnson of Archangel. Mike and his team were going to Daytona and couldn’t afford to pay him, but invited him to hang around. You would think that not having even seen one of these cars up close might pose a problem, but not for Ryan. He took to being a mechanic like a proverbial duck to water: it came easily to him and by the end of a very successful Daytona 24 hour weekend (they won their class), Ryan was installed as #2 mechanic. Mike was impressed and kept him on – for two years. But Ryan’s main goal was to drive the cars, not just to work on them.

After driving at Sears Point in a Formula Mazda race, Ryan attended the Racing School at Road Atlanta and went on to get his racing licence. Mike saw that he was serious and offered him a deal – if he worked on the cars he could drive them too. After two races in the Grand Am Cup at Virginia and Homestead, driving a Nissan Sentra with Mike Johnson, he got the call he’d been waiting for. Mike wanted to run in the 2004 ALMS, and wanted Ryan’s help to set up and run the cars.

After only five hours of testing in the Lola Millington, Ryan got to race at Lime Rock with Andy Lally and the Race Car Company racing team. He was right on the pace from the get go and the team enjoyed a podium finish, coming second in class. Mid Ohio wasn’t so easy as Ryan made a rookie mistake after coming out on cold tyres. Braking too hard, he took an unscheduled flying lesson across the wet grass. Luckily, he and the car were OK and after getting back to the pits, Andy Lally took over. Ryan did the last thirty minute stint and went the quickest he’d gone all weekend. Another podium finish – second in class, again.

He’s never previously admitted that PLM is only his sixth race, as the authorities don’t usually give licences to such inexperienced drivers, but in Ryan’s case they obviously saw something special. You’d usually find a driver has come up through the ranks, first karting then through the various smaller series. But not Ryan. He’s done some karting, but nothing like most other drivers.

At the moment the Marshall Cooke team don’t have an engineer on staff – they don’t need one. Ryan has had a hand in nearly everything you see connected to the team at PLM – from organising the catering, acquiring the old Archangel trailer, to the paint on the cars – literally – Ryan helped prep the cars ready for the paint! Considering the tight budget, the team look and feel completely professional – it’s not about making bags of money, it’s the racing that they’re all here for.

The team has switched from Avon tyres, which served them well, but are now a little out of date compared to Pirelli - and this is one of the things that has improved the car’s performance.

So, having never driven at the Road Atlanta track before, was Ryan nervous? “The Esses and turn twelve were the most daunting – they’re just awesome! Road Atlanta is such a fantastic track to drive – it’s fun and scary at the same time.”

dailysportscar.com

How has the week progressed for the team? “Well, the car is easier to drive now and my times and the other guys’ times are improving all the time. We’ve done a lot of work on the engine, it’s not so peaky now and the Pirelli tyres have helped enormously.”

How did you find night practice on Thursday? “That was so cool as I’d never driven a race car at night before. The way the lights are aimed on the car makes it a little strange to drive at night here. The beam points straight ahead, not at the track so especially at turn twelve, with the drop off, you’re driving into darkness. The bright lights round the track make it almost like daylight, but there are places where you’re plunged into darkness, that’s a little strange, but it’s like, oh, OK! Andy (Lally) likes the night part of the race so he’ll probably do most of that.”

dailysportscar.com

What about hopes and expectations for the race itself? “Well, we’ve been working really hard, and as I said before, the engine has really improved. We fully expect the cars to go the distance, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. But with a race of this length, you just never know what’s going to happen, barring anything silly happening, we should have a good race.”

Is there anyone in particular that you look up to in the Paddock? “Yeah, James Weaver! He’s such a gentleman, a great racer and he’s really hands on with his car.”

Was there anything else that pushed you to be where you are today, apart from growing up in the paddock? “I saw the Steve McQueen film, Le Mans, when I was little and that’s one of the things that really inspired me. I’d love to race at Le Mans. I’ve been there and it’s truly mind blowing, the ultimate goal for any racing driver.”

What about the finish, any plans for that? “If we’re pushing for a place near the end, we’ll probably leave Andy in the car, but if we’re comfortable then I’ll take the last stint and see the car across the line for the finish.”

And after PLM? “We’re going to Laguna Seca for the finale of the season. I’ve never raced there, but Andy has. I’m really looking forward to it – it’s an awesome track.”

There’s no ego with this charming young man, he’s just here to race and enjoy doing what he does best. He’s unusual in the paddock: how many other drivers do you know have organised the catering, painted the cars and is second mechanic on their team?! Ryan seems to have a natural affinity for the Lola, from the ground up he knows this car and is able to get the best from it. With two podium finishes and the good chance of another at PLM, Ryan seems to have achieved one of his dreams already. We hope we see him in more ALMS races, and maybe at Le Mans next year?

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.