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Le Mans Series 2006
Round 3. Nürburgring 1000 Kilometers. July 15th-16th 2006


Hour 2 Hour 3 Hours 4-5 Hour 6

Warm Up

The round tower of Nürburg Castle, surrounded by the dark green of the hilltop forest, was bathed in the golden light of an early morning sun as the teams started congregating at the race track nestling in the valley below. Clear skies, devoid of even the slightest hint of cloud, heralded the onset of another hot, bright, dry day in the Eifel Mountains.

First on the day’s agenda was the official warm-up, starting at eight thirty-five. In recognition of the team’s interrupted free practice sessions on the previous day, RML elected to give Mike Newton the full half-hour. “We used the session as an extended full-tank test for me,” explained Mike. “I only had two short runs in Free Practice yesterday, and it seemed sensible to give me some experience of the car in race trim. We were bedding in brakes as well, and I was able to feel very comfortable in the car. I felt under a lot of pressure yesterday, and perhaps I overdrove the car. What I did then was scrappy, but today I was able to build up progressively, and it felt much better.” He set a best of 1:52.878, which was good enough for thirteenth overall, sixth in LMP2. “That fifty-two eight came very easily, despite the heavy traffic,” said Mike. “That left me feeling far more confident for the race.”

Right at the end, Mike brought the car in at race pace, pulled up sharply in front of the garage, and the team went through the process of a simulated driver change; Erdos climbing swiftly into the cockpit and being strapped into his BSS seat. All in all, an encouraging start to the day.

While the team addressed minor issues arising from the session, and completed final preparation ahead of the day’s race, the drivers attended the official autograph session in the paddock, alongside the ACO’s mobile scrutineering bay. Every driver was expected to attend, and most did.

On the Grid

By half-eleven all forty-four cars had taken up their positions on the grid in anticipation of the quarter-to start. Following the discovery after qualifying of an irregular restrictor still fitted to the engine on the Rollcentre Radical, the green and black car would be starting from the back of the grid. Soon to be joining first-stint driver Joao Barbosa when the cars moved off would be Bob Berridge in the Chamberlain LMP1 Lola, thanks to an isolator switch being inadvertently set to ‘off’ while the car sat on the grid. Elsewhere, the marshals were sweeping the track, and the sound of cars belting round the adjacent 13-mile Nordschleife circuit echoed around the stands. The two tracks pass close at this point, and can actually be joined, and a race was already in progress on the longer circuit. Overhead, the sun was beating down unmercifully, although a gathering breeze was enough to cool the modest crowd.

At eleven thirty-five the call came to clear the track. Spectators, grid girls, photographers and mechanics started to head back behind the barriers, and there was an almost palpable sense of anticipation, especially around the grandstands furthest from the grid, where a smattering of people were straining eyes and ears to get a first sense of the cars. Amid all this, the sound of squealing tyres could be heard from the Nordschleife, helicopters buzzed overhead and the circuit commentator prattled away in German.

“Fünf minuten”, he announced; five minutes to go. Then, with a stutter of starter motors, and then an increasing intensity, the engines of nearly fifty racecars powered into life. It was an awesome noise, made all the more so by the canyon of grandstands, hotel and pit buildings that tunnel the grid. The leaders started to move off . . . yet the rear of the grid, hidden round the corner, couldn’t even see them! The noise was fabulous, and for the next six hours the hillsides of the Eifel mountains would echo to the concentrated sound of Le Mans cars in anger. Magic.

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Race Start and First Hour

Heading up the back straight, the pace car pulled off into the pitlane entry, marshals on either side of the track holding out “GRID” boards to remind drivers to hold their positions to the line. At the front, all do, but discipline at the back isn’t so strongly respected! Out at the sharp end it was all-change as the lights went green. The pole-setting Creation was beaten into the first corner by Nakano in the #13 Courage, with the Pescarolo following him through on the wider line. Tommy, to the left of middle, opted for discretion over valour, taking a safer course into the first hairpin, and then content to follow Michael Vergers in the Barazi through the initial complex of corners.

By the end of the opening lap he was sitting comfortably in third, at ease with the prospect of having Stuart Moseley in the Bruichladdich Radical ahead of him. “Moseley was taking a lot of chances, but I didn’t want to get involved, so I bided my time and let him go. He was looking very ragged, and taking lots of kerb, so I didn’t think it would be too long before he either made a mistake or cooked his tyres.”

