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Le Mans Series 2006
Round 1. Istanbul 1000 Kilometers. April 7th-9th 2006
Race. Issued April 9th 2006

RML Fights Back from the Brink

RML’s highly experienced mechanics and engineers were asked to draw upon every ounce of skill and determination in order to overcome the challenge of a race that was almost over before it had begun. Thomas Erdos, taking first stint in the Istanbul 1000 Kilometers, had not even reached the starting line in RML’s MG Lola EX264 before he’d been tipped into a spin by an over-eager prototype driver behind him. On a surface made slippery by light drizzle there was no chance of correcting the slide, and the car slammed heavily into the concrete pit wall.

“The move was completely ridiculous!” exclaimed the bemused Brazilian. “Why take such risks at the start of an endurance race? It makes no sense!” The remains of the car were taken back to the garage where, given the time available, the team began the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the entire front and rear left-hand suspension assemblies, as well as the rear wing supports and other ancillaries in between. “I cannot heap enough praise on the guys for what they achieved today,” said Adam Wiseberg, Managing Director of the AD Group, the principal team sponsor. “I doubt anyone else could have done it quicker.” In fact, it took less than an hour.

From last place – by some margin – Thomas Erdos was rapidly up to speed, and setting the pace in the LMP2 category. Although there remained no realistic chance of a representative result, valuable championship points were at stake. Erdos completed a double-stint of almost two hours before handing over to Mike Newton, who maintained the car’s excellent progress. Unfortunately, mid-way through what should have been a six-hour race, the organisers announced that a miscalculation in the amount of fuel available meant there was insufficient remaining for the scheduled distance and the duration was shortened to just four hours.

Mike Newton drove on to the abbreviated finish, crossing the line in 26th position from 36 starters, sixth in LMP2. “It’s the best be could have hoped for, considering the mess the car was in at the beginning,” he said. “But we’ve put a marker down for the season, and demonstrated that we have not only the car but also the driver combination able to take the measure of anyone else out there.” During their respective stints, each RML driver had been consistently fastest in the LMP2 class.

“It’s hugely disappointing to have something so totally out of our control ruin the first race like this,” declared Ray Mallock, team owner at RML. “It was a great effort by everyone in the team to get the car back on track, and the three points won today could end up being crucial at the end of the season.” Phil Barker, team manager, was especially satisfied by what his crew had achieved. “I’m chuffed to bits,” he said. “They did us proud - pit crew and drivers alike. Tommy was fastest overall during his stint, and that speaks volumes. It takes something special to put a car back together again like that and have it perform to perfection.”

The team will be back in action again in just under a month, when the Le Mans Series moves to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for Round Two.