ALMS – Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans – Ryan Eversley
At Petit Le Mans
© Helen Collins
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
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?