For the first couple of laps, that’s how it stayed, with Vergers leading, being constantly harried by Moseley, and Erdos simply watching and waiting. If smoothness was the key to how this was going to pan out, then the Brazilian clearly had the edge. Coming through the Bilstein-Bogen to start the back straight at the end of lap three, Vergers hit a problem. Suddenly stuck in fourth gear, he was in no position to fend off the advances of either car, and as they headed up the hill towards the final chicane, first Moseley, and then Erdos, eased out of his slipstream and ahead (above). The Barazi would pit at the end of this lap, and not be seen again for almost forty minutes.

The race for the lead in LMP2 then became a straight two-horser. Already, just four laps into the six-hour race, a significant gap had opened up between these two and the first of the Belmondo Courages in third (right). Moseley was pushing hard in the lead, but that suited Erdos perfectly. Tucked under the Radical’s rear wing, he was simply waiting for the opening that he felt sure would be soon in coming. The outright leader at this stage was still Nakano’s Courage, but Collard appeared to be driving well within himself as he carried the Pescarolo through in second. Just behind them, however, Nic Misassian in the Creation was about to have a rude encounter with a characteristically determined Jean-Marc Gounon in the second of the works Courages. Rising up towards the last “Schikane” to complete lap seven, Gounon snuck up the inside where there wasn’t really a space. Next moment Minsassian was left with only the grass-track option, forced wide through the right-hander and sent hopping across the ruts as he struggled to retain fourth place.

While the two P2 leaders were circulating rapidly as a pair, the greatest moves elsewhere in the category were being made by Joao Barbosa in the Rollcentre Radical. Having started last, he was scything through the ranks of GT2 and GT1 in his efforts to regain what he felt was his rightful position. In truth, it was an impressive charge. Equally impressive, when it came, was the Erdos move on Moseley. “He’d started to make a few little mistakes,” observed the RML driver. “Nothing major at first, but he was right on the edge all the way. Then he left the door open on the run down to the hairpin, and I was able to pass him cleanly. After that I seemed to pull away quite easily.”

It was just after midday, lap nine, as the RML MG regained the class lead. Moments later the Bruichladdich Radical went tumbling down the order as Moseley’s attempts to get back on terms ended in a spin. That brought Miguel Amaral in the #40 ASM Lola through into second, seven or eight seconds behind the MG, with the two Belmondos third and fourth, but some way back. A lengthy gap existed at this stage between the two French Courages and Bill Binnie’s Lola in fifth, about to be swallowed up by Barbosa in the Rollcentre Radical, and then Moseley seventh. The new “works” Radical had lead for seven laps on its debut, but would play only a supporting role in the rest of the race.

Free of other distractions, Tommy was now able to concentrate on getting the most out of the MG, and had the Zytek ahead of him to offer encouragement. For the most part, he was able to keep pace with the LMP1 car around the tight and twisty Nurburgring, but along the straights the “bigger” car was able to re-establish its superiority, for the time being at least. In the race for GT1, qualifying positions had been largely maintained, and the Oreca Saleen was leading the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9 by three or four seconds, but not quite able to shake off the pursuit. Both were about to be lapped by Collard, who’d eased the Pescarolo through into the lead, and was now pulling clear.

Having temporarily fallen away from the Zytek, largely due to traffic, Tommy suddenly closed right down on the tail of the #2, and at twenty-past twelve he nipped through to claim sixth overall. Behind him, Barbosa had already reached and passed the two Belmondo cars (in a single lap) to be lying third, behind Amaral, with Sam Hancock sixth, steering first-stint in the Binnie Lola. The orange Radical had lost more ground, thanks to the need for a pitstop to replace a disconnected turbo pipe, and was about to be lapped by Collard, although the new car’s pace was still impressive.

It was nearly half twelve when the Barazi Courage appeared again, hoping at least to garner some points from the outing. While Tommy was negotiating a way past the Team Modena Aston (very quick on the straights) and Hancock was closing on the second of the Belmondos, Amaral was making an enforced pitstop to time out a penalty, although the reason wasn’t clear. The ASM Lola would drop well down the order as a result, and the last-starting Rollcentre Radical would move through into second.

With twenty-eight laps completed Thomas Erdos was leading LMP2 by the best part of thirty seconds, and looking comfortable. In the cockpit, however, matters were less poised, thanks to the sudden and insistent flashing of a low-battery warning light. The MG was scheduled to make a stop soon anyway, so Tommy pressed on for another lap to complete his planned total, but when he arrived on the apron it wouldn’t be for the standard refuel and off that he’d have liked. Instead, the engine cover was whipped clear and a quick inspection confirmed that the belt to the primary alternator had snapped. It was a matter of seconds to switch over to the auxiliary, but those seconds cost Erdos the lead.

Not only did Barbosa blast through to head the class, but the two Belmondos also came whistling by along the pitwall, followed by Hancock in the #24 Binnie Lola. All were nearing the end of their first stints anyway, so the situation remained very fluid – Barbosa pitting two laps later, losing the two Belmondos to the pits in the meantime, and handing the lead on to Hancock, who came down the pitlane at the end of lap 33.

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Hour 2

With just on an hour of the race completed there wasn’t much between the head and tail of the leading pack, so every extra second in a pitstop can make a difference on track, and so it had proven this time. The MG was back out again and setting a good pace, but from fifth in class. The initial challenge for Tommy was to get ahead of the Barazi Courage – not for position, of course, as the erstwhile leader was now many laps in arrears, but it was travelling quickly nonetheless. He managed that cleanly, and then set about catching those ahead of him. His pre-pitstop advantage played out well, with the Binnie Lola and both Belmondos being overtaken in the pits, but the Radical’s advantage was more substantial.

After another fifteen minutes of racing the gap between them, which had fluctuated steadily through traffic, had narrowed down from ten to just two or three seconds and Erdos was relishing the tantalising view of that black and green tail a few yards up the road in front. Finally, and it would have been just around one o’clock, Tommy latched onto the tail of the Radical, not long after the LMP1 Creation had eased through to add a lap to both. The MG was lying seventh overall, second in LMP2.

Catching the Radical was one thing, passing it another altogether. For half an hour the duel waged back and forth, but having had the keener edge to begin with, Tommy was finding his thrust blunted by a front left tyre that was deteriorating rapidly. There was no way he could get by Barbosa, with the talented Portuguese making the #2 car as fast, and as wide, as he could. In the end Erdos had to be content with simply maintaining his threat, possibly hoping that Joao might make a mistake. He did not.

Back in the RML garage Mike Newton was suited up, helmeted, and ready to take over. All eyes were on the timing screens, where proof of Tommy’s challenge was refreshed every couple of minutes. On the television monitor, one of the Belmondo cars was seen suffering a major tyre blow-out, losing much of the front right wheelarch to flailing rubber. Later the second car would suffer an engine problem, meaning that neither would finish. A dreadful weekend for the French team.

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Hour 3

As the race neared its third hour, the MG came burbling down the pitlane, exhausts crackling on the rev-limiter. When Erdos had veered off right into the pitlane entrance, Barbosa had been just two seconds ahead, with the #24 Binnie Lola several seconds in arrears holding third. In moments Tommy was out of the car, and Jason was helping Mike into the cockpit, tightening his belts and plugging in the radio and waterbottle. It was a quick change-over, completed while the car was refuelled and then fitted with fresh tyres, and Mike was rapidly making his way back out onto the racetrack again.

A hot and frustrated Thomas Erdos headed towards the back of the garage to cool down and find a drink. “I knew I’d lost the lead after that first pitstop and the problem with the alternator,” he said. “I was down in P4 or P5, but I got back up to P2 quite quickly. The car was going really well, but I was having to push very hard, and the front left tyre eventually gave way. There was absolutely no grip whatsoever; it’s totally shot. After that there was simply no way I could catch Barbosa. It’s very frustrating, because I know that we’d have been leading easily if it hadn’t been for the alternator. I wouldn’t have had to push so hard, the tyres would have lasted well, and we’d be in a comfortable position.”

Although not leading the class, Mike’s situation was still promising. After the pitstop he’d resumed in 8th overall, third in LMP2 behind the #24 Binnie Lola and Barbosa, sixth overall. On paper the gap to the #24 car looked big, at 45 seconds, but with both the cars ahead of him yet to make their third pitstops, Mike’s deficit was misleading. On lap 65 Barbosa headed for the pitlane, but it wouldn’t be for a driver-change. The speedy Portuguese would be retained for a third consecutive stint, and once the Radical had been refuelled and fitted with fresh rubber, he was back out on track, although some distance ahead of Newton. For three laps Hancock lead the class in the Binnie Lola, but when he pitted the extended delay for the driver swap, as well as fuel and tyres, ensured that the blue Lola returned to the track well down on the MG. Mike was back up to second in class.

His immediate concern was the Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddick for the non-whisky aficionados) Radical, just ahead of him on track (above). Although well down in the race, after the earlier turbo problem, the orange car was still a fast-moving target. It took Mike twenty minutes to narrow the gap, but his attack was relentless, and at 2:30 he swept by to add another lap to the Radical’s woes . . . for the time being, anyway!

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Hour 4

Ten minutes later, soon after the race entered its fourth hour, the MG completed a scheduled pitstop for fuel, and then Mike was back out and racing. The race was going by pitstops for the moment, with no significant changes, certainly in LMP2. Barbosa had eased away a little on Newton, but the Binnie Lola was falling back, giving the MG a reassuring cushion over third. Mike’s personal battle with the Bruichladdich Radical was about to be renewed however, following a change in driver in the #21 car. Stuart Moseley was back at the wheel again, and going just a little bit quicker than Tim Greaves, whom Mike had overtaken just minutes previously. By three o’clock the horns were locked once more, although this time the roles were reversed. It wasn’t a contest for position, but it was determined none the less. With nothing to lose, in terms of the race anyway, Mike wisely let the Radical through. In the long-term scheme of things, it made no difference.

Hour 5

With the forecast the day before being for a hot, dry and testing race, with many cars expected to fall by the wayside due to the mechanical pressures of the hard-braking Nürburgring, the race had proven remarkably trouble-free for most competitors. Only three cars had so far retired, although a handful of others were experiencing difficulties, but there had been no stoppages, and no safety cars . . . until now. Mike was coming towards the end of his double stint, 5th overall, second in LMP2, and roughly 50 seconds or so behind Martin Short, now at the wheel of the Rollcentre Radical. Amaral had moved up to third in LMP2, sixth overall, in the ASM (formerly Chamberlain Synergy) Lola B05/10 AER, with the Zytek-powered Binnie example close behind in 7th. At half-past three the black and yellow Thierry Perrier GT2 Porsche was tipped into a spin, skittered sideways, and caught the kerbing side-on. The low-down impact ripped off the front left-hand wheel and seriously damaged the rear, and the car slithered into the gravel. It was positioned just on the outside of a high-speed bend, and with only three wheels, would be difficult for the marshals to remove. Within moments the Safety Car was deployed.

It wasn’t exactly a convenient time for RML. Tommy was just getting ready to start his next double-stint, but Mike still had six laps left of his schedule. There was a sudden rush of activity in the RML garage as the crew leaped to their stations, tyres were readied, and Tommy pulled on his helmet. All this was just in case Phil Barker decided to bring Mike in early, but that would have disrupted a carefully-planned routine, and might also have meant that an extra pitstop, perhaps near the end, would be necessary for a quick splash-and-dash for fuel. For the time being everyone held their breath. If Rollcentre brought in Short from the lead, then so too might RML, but the Radical team kept their driver out there – well, it was probably his decision anyway, since he’s also team owner! – and the two cars maintained their station in the queue. At first there were seventeen cars between Martin Short, third in the train behind the leading Pescarolo, and Mike Newton in the MG. As the safety car came through for the second time, a whole raft of cars dived into the pitlane. Miguel Amaral brought in the ASM Lola, and so too did half those cars between he Radical and the MG. From 20th in the procession, Mike was eleventh, and just eight more stood between him and his target . . . most of them GT2 cars. It was panning out well.

Elsewhere, other dramas were unfolding. From the green light, the Oreca Saleen S7R, designed by RML, had been leading GT1. The challenge from the Team Modena Aston had fallen away with fuel pressure problems, and the Saleen was looking nigh-on invincible. In the middle of the safety car period, the car came down to carry out a routine pitstop, but when the time came for the car to depart, the engine wouldn’t restart. Pandemonium changed to swift action, as the experienced team hauled the car back into the garage. The starter motor was swiftly replaced, but the lead and seven laps had been lost. The car would finish fourth in class, 17th overall.

At roughly 3:37 the safety car peeled away into the pitlane and racing resumed. Having been contemplating a deficit of nearly a minute, Mike Newton could now see his target on the track ahead, just nine or ten seconds in front of him. There were cars between them, of course, and traffic round the Nürburgring is notoriously difficult to pass, but Newton set about his task with gusto. The safety car period had extended the car’s refuelling distance just a little, which actually proved useful, but he still only had a handful of laps in which to catch the Radical. He did it.

At ten to four he headed down the pitlane having narrowed the gap to just three seconds, well satisfied with his day’s work. “I feel I did a good job,” he said, with justifiable satisfaction. “I took the car out in second, and I’ve brought it back in second. I’m happy with that. In fact, I kept us where we needed to be, and that feels excellent.” He’d not been out of the car more than a few moments when the broadcast crew descended upon him, and he was interviewed live on Motors TV, still hot from the car (below). “Once again, Mike did a cracking job on that double-stint,” said an impressed Erdos afterwards. “He brought the car back in P2. The guy’s done really well, and after the safety car, the gap was down to a few seconds. It had been over a minute! I couldn’t have asked for more than that.”

Thomas Erdos was eager to get back into the action, and knew that Martin Short would be heading for a pitstop relatively soon. That moment came about fifteen minutes later, and when the green and black car powered out of the pitlane again, Martin Short would have had the dubious pleasure of seeing the Erdos MG in his rear-view mirrors, just yards behind him and bearing down the main straight like a train. It took roughly half a lap for the Brazilian to close that modest gap, and as they came through Bit-Kurve, out on the back of the circuit, Tommy swept through and into the lead of LMP2. It was lap 135.

Immediately, the MG started to pull away at a rate of knots. Tommy was throwing down some of the fastest laps yet set in the race, and at about 4:26 posted a new best for the MG of 1:50.251, the quickest lap for the class so far. His advantage by this time was already significant, and he could afford to ease back just a little. His times did stabilise after this, and he was consistently pacing himself around the steady fifty-ones. “After I re-took the lead, everything looked rosy,” he said ruefully. “We were pulling away with no problems, and leading comfortably.” For sixteen fabulous laps, it all went perfectly. Early into lap 151, however, it all went disastrously wrong.

“I was coming up to Turn Five, the high-speed left, and I went for the brakes, but the pedal just shot down to the bulkhead. The car didn’t slow at all! It wobbled a bit, and then did a full 360 spin into the gravel. I’m afraid I was no longer in control! It was not a pleasant experience, and not the kind I ever want to repeat. I went down through the gears as quickly as I could, and managed to prevent the stall. That kept the engine running, which was one stroke of luck. The second was that I was able to drive back out of the gravel, but I had no brakes for the rest of the lap.” Ever one to seek out the brighter side of a difficult situation, Tommy was also keen to admit how fortunate he’d been not to hit another car. “I was just coming up to overtake someone as well – I can’t remember who now, but it might have been the Pro-Tran - but I held back as we came up towards the corner. On another occasion, I might have gone to overtake, but this time I didn’t. If I had, well, I’d probably have gone through on the inside and rammed straight into him. It was lucky from that point of view. I suppose I was also fortunate that it happened where it did, and not at the end of one of the very fast runs, and lucky too that I was able to get going again.”

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Hour 6, to the Finish

It was a difficult drive back to the pitlane, with no brakes and his left-hand tyres smeared by brake fluid, but he made it safely. Once there, the team jumped into action – not an easy task when the components you’re dealing with are brake disks and callipers, all designed to run at exceptionally high temperatures. It transpired that the front left all-carbon pad had shattered, allowing the piston to pop out from the calliper, releasing the fluid. Amazingly, it took them little over five minutes. Ask that of your local fitters! Not only did the team refit the disk, calliper and pads to the front left-hand corner, but they also fitted fresh pads on the other three corners as well, just as a precaution, and then bled the entire system. It was another impressive example of teamwork and efficiency, but there was no hiding the fact that the delay had cost RML not only the lead, but all three podium steps as well.

At just before five, and with less than an hour of the race remaining, Erdos blasted away from the pit apron, heading back out into the fray. He rejoined in ninth place overall, fourth in LMP2. In the meantime, the ASM Lola had come through into the lead, with Martin Short’s Radical was holding second and the Binnie Lola third

Spurred on by his disappointment, Tommy was like a dervish on the track, whirling round the Nürburgring faster than anyone else in the race. The opening sector of his first flying lap was marked up as a red arrow on the timing screens – the fastest first sector by any car in any class. This was subsequently converted into a new fastest race lap for the category of 1:49.797, but he wasn’t finished yet. At ten past five he did another, this time of 1:49.148 – more than a second faster than the LMP1 leader’s recent lap. “I was a bit upset at the time!” he said later, attempting to explain his speed. “I was also trying to push hard and recover the lost ground, but that shows the confidence I have in these guys. I know they’re never going to send me out in a car that’s not safe.” It was impressive stuff, and probably did much to ease his distress, but in the larger scheme of things, it would make little difference. It proved a point, yes, but the task ahead was insurmountable, unless others made mistakes.

Having made his mark on the record book, Erdos eased back again, and started to pound round the track in a succession of one-fifties. They weren’t record breaking any more, but they were still exceptionally quick. Shortly afterwards, the Rollcentre Radical made its final scheduled pitstop, Martin Short handing back to Joao Barbosa. The Portuguese driver promptly produced the Radical’s fastest race lap at 1:49.781, but he couldn’t keep it up for long. He did, however, start to close on Angel Burgueño in the #40 ASM Lola, and it looked as if we’d have a fight for the lead before the end. The #24 Binnie Lola was holding third, some distance behind the other two, but four laps clear of Erdos.

With fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, the fight for the class lead came to a head. Barbosa had closed right up on the tail of the #40 Lola as they came through to start another lap, and they ran nose-to-tail through the Mercedes Arena section. Caught among a mass of slower traffic it was hard for Barbosa to find a way past the Spaniard, but he was exploring every opportunity. His best came as the pack swept left through Turn 5, and as they made the short run down the hill towards Ford, he dived left of the Peninsula TVR, just as Burgueño headed down the other side. It must have been a rare experience for the unfortunate GT2 car in the LMP2 sandwich, because next moment he had both prototypes crossways in front of him. Burgueño had gone deep into the corner, smiting Barbosa in the ribs, and sending the Radical spinning into the gravel. Everyone else survived unscathed, which was something of a miracle, and Burgueño soon had the yellow car on track and going again, retaining the lead, but the unfortunate Barbosa, so evidently the quicker, was left sitting in the gravel and shaking his head, as well he might.

The whole episode was witnessed live on TV, and those watching must have included the officials in race control. Some minutes later the ASM Lola was called in for a stop-go penalty, Burgueño’s move having been considered unnecessary. “Good to see the officials actually taking some action over bad driving,” was one comment overheard. For Barbosa there was the frustration of having to wait for the recovery tractor to extract him from the gravel, from whence he made his way back to the pitlane for a check-up and gaffer-tape repairs. He’d rejoin third in class.

With only ten minutes to go Tommy had eased right back and was circulating in the one-fifty-ones, twos and, as the race neared its end, threes. Burgueno, despite the stop-go, still had a lap in hand over the Binnie Lola, elevated to second by the episode at Ford corner, and Barbosa was secure in third. That left just the battle for outright second between the recovering Creation and the Racing for Holland Dome to be decided before the flag. Former F1 driver Alex Yoong was holding second for Jan Lammer’s team, but Nic Minsassian was placing the Malaysian under intense pressure. It paid off, much to everyone’s surprise, when Yoong responded by going wide and across the gravel at the big Dunlop hairpin. Minassian in the Creation swept gratefully by, claiming second with just a couple of laps to go. The Pescarolo, with a lead of some four laps, was unassailable. The final twist came with one minute remaining, when the Labre Aston Martin pitted from the GT1 lead in order to allow Vincent Vosse one more minute at the wheel, and thereby qualify for full points. They went on to win their class by ten seconds!

So a disconsolate Thomas Erdos took the chequered flag after six exhaustingly hot hours in an unrepresentative fourth place, ninth overall. “We won the first five hours!” insisted Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director of AD Holdings. His attempt to put a brave face on a disappointing result was commendable. “It is very annoying,” he said, admitting his frustration. “We had that one in the bag. Even without the others incurring penalties, we’d have won easily.” Ray Mallock, team principal at RML, was equally dejected. “To have such an unusual brake failure cost us the race is very frustrating. We weren’t even trying to be clever with brake temperatures or anything – the ducts were fully open, which is what you need to do round this circuit. Our car and driver combination clearly had the pace to win today, so it’s very disappointing.” Hardest to bear was the sight of an evidently crestfallen Phil Barker, the team manager. “Well, can you believe that?” he said. “From where we were at the time, we were comfortable. With just one more stop to the flag, it was all on schedule for the win. It’s just unbelievable that something like that could have happened.”

The one person probably taking it hardest of all was the driver who’d done so much to lay the foundations for a win; Thomas Erdos. “It’s so deflating when this kind of thing happens, because we beat them all today. You put your heart into a drive like this, but it’s a tough game.”

The game resumes in a month’s time, at Donington Park in England, over the weekend of August 26th and 27th.

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View high-resolution Gallery for images from Sunday.