Mans Endurance Series 2005
Round 5. Istanbul 1000 Kilometers. November 12th - 13th
Race. Issued November 13th 2005
Deserved Victory in Season Finalé for RML
The final round of the
Le Mans Endurance Series 205 brought a long-overdue win
for Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos in the RML MG Lola EX264.
The race began under grey
skies, but with just a light drizzle. Former Le Mans winner
Guy Smith in the pole-setting Chamberlain Lola gambled on
intermediate tyres for the start, and quickly established
a narrow lead in LMP2. Within minutes, however, the rain
began again in earnest. Thomas Erdos, taking first stint
in the RML MG Lola on full wets, swiftly clawed back Smith’s
advantage and took the lead at the end of lap three, when
the yellow Lola was baulked into the final corner by Marc
Gounon in the #13 Courage. Followed through by Didier André
in the #37 Belmondo Courage, Erdos had to contend with a
relentless challenge from the Frenchman, who eventually
forced a move on Erdos that briefly netted the lead, only
to throw it away again when he tripped over one of the BMS
Ferraris soon afterwards.
This allowed a thrilling
duel to develop between Erdos and the recovering Guy Smith.
The two cars were well matched – the Synergy car having
an advantage in straight-line speed, the MG looking better
through the twisty sections. First Erdos had the edge, and
then Smith came back at him, regaining the lead on lap 16.
As the rain increased, however, the pendulum swung back
in the Brazilian’s favour, and the gap narrowed once more.
It was no surprise to see Smith pitting first, eager to
swap his intermediates for full wets. This restored Erdos
to the lead, and he built up a substantial advantage, only
to see it disappear when he too pitted for fuel.
Erdos still had the advantage
as the race entered its only period behind the safety car,
but just two cars stood between him and Smith. When racing
resumed, so did the duel. Smith was quickly into the attack,
and for lap after lap they circulated almost nose-to-tail.
It was evident that the Chamberlain-Synergy Lola had the
better outright pace, and on lap 37 Smith was able to make
the most of this advantage down the long back straight,
diving deep into Turn 12 and reclaiming the lead. What he
gained in speed, he gave back through the tighter sections,
and for the next twenty laps there wasn’t much to choose
between them, although a significant gap developed to Gosselin,
a distant third in the #36 Courage.
lap 58 Erdos made his second scheduled pitstop, handing
over the RML MG to team-mate Mike Newton, but Smith stayed
in the #39 for a third consecutive hour. While Newton consolidated
his hold on second, Smith’s lead grew steadily greater,
until he was able to hand over a two-lap advantage to Gareth
Evans. Meanwhile, a succession of frightening spins had
forced Newton back down the pitlane for fresh rubber on
lap 105, and the extra pitstop cost valuable time.
Newton completed two difficult
stints in the MG under terrible conditions, and was probably
relieved to hand the car back to Erdos for the final run
to the flag. There was a lot to make up, but the challenge
was made easier when Peter Owen, third driver in the Chamberlain
Lola, spun off into the gravel at Turn 1 on only his second
lap. With Erdos now fastest in LMP2 by a substantial margin
it was only a matter of time before he regained the lead.
It happened on lap 144. A handful of minutes later, and
the #27 Lola also swept ahead of the unfortunate Owen to
grab second. One last pitstop remained, but timing would
be critical. The #27 Lola pitted first, with Erdos next
(and retaining the lead), followed by Owen, who handed back
the #39 to Smith. There were 35 minutes still to go.
For Mike Newton and Thomas
Erdos to win the title, the order would have to remain unchanged
to the flag. At first this looked highly likely. Bjork was
lapping well in the #27 Horag Lista car and matching Smith’s
pace, but there was no accounting for the weather. Having
remained steady at a moderate drizzle, the heavens opened
once more with fifteen minutes to go. Bjork spun – not once,
but several times, and in a matter of minutes Smith had
caught and passed the red and white car. Just twelve minutes
before the end of the six-hour race, RML thought they’d
done enough. Two minutes later and the title had slipped
from their grasp.
There was still a race
to win, and Erdos drove a blinding final stretch to hold
on to the class lead, only easing back over the last two
laps. He crossed the line with forty seconds to spare to
record the team’s first championship victory this season,
but knowing that he and Mike had missed the title by just
one point. “I’m happy to have won the race, of course,”
Tommy said afterwards. “It’s something we’ve been chasing
all year, so it’s a great way to end the championship.”
Admittedly, the LMES title would have been nice, but it
is not something anyone in RML would have swapped for their
remarkable Le Mans win in June. All in all, it was a good
way to round off the year, and bodes well for RML and 2006.
Read an in-depth report of this race by clicking this link